Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Labels and/or Restrictions Won't Work

I know I said that we were done with book banning for a while, but I keep getting new blog ideas and they deserve to be let out.

Book banning is really an umbrella term, besides "banning" it can refer to restricting, labeling, reshelving or otherwise censoring books (because it's easier to say "Banned Books Week" than "Banned, Restricted, Labeled, Reshelved or Otherwise Censored Week"). Oftentimes, the censors request that the books be labeled or restricted with some sort of parental permission system in place.

In the case of restrictions, censors often request that the books be placed on a special shelf or be labeled and only be allowed to be taken out with parental supervision or permission by any minor.

A) This means lumping everyone under 18 into the same boat so to speak. If you treat a three-year-old and a 16-year-old the same you have no business doing anything that involves children.

B) Once children are old enough to go to the library by themselves, they can't take out these books with a parent or guardian there. This is a great hindrance to both the child and the parent. The parent has better things to do than supervise a child that doesn't require supervision, but they have to because a book is considered too "dangerous" for minors. And the child probably won't want to go to the library if they have to drag mommy or daddy along to check out a book. That's not what I would call encouraging literacy or a love of reading.

C) I'm making a huge generalization here but there's a lot of truth to it. If a kid is in a library, you've won. Kids who go to libraries and read books are not part of the crowd who does drugs, has casual sex, drinks or smokes underage, or otherwise does things they shouldn't be doing. Kids who are taking out books from a library are not the ones we need to have tantrums over.

D) Don't try to say "this isn't censorship". It's plain to see that saying this isn't censorship is a load of bull.

Labeling isn't too bad in theory, we have advisory labels and ratings on movies, music and other such things. But there are many differences between a movie at the cinema and a book in a library.

First of all, movie ratings are undertaken by private institutions and are not legally binding. The library is a government institution meant to serve everyone. Who would decide what would be worthy of a label? Would it simply mean that someone objected to the material within? Because libraries are meant to serve everyone, all books would require a label because virtually anything can be considered "objectionable".

If we went by sexual content, what would qualify as label-worthy? The mere mention of sex or would an act have to be described? Would LGBTQ material get labeled?

And if the aim is to discourage children from reading these books, won't putting labels on them and making a big fuss just make them all the more desirable?

The point is: You're the only one who can decide what your children can't and can't read. You have no business interfering with another child's reading. It is no different than going up to a child who is eating a bag of chips and taking them away from them because you don't want your child eating them. And chips can do far more harm than a book ever could.

Happy holidays to all.

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