On Banning Books & Self-Censorship


It’s Banned Books Week! Time to thumb your nose at “the man” and read a book that someone said was evil. Or not. How do you decide whether content is worthy of reading?

To be honest, I’ve never understood the point of banning books. To make something taboo is to make it attractive to our human nature. Prohibiting an idea only seems to make it more popular.

So maybe we shouldn’t ban anything. Sometimes I think we’d be better off without the taboos.

And yet, as a parent, I am constantly aware of things I do not wish to expose to my kids. For one thing, I know that my language choices are influenced by the presence of my children. In fact, I recently apologized to one of my kids because I told her that she was acting like a jerk (She offered her sister a toy, withdrew the offer, then pushed her sister away when she tried to take the previously offered toy). Even if my accusation was justifiable by her actions, I don’t want to give my daughter ammunition for name-calling (“jerk”) when that phase will inevitably come.

So there is this struggle inside of me between wanting complete freedom to consume whatever type of literature I would like and wanting only to expose my children to the content that I think would help their mental and social development. This is the struggle of every parent.

I think this is where banning books comes in. In essence, I think banning books is lazy, communal parenting. Rather than giving people the tools of discernment, we are making decisions for them. If that continues, we’ll stunt their growth as people.

So how do we keep our kids safe while also showing them the dangerous things of the world? For my wife and I, we consume content with them and discuss it on the spot.

For example, every now and again, we’ll treat the kids to an episode or two of one of our favorite cartoons, “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.” Though we don’t have to worry too much about the language on the show, there are instances of name-calling and words that we don’t want them using, as well as a fair bit of comic mischief and violence (think “anvils dropping on cartoon heads”). But whenever we see those things, we’ve pointed out that the characters aren’t being nice or that we don’t say things like that. Now, when our kids see someone acting mean, they’ll be the ones to say, “Be Nice!”

We do the same with them for the books we read together, some of which are actually on the banned books list. I know that I can’t shelter my kids from the world forever. I just want them to be able to tell for themselves what is good and what is not.

What are your thoughts on banning books? What tips do you have for parents on navigating the minefields of content out there today?

4 thoughts on “On Banning Books & Self-Censorship

  1. I agree completely. Banning books and other things for that matter is the lazy way out. Teaching and communicating and explaining to young ones the difference between good/bad, right/wrong, yes/no, right/left, up/down (you get the point) is how we protect them.

    Smothering them in bubble wrap and sticking them on a shelf isn’t going to do that. It just makes the pain much worse when they eventually fall.

    ~quite passionate about this… can you tell? :p

    • Thanks for saving me the effort of wording this! I’m in complete agreement with both of you, with the reiteration of the importance of teaching your children to think for themselves, using the moral foundation on which they were brought up.

  2. Pingback: Banned Books Week – (& I Haz Planz 25/09) | Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions

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