September 07, 2000

In this USA Today article, Harry Potter faces biggest foe yet in book censors, you will find that book banning is still in season. Being an avid reader myself, I have never been a fan of people who wish to ban books from library shelves. I can certainly understand a parents concerns, having a grade-school child myself, but I can't understand the idiocy that some people wish to perpetrate. The notion that this particular children's book will cause an otherwise normal healthy child to engage in occult activities is absurd. By the time the child is able to even comprehensively read these books, they should already be well aware of the difference between fantasy and reality.
I gave 'book banning' a whole new thought last night as I ruminated on both sides of the discussions. On one hand, a library is a place where a child can gain unfettered access to knowledge. On the other hand, there is certain types of knowledge that we attempt to protect our children from. I firmly believe that it is a parent's responsibility to act in the raising of a child and let them know what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The child will help you with making sense of this, with their question of "Why?" when you tell them something is unacceptable. Banning a book from a public library does not absolve the parent from their responsibility. This particular book is probably so pervasive that your child could obtain it from any number of friends if you haven't made it clear that they are not to be reading it.
You know, there are certainly publications that the public library does not maintain, and that is a fine line that a librarian must consider. A lot of good books have been banned over the years, for countless reasons. But I don't think that any of the reasons are worthy of pushing your morals or judgements on others.
Perhaps these people are shocked to know what concepts their children are ready to understand. Perhaps people are shocked at what tender age their children can comprehend things such as sexuality, religion, paranormal concepts and superstition. The problem is not with society at large. The problem is with the denial that they may be feeling. If a child can understand the concepts they are exposed to, then perhaps it is time for that 'talk you've been meaning to have'. Perhaps instead of focusing your time and effort on banning books, you should be using that time to sit down and have an important discussion with the child as to what is appropriate and why you feel that way. No one said it was going to be easy to teach your children, but you should not and can not expect to be able to control what other people do for your own ease.
You know, this is exactly the type of thing that gets me rambling because there is so much to say on the subject. I'm not saying we should be carrying 'Playboy' magazine in the local library. There are laws that control certain publications from distribution to minors. And unless a library can put into place the necessary controls to control the distribution of such publications, it has no legal right to carry them IMHO [in my honest opinion]. However, should those controls be in place, and should the library see it within their charter to carry it, and their funding agents agree with their decisions, I don't see why there should be any beef. Of course, I've just introduced a new twist. Do the taxpayers have the right to control what their tax money supports. Can book banning from a library be considered an act of a funding agent who is unhappy with how their funds are spent? Do we not have elections and elected representatives to drive this? Does our form of government NOT work here?
Historically, what do we see? A vocal minority complains to the school board [elected officials?] that they are unhappy with decisions made in the local school library. Book is banned. An incensed and even more vocal majority complain and get the decision reversed. You would think someone would learn from history. As the official, you should have the capability to come to a consensus agreement on the matter without resorting to the extreme of banning a book outright. Politicians are paid to be mediators and agreement makers, are they not?
I don't claim to have the solution to fit all the sides I have mentioned. I only claim to have an opinion. And you know what, now that I've given you at least most of it, I realize also that you're entitled to your own opinion too.

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