Censorship Is Stupid

As is typical with the changing of the year, librarians and watchdog groups take some time to look back and reflect on the past year in censorship. Here are two such articles that I ran across recently:

Censorship drives me insane. It’s stupid. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked.

More than that – censorship not only doesn’t work, it actively does everyone a disservice. We shouldn’t hide distasteful or dangerous things. We should talk about them, face them, come to terms with them and teach each other how to deal with this stuff.

Doesn’t that stand us in better stead than trying to hide these things and hoping no one finds ‘em? Censorship is nothing more than burying your head in the sand, plugging your ears, squinching shut your eyes, chanting “La! La! La! I can’t hear you!” and hoping the Big Bad Thing will just go away.

My parents stopped tolerating that type of behavior from me before I was 5. I have no respect for fully grown adults who deal with the world this way.

When it comes to censoring materials for adults there’s simply no excuse. You have no right to decide for me what I should and should not be exposed to. None.

For kids it gets more complicated – there are some things that are truly inappropriate for certain ages. Because each child matures at their own pace, you can’t always accurately judge what’s appropriate for one specific kid based on their age – only their parents know what they can and can’t handle. And it’s not the job of the library to act as parent to the kids that visit us.

With children’s materials, at least I understand the impulse toward censorship. We want to protect our kids from harm. That’s natural. But again – do you really think that kids aren’t going to see and hear objectionable material no matter how hard you try to hide it from them? If “censor and pretend it doesn’t exist” is your primary strategy for dealing with materials that you find objectionable, then you give your child no tools or skills or healthy reference points to deal with it when they see these materials anyway.

Talk to your kids, make sure they understand the dangers and know how to be careful around these things. That protects them far better than censorship ever can.

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