Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Objectionable Content

I came across this story yesterday about a woman who is refusing to return a library book because she objects to the content (it's a sex ed book for kids) and wants to keep it out of the hands of children. She also sent the library a letter and a check for the cost of the book.

This raises several questions for me. First, how is this going to do anything to keep the book away from kids as she claims to want? The library's simply going to buy a new copy, and with the added publicity that the book is receiving it may need to buy more than one as people will be curious to see what all the fuss is about. By making a big deal out of this she's virtually guaranteed that more people will read the book than might otherwise have done so. Plus, if she has children of her own (which I assume she does if she's looking at kid's books in the library) she now has a copy of the book sitting around her house that her kids could find and want to read - because everyone knows that no matter how well parents try to hide things they think their kids shouldn't see, the kids find all that stuff anyway.

Second, what the heck right does she think she has to be the moral arbiter of what's appropriate for other people? If she doesn't like the book no one's forcing her to look at it, but it might be just what someone else is looking for. It's the ultimate in arrogance to think that your opinion is the only right one and that what's true for you is true for everyone else, and that's exactly what this woman is doing.

Finally, since when did educating young people become so offensive? Shouldn't we want our kids to have the facts about things like health and science so that they can be responsible and make good decisions? Would she really prefer that kids learn everything they know about puberty and about reproductive health issues from whispered conversations on the playground?

Since banned books week is coming up at the beginning of October, I thought it was particularly funny that this is just another example of the ridiculous ways in which people try to control access to books they find objectionable for absurd reasons. I almost think that we should thank these folks, because usually these are the very same books that have something worthwhile to say and being banned only serves to make them more popular. They are in fact helping to spread the very ideas that they oppose, and I can't think of a more fitting reward than that.

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