I’m surprised that so far The Happy Feminist is the only blog I see listed in UUpdate writing about Banned Book Week. IN PRAISE OF BANNED BOOKS
I've always thought Banned Books Week was about politics, not about the principal of free speech. There is no such thing as a "banned" book in America today, unless that book contains photographic child pornography or defense secrets. Save for those two things, no author has been jailed for writing a book, no publisher jailed for printing a book, no book is illegal to possess. Ask Salman Rushdie about real banned books.
What we have instead is a debate about what books are to be carried in specific schools' libraries. Are we to call every book not carried in a grade school library "banned"? If not, then it boils down to the question of who gets to choose which books are stocked. Since most states require by law that children go to school, and most parents cannot afford private schools, then de facto most children are required by law to go to government schools. If, therefore, the parents are not allowed to choose those books through their elected school boards, then what we have is the government denying parents by force of law the right to decide what their child is exposed to- is anyone prepared to argue that the first amendment gives government the right to force parents at gunpoint to have their children read books the parents consider obscene? If not, then why grouse about what books the school boards do decide to stock- or not?
Government should only intervene in the parents’ handling of their children when there is a compelling interest, such as the child’s health and safety. If a loonytune parent were to object to the math book on the grounds that their religion says that 2+2=5, one could argue that the resulting education would be so inadequate as to amount to no education at all, therefore a compelling interest in the child’s welfare. The same argument can of course be made for science books- but once you leave the realm of the objective, that argument goes away. Are we really going to argue that the failure to have read “Heather Has Two Mommies” will so damage a child as to amount to abuse requiring government intervention? Gee, I, and tens of millions of others, managed to grow up into an adult that believes in sexual equality without having read that particular book. I would have no problem with a child of mine reading any of the books on the “banned” list... but that’s *MY* choice. I certainly would not try to force any parent to have them have their child read them, however- that’s *THEIR* choice.
The issue is not whether those books are “banned”, for they are not- every one of them is available at Barnes & Noble, and any parent can buy them for their children if they so desire. The issue is whether the state has the right to indoctrinate children in morals and values against the parents’ wishes... and anyone arguing for that should look at what other countries are doing with that right. If that’s not what you are arguing for, stop throwing around loaded terms such as “banned books”.