Does Censorship Make us Dumb?

Today I looked at an article by Jeff Jeffrey about censorship hurting one’s cognitive processes.  He was very adamant in his thoughts and ideas.  His writing was full of emotion.  He would be in complete opposition to the article from Wendy Day about protecting students from evils presented to them in books.

Jeff Jeffrey claims that when people are not allowed to explore novels they never learn new ideas about life.

“I respect parents who choose, after careful consideration, to keep their children from reading something that may cause them to grow up more quickly than they prefer. But I disagree with them. Reading and studying the written word is an inherently beautiful process. It exposes a person to a broad spectrum of ideas that would otherwise remain hidden and allows for the development of analytical reasoning. A child who reads, even when tackling books that may be difficult or contain harsh ideas, will inevitably become a more intelligent and more well-rounded person than one who does not.”

I tend to agree with Jeffrey on this.  I remember when I was younger and would read novels that were advanced for my age.  The crude words and sexual situations went right over my head.  I have often returned to a book that I read when I was younger and I am amazed at the language and situations that I now understand.  When I read Lord of the Flies for the first time I was ten years old and I enjoyed the book as a adventure novel about boys being boys.  When I read it again for my high school 20th Century Literature course I remember being amazed at the pure brutality of the novel and there were so many Christian symbols that I had missed.  However, even when I was ten I caught the message of the book about humanity.

I believe that banning people from books holds them back from opportunities to learn and will make students angry and give up on reading all together.  Their mentality will be, “If I can’t read what I want to read then why read at all?”  Jeffery agrees with me and takes it a step further.

“Censorship in all forms is a dangerous proposition, and one that must be guarded against. When librarians attempt to stifle students’ access to literature, they are essentially unraveling [their] educational outlooks and teaching [them] that it is OK for someone outside of their family to control their thoughts.”

He takes censorship from a mere guarding of students’ minds to a complete control of their thoughts.  Here is where I differ from Jeffrey.  I do think that censorship keeps students from some important truths about life and I think that it discourages reading.  However, saying that because we allow books to be censored we allow others to control our thoughts is a little far-fetched.

I do believe that we need to put books in the hands of students and that if a ten year old girl wants to read Lord of the Flies then let her take up the challenge!  Who cares if it has a few violent moments?  I say “Let our youth learn and discover the world through books!”

Jeff Jeffrey. “Book banning destroys thought.” The Daily Reveille. Jan.24, 2007

see complete article



  1. Kristen said,

    January 29, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    I completely agree with you in your thoughts about censorship. If kids want to read books and are advanced enough to be reading them, why not? However, I think the real question with censorship is whether an entire classroom should be reading those books. Yes, certain students are able to read those books and should be allowed to, but other students may not be on the same level. So, the debate lies in whether or not certain books should be applied to an entire classroom and not so much in whether or not the individuals can handle the material.
    For me personally, since I went to a private religious school on the east side of the state until my junior year of high school, their censorship of texts was focused mainly on “taboo” language and concepts like sexual connotations and situations, swearing, etc. I’m assuming that West Michigan is similar to the reasoning of my first high school. This kind of censorship is wrong in some situations; I wholeheartedly agree with you. Kids are missing out on great books because of a couple swear words or due to teachers being afraid to teach somewhat racy material. Great post.

  2. anns311 said,

    January 31, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    I also agree with your opinion on the censorship of literature. I believe that not only are students able to metabolize heavy subject matter in their own way, we as teachers/ parents are there to decipher complicated subjects. I think that part of the fun of reading literature is pulling it apart to see what its really saying. This is something we should encourage our students to do with us and their peers. Good literature will introduce harsh topics in a way that will coax questions from the reader. Who didn’t read “Lord of the Flies” without questioning what he or she would do without the authority of parents, and would we have the nerve to do the things those boys were doing to eachother? These types of questions make this “censored” literature important to our development as citizens. If anything, we should encourage this type of speculation in our students.

  3. corbmobile said,

    February 1, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    I agree with you…mostly. Milton said that a good teacher can eke some good out of even the most vile book, and I think that’s true. But I think I disagree with, maybe not your own, but the view’s in the article you cited, that “Reading and studying the written word is an inherently beautiful process”. This is false. Reading may inspire great things, but it can also inspire awful, evil things. Hitler gleened at least some of his ideas about the “superior man” from Nietzche. I don’t think that means we should censor Nietzche, but I think it shows that reading is not inherently “beautiful”—its all about context. Furthermore, if I have children, they can read Lord of the Flies whenever they please, but they’re not reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover if I tell them not to, and I would feel perfectly justified in doing so.

    This next bit may be a bit controvertial as well (I’m not trying to be), but I think there is something to be said for censoring utter garbage literature. And I’m sorry if they’re are any Objectivists out there, but whenever I see “Atlas Shrugged” sticking out of a library shelf, I am sorely tempted to turn it’s spine around so the pages face outward. I’ll even admit that I’ve done it a few times. This may make me a bad person, maybe even a wholely unsuitable English teacher…but I am still unrepentant. It wouldn’t be right, I agree, for the government to do so, and it would be idiotic to try and get it banned…but as a private citizen, I really feel that the world without Ayn Rand books would be a better world for everyone.

  4. February 2, 2007 at 6:52 am

    I agree with Marie (which rhymes). Isn’t funny to look back now at past banned books? “Huckleberry Finn,” anyone? Think of all those books, many of which are now considered American classics. Even the “Harry Potter” series, books that have gotten many kids interested in reading again, have been banned in some schools!

    I would argue, then, that the very aspects of these books that is causing them to become banned is sometimes the very things a child needs. Sure, this is situational, but sometimes kids need to grow up; they need to know more than what their parents allow them to see. Parents seem to have a blindspot most times when it comes to these things.

    So, this is my story and I’m sticking to it: The history of banned book shows us that the supposed evils initially can turn into essential learning experiences in the end.

  5. April 16, 2007 at 6:33 am

    […] Commented: Does Censorship Make us Dumb? […]

  6. April 17, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    […] Comment 2 […]

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