September 22 began Banned Books Week–seven days when libraries and educators encourage everyone to consider the history and effects of censorship. Librarians are a varied group of people–they have different belief systems and different politics; yet, did you know that American librarians subscribe to an ethical code? Right?! Number two on that list reads, “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” Yet the question still remains, “Why?” I mean shouldn’t some materials be censored? Aren’t some books dangerous?
I think this is exactly why censorship often occurs. Ideas are dangerous, just as they are vital, challenging, and absolutely necessary. Censorship is so offensive because at it’s center it is dehumanizing. It makes that assumption that the reader does not have the intellectual capacity to disagree with an opinion, or to recognize the difference between written narratives and the realities of his or her life. Censorship is also dehumanizing to the censor as it limits one of humans’ greatest strengths: communication. No longer can the censor have a conversation with another as that information has been removed from the dialogue entirely. To be human is to swim in a world of ideas and communicate those in order to learn more about the world.
Marin Academy’s mission statement, “Think. Question. Create” is often quoted, and remembered by most. Yet there’s more to this statement. The full statement reads:
“Marin Academy asks every individual to think, question, and create in an environment of encouragement and compassion, and challenges each person to accept the responsibilities posed by education in a democratic society.”
I think the last portion of this is quite important: we must accept the responsibilities posed by education. We are lucky enough here to have free access to information so that we can become better citizens who take responsibility for our community. Kurt Vonnegut once stated that, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Wisdom is gained through experience and dialogue and sometimes, if we are lucky, through observation (either of real people and situations or those found in books and movies). (To take a look at some other literary greats’ thoughts on censorship, take a look here.) The MA Library supports your right to read, and encourages the transition from knowledge to wisdom. Come by the library to take a look at some banned and challenged books, or to chat about your ideas, thoughts, and questions!