Friday, June 27, 2008

A Question of Censorship

Fahrenheit 451 welcomes guest blogger Heather Johnson.

The word censorship conjures up an image of a pair of scissors, but no, the chopping and patching together of movies to come up with a suitable ratings certificate is not the subject under debate here; we’re talking something that has a further reach than movies – Schools. History has seen its share of censorship over the centuries and decades. Conspiracy theories abound about self-professed leaders and despots burning entire libraries to prevent information from being passed on to the generations to come. In the recent past, we’ve seen controversy dog novels both as benign as the Harry Potter series and as inflammatory as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

I’m sure there are existent rules and policies that decide what one should censor and what one should allow when it comes to teaching children. But even after a lot of research on this contentious subject, all I’m left with are more questions rather than answers I was seeking:

  • What is it that makes human beings decide on the right to information?

  • In the case of children, who decides what’s right and wrong in terms of information that’s accessible by or taught to students?

  • Are libraries and curricula the only sources of children’s information?

  • By censoring schoolbooks and restricting the kind of books allowed in the school library, are we doing our children a disservice or are we protecting them?

  • In this age of free and ready information on the Internet, is it worth the time, effort and hassles associated with implementing censorship at schools?

  • The human psyche is programmed to want what is denied to it – so the more you stress that an activity is forbidden or a subject taboo, the more the adolescent or child wants to explore it for himself. So when a topic or book or subject is censored from the curriculum or library, word gets around, and isn’t it true that the kids are all agog with curiosity to know what the fuss is all about?

  • Rather than censoring information outright, is it a better option to teach children to process and assimilate it and decide for themselves if it’s right or wrong or if there are any acceptable shades of grey in between?

  • Who decides at what age children should be allowed access to any information without any form of censorship? Parents or teachers? If both sets of adults are unable to reach a compromise, who wins? Is it the voice that’s the loudest or the one that has more say in the child’s upbringing?

  • How long can we keep protecting our children anyway? Isn’t it better that we taught them about touchy subjects like sex instead of having them learn from their peers who are not experts on the subject or from other sources that are not the best teachers?

It’s difficult to reach a satisfactory consensus or conclusion on so contentious a subject; maybe it’s a matter of individual opinion and varies from one person to another.

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on the topic of instant degrees. She invites your questions and writing opportunities at her personal email address: heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

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