, Research Paper
CENSORSHIP IN SCHOOL IS NOT RIGHT
I believe that Imposing censorship within America’s
schools is not only against the First Amendment of the
United State Constitution, but it is also against the very
moral fiber upon which this country was founded.
In an attempt to limit access to so-called sensitive
issues and concepts, radical right wing supporters have
pushed their weight around to remove any and all
questionable works of literature from school libraries.
The right to interpret the written word is one of the
fundamental freedoms of our country, yet more and more this
right is being taken away from students who have the desire
to broaden their literary horizons. Conservative parents,
teachers, librarians and even the American government have
all attempted to limit access to what they consider
sensitive issues and concepts. These same self appointed
literary police are calling for the removal of all
Questionable works of literature from public libraries. On
some college campuses there are even restrictions on which
books can even be brought from one s own collection to
Proponents of school censorship have issues with just
about every book found in school libraries. Their argument
is that appropriate reading literature should fulfill by one
of two standards: 1) that it effectively adds to the
“general store of knowledge” , or 2) that is exercises some
“beneficial influence” upon the mind as a means of
providing “wholesome amusement or recreation” .
Who is to determine what constitutes wholesome and
beneficial? That is what I, as a censorship opponent want
to know. Personal opinion is just that: personal opinion.
When such opinions begin dictating how the rest of the world
must respond, it becomes a dictatorship rather than a
Giving credit where credit is due, there is nothing
wrong with offering guidance as to what is both proper and
improper for students to read. Depending upon the age group,
supervision over reading material is — in most cases –
reasonable and justified. But when it comes down to the
actual banning of books because one group of people
considers the content unacceptable, that is crossing the
line of extremism.
Every year, individuals and groups alike demand that
yet another book is removed from school libraries, as well
as from particular classroom curricula. Claiming that the
content is too explicit or inappropriate, these small minded
censors are wreaking havoc on students’ First Amendment
The question then becomes: Just how far does the First
Amendment go to protect the students? The censors think
that students do not have the ability to choose appropriate
reading material; that their assistance is necessary to keep
harmful and unsuitable material out of sight.
In fact, the issue of censorship in America’s schools
is an issue of rights. Ex-United States President Jimmy
Carter once said that America did not invent human rights;
rather, it was human rights that invented America. If this
is true, then each individual must be allowed to pursue his
own choices, whether that is with regard to books or any
other form of media. To impose limits on what is permitted
and what is not is to remove one our most fundamental rights
And what about those people stuck in the middle of all
the controversy? School librarians have been caught in the
crossfire of radical censors for some time now, fighting
hard to protect the rights of student choice.
Paul J. Lareau, a librarian for seven years, says
censorship is the “last resort of parents with disobedient
or rebellious children” . He says that the people who are
the most vocal about removing unacceptable books are the
ones who cannot control their own children and are then,
attempting to control all children.
If left to choose, Lareau says that most students
understand the implications of various reading material and
will either stay away from it or decide to learn more about
it. However, placing restrictions on books based only on
their content — specifically how that content is
interpreted by one individual or group — does more to
encourage its reading if left alone.
The power of censorship in this nation was experienced
at an Arizona college when, as a result of controversy over
library book selections, the campus newspaper was suspended,
an art exhibit censored, and the student literary magazine
“condemned” by the college administration. All of this
occurred because those in power felt the need for
“suppression of controversial books”.
Across our country, books that are the main objects of
the censorship issue are those which present points of view
that can easily be misconstrued as “pro-American and
anti-Communist” . Yet it is not for one person to decide
for the rest what something may represent only through his
own interpretation. According to the framers of the
constitution, such decisions are to be left up to the
individual rather than the masses.
Even an American icon like the comic book is not safe
from the effects of censorship. Comic books have been under
fire because of their violent and sexual content, which has
caused many of them to be removed from school libraries. So
intense is the argument that the US Supreme Court could very
well uphold legislation restricting their sales if it is
decided that there is a “serious enough threat to the morals
of the community.
Censorship is an outright suppression of ideas,
information and artistic expression. It does not belong in
schools where open-minded learning is supposed to take
place. At best, censorship is “unconstitutional” ; at
worst, it is a warning sign of an impending authoritarian
Anonymous #1. “Book Rejection: Is It Censorship?” Library
Journal, (1962) : pp. PG.
Anonymous #2. “Crime Comics and the Constitution.” Stanford
Law Review, (1955) : pp. PG.
Anonymous #3. “Criminal Obscenity Statute Held
Unconstitutional for Lack of Scienter.”
Ohio State Law Journal, (1962) : pp. PG.
Anonymous #4. “Freedom of Speech and Press under the First
Amendment: A R sum .” Yale Law Journal, (1920) : pp.
Anonymous #5. “The Hidden Persuaders in Book Selection.”
Library Journal, (1965) : pp. PG.
Anonymous #6. “Open the Books!” Saturday Review, (1953) :
Clarke, George T. “Improper Books.” Library Journal, (1895)
: pp. PG.
Collins, Blanche. “Ordeal at Long Beach.” Library Journal,
(1965) : pp. PG.
Corbett, James A. Trouble at Cochise.” Arizona Librarian,
(1965) : pp. 22(3):7-10, 40 43.
Cross, Farrell. “Creeping Censorship in Our Libraries.”
Coronet, (1961.) : pp. PG.
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