know every now and then, conservative parents try to get schools to censor
books they think are too controversial. It's hard to get a consensus about what
probably should be kept off the assigned reading lists as being R- or X-rated.
This may be because so many teachers are so much more liberal, politically,
than the parents of the children they're paid to teach. Or if not the teachers
themselves, the professors, workshop consultants or union leaders who influence
teachers so very much. No one wants censorship, of course, but we all want good
judgment on the part of both parents and teachers. What's the status of
academic freedom for teachers in this day and age?
Ironically, the undue censorship is
all on the part of the educators, not the parents and taxpayers. It's ironic
because the educators are supposed to be society's open-minded seekers of
truth. Censorship has no part in a well-run school, but apparently, it rears
its ugly head quite often.
And it's the left-thinking people in
public education doing the censorship, not the right-wingers. Leftist educators
have tended more and more to exclude, or censor, conservative works of
literature in favor of contemporary, liberal or even radical literature that
often depicts graphic sex, violence, perversions, profanity, drug and alcohol
use, and other topics and issues that are highly offensive to many parents.
When parents complain that they want their children to read the classics, the
educators attack them as censors. But that's not correct.
Remember, censorship can only be
done by the government. Parents and taxpayers can't actually censor ideas. They
can influence book selection, of course. But they have no censorship power.
Only the government, in the form of public employees paid by schools for their
judgment and supposedly dedicated to teaching children all sides of all
stories, can withhold content from children in school. And by excluding classic
and conservative books, public schools have done plenty of censorship lately -
although as it's being exposed, it's being reduced, fortunately.
Unfortunately, parents and teachers
often have to resort to legal action to force a school district to quit
censoring content illegally. That happened in California, when the Cupertino Union
School District reached a settlement with an elementary school teacher who
alleged the district unlawfully prohibited him from providing supplemental
handouts of historical documents to students based on the fact that they
contained religious content.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed the
lawsuit on behalf of the Stevens Creek Elementary School teacher. The district
ultimately agreed that teachers should be allowed to teach children about real
history, even if the documents they are teaching happen to contain religious
content, such as the Declaration of Independence, as long as the materials are
not being used to try to influence a student's religious beliefs.
That finding should encourage
parents who wish to protest their school's apparent censorship of the classics
of children's literature. Oftentimes, the reason districts withhold best-loved
classics is that they have content that appears to promote Christianity, which
the educators mistakenly believe should not be taught to children.
As an example, the classic Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe depicts
the hero reading the Bible, constructing a cross, converting a native cannibal
to Christianity, and thinking about divine providence in his survival tale.
Educators who believe that they must censor such content are denying students
the study of the first novel in English, and an engaging, interesting read at
that. It's a crying shame. But if more parents would complain, censorship could
be turned around.
who complain about objectionable books being taught in school, or available in
the school library, aren't censors. They are exercising their rights as
advisors to schools in book selection and looking out for their minor children.
For more information, see the website of Parents Against Bad Books in Schools, www.pabbis.org