Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm My Own Book Banner

That’s banner as in one who bans things, by the way. Not banner as in the long, wavy sign my high school strings across Main Street every time they put on a play…

At any rate, if you have anything even remotely to do with the publishing industry, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that this is Banned Books Week. Awesome agent Nathan Bransford’s blog post on the subject raised some interesting questions, including whether censorship is even plausible in this digital age and the fine line between suppression and discretion. I don’t have much to say about that first one, but the second inspired the opinion that follows.

First off, let me just say that, in general, I don’t support governmental censorship simply because I wonder where it would end. Would the Koran, for example, eventually be censored because it engenders terrorist sentiment? (I am not suggesting that the Koran advocates terrorism, by the way, only that those Muslims who commit acts of terror often use a misinterpretation of its teachings to justify their behavior.) Not a pleasant path to start down. Indeed, the government does not have the right to make decisions about what we and our children read--but parents do.

In fact, it goes even farther than that--parents have not only the right but the obligation to make informed choices about the media that come into their homes. And that will mean banning at least a few of those things, books included.

You may call me unenlightened. You may call me a tyrant. But there are some books (and some TV shows, movies, and music) that my children will not read, watch, or listen to. I will not allow them (or myself, for that matter) to read, watch, or listen to anything with explicit sexual content. And until they’re old enough to handle certain themes, like murder, I will restrict their access to material with that content as well

Now I know what you’re thinking: How can I possibly expect to limit such things? They’ll have friends with access; they’ll find spare internet connections; they’ll have unsupervised time. And that is absolutely true. I cannot completely remove their ability to seek out such things, to choose for themselves, and I wouldn’t want to. But I can let them know what my standard as their parent is. And I can teach them why I want them to adhere to that standard.

So the government or the schools or the American Library Association can ban or not ban books all they want. The fact of the matter is, I don’t trust their opinions, anyway. And even if I did, their actions still wouldn’t change my responsibility as a parent.

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