Challenged Books

Last month NPR ran an interview with author Toni Morrison about the topic of banned (or challenged) books. More recently I was reading an article in a home school magazine about a similar topic which directed me to the American Library Association’s web site for more information on books that have been challenged. These two were from opposite view points, so I wanted to look at the information myself. I’ve generally been against censorship, especially because of the examples of how it was used against Christianity in communist countries during the 1980’s and before. So I was somewhat surprised to find out that this is something completely different.

Following the ALA link above, you can look at what books were challenged and why. The majority last year were challenged because of sexual content, violence, or because they were not appropriate for the age group. I was surprised. I expected something about politics or religion to trigger the challenge. I would consider that to be unfair. Instead I see books that fall into an X-rated category being rated as such. Hardly censorship in my understanding.

Even more impressive is the report on who initiated the challenges. The largest category for 2000-2005 was parents! They initiated 1824 challenges. The next group, “Other,” was less than a quarter of that. Patrons of the institution and Administrators came in third and fourth, both with less than 300 challenges. Religious groups had only 18. So it seems to me that parents are doing a good job of taking responsibility for their child’s education. In fact another chart shows that most challenges occur at public school, which is what one would expect when parents take an interest in what their children are learning.

So while I support freedom of speech, and object strongly to the type of censorship we see in Iran, Russia, and even sometimes here, this is not the same. A parent has the right to object to their child reading a book with the equivalent of X-rated sex scenes. There will be plenty of time for the child to read such material as an adult — when it may be more appropriate — if they so choose. To call this censorship just makes the ALA look silly.