Ken climbed into his little convertible sports car after strapping his four-year-old son, Andy, into the passenger seat. It was a perfect summer day in Denver, and a little cruise around the city sounded just right. He loved spending time with his youngest, he mused, as he turned on the radio and tapped his fingers to the beat of a disco number.
“Why are they burning the baby?”
“In the song – why are they burning the baby?”
Ken clued into the tune and its lyrics. “Burn, baby, burn. Disco inferno …”
“Andy, that’s just an expression. It’s what grownups say when they talk about …”
Five minutes later, Ken figured he had it covered. The two drove along in silence for a while. Then he felt a small tug on his sleeve.
“But, Dad. Why are they burning the baby?”
Sigh. So much for that brilliant teaching lecture.
Some things can’t be explained to a youngster, and in a world in which media has become more prevalent, more powerful, and largely out-of-control, the challenges for parents can seem insurmountable. Whether a song, a movie, or an age inappropriate book, children are bound to eventually get their hands, and minds, into something they should not.
Small wonder censorship, whether book banning or other media controls, has taken center stage. Parents and teachers are rightly worried about the influence of media on young minds. It’s part of what fuels the homeschooling movement, this need for parents to have some sense of control over the information their children are exposed to.
But there is another side to the coin that also needs to be addressed. How much of book banning and other media censorship really has to do with the children, and how much is simply a way to exercise control with less effort?
Book banning is not a new phenomenon and the reasons for banning a title almost always revolves around personal philosophy and control over beliefs. Here are some books that have been banned over the years, and the reasons:
In 2006, some parents in a Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural; passages about the spider dying were also criticized as being ‘inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.
In 1985, challengers at Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wisconsin, said that A Light in the Attic “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”
This series offers some great insights on when and how to disobey authority — which is one of the most important things to learn when growing up, but is clearly an issue with some parenting groups. It also is a series about imagination – that, of course, can cause all kinds of problems too!
Some of the reasons sound spurious at best. But banning and censorship aren’t necessarily bad things either. The key is the development of workable and widely accepted guidelines. Therein lies the rub. Who makes the rules? Who gets to be the censor? We’ll offer some suggestions in our next post.
What rules do you think should dictate whether a book is accepted in a school or public library? Is there a book title you would censor hands down if you had the choice? Please leave us a comment.
An author and an editor, Dani Greer brings a dual perspective to this controversial topic. A driving force behind the Blog Book Tours and The Blood-Red Pencil blogs, Dani has spent most of her life surrounded by words. She’ll return tomorrow with part two.