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Freedom of What?
The denotative meaning of censorship is the examination of books, letters, movies, etc. and the removal of anything thought not right for the people to see or hear. In other words, censorship takes away the right of the individual to decide what is appropriate for them to see or hear. What might offend one person may not offend another person, and it is unjust to prohibit someone from reading or seeing “inappropriate” material based on the opinion of someone else. Censorship occurs quite frequently in the school system. Books are banned from libraries and literature teachers constantly have to change the material covered in their course as a result of complaining parents. If a child goes home and discusses a topic they learned in school and their parents don’t like it, many parents automatically go ballistic. Many try to get rid of it before they have even taken the time to read it. If a parent feels that certain material is inappropriate for children to see, then they shouldn’t let their children read it, but they shouldn’t be able to decide what their neighbor’s child should and should not read. That would clearly violate our first amendment right. The first amendment, in part states that Americans have freedom of the press (to publish any material they want.) This also means that we can access any of these materials. It doesn\'t mean we have the freedom to control what others access, that would be referred to as communism.
In Triverton, Rhode Island a middle school class was assigned to read a book called Go Ask Alice. The book portrays a fifteen-year-old girl who is trying to overcome a drug addiction. It is written as a series of diary entries she kept during the rehabilitation process. A parent complained to the school about a dirty word in the book. The “dirty” words were an effect used to show what the girl was like while she was on drugs, and they were only used in instances where emphasis was appropriate.“The book actually gave us the true effect of what drugs do to you and how you can become addicted to them so easily,” one student stated in response to the banning of the book. Another student stated, “It is about the real world. It is not a book about fiction, and that is what scares people.” Ignoring the comments of other students and parents who were also opposed to banning the book, the principal heeded that one complaint and confiscated the twenty-two copies of the book. He also removed all copies from the school library, denying all students access to it. He then filed a complaint about the book without even reading it. The steps this principal took to ban the book were in violation of the school’s policy and procedure for banning a book, which was created and is enforced by the school board. He didn’t even bother to consult the school board about the situation. Needless to say he was reprimanded for his actions and justice was served. Does this mean Go Ask Alice was returned back on the book shelves where it belonged? Hardly. Not only was that book banned, but Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and Catcher in The Rye were banned too, all of which are known to be literary classics.
It was the beginning of the school year in the fall of 1994, when Susan M. Kochman, a high school English teacher at Hempfield Area High School was ordered to retrieve the newly distributed text books entitled Literature and Society. The textbook, a 1,500+ pages anthology, was removed from the classroom solely because of one poem. “Women Poem” was written by the award winning African American poet Nikki Giovanni, and contained the words “dick,” “fuck,” and “whore.” It is clearly a poem about the oppression some African American women feel. When viewed by mature, intelligent readers, the poem is in no way, shape, or form thought to be pornographic. The class using this textbook was a twelfth grade advanced literature class. The students participating in this course felt that they were mature enough to handle Giovanni’s poetry. A parent of one of the students called the principal and complained about the vulgarity
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Book censorship in the United States, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Freedom of religion in the United States, Separation of church and state in the United States, Censorship, Challenge, Fuck
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