ENG 300 Journal

Thursday, September 23, 2004

9/23: Censorship

Mississippi School District Bans Book on Censorship: "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray BradburyFebruary 1, 1999

West Marion High School in Foxworth, a rural Mississippi town, is the place where recent events aimed at censorship occurred. The book, Fahenreit 451, was on the reading list for several of the English classes. However, after a parent complained to the superintendent about the use of the word "God damn" in the book, the book was removed from the required reading list. Interestingly, the complaint did not surface until the book report was due -- more than a month after the reading assignment was given.

Fahrenheit 451 is an engrossing futuristic tale of a society where all printed material is banned. In this country of the future, officials believe that people who read and are able to think for themselves are a threat to the nation where individualism is strongly discouraged. The inhabitants of this society all seem to be suffering from sensory deprivation and their only link to news and entertainment is a large television screen on the wall where broadcasts are continually transmitted to the "family." All the people are members of the Family. Even though they aren't forced to watch the telecasts, they all do.

It is the job of firemen (this movie was made long before they were referred to as firefighters) to hunt down subvervives and burn the caches of books they've secreted away. The title, Fahrenheit 451, is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn.

I thought the above article was extremely ironic - censoring a book about censorship. I wonder if the parent had actually read the book... I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school and thought it was brilliant, right up there with 1984. Both are simply exaggerated versions of where our society is headed, and both suggest premonitions that have since come true in a way. Another book in this category, my personal all-time favorite, is The Giver by Lois Lowery. The fact that it has been banned in some districts really makes me scratch my head. For those of you who have not yet read these books I HIGHLY recommend them. They all concern the government overstepping its bounds and basically eliminating individualism and freedom of thought.

I am not one of these people that think the world is over since Bush has been reelected. Yes he is conservative and I do believe at times he dismisses separation of church and state. Yet I don't think in four years we will have lost all freedom of speech. Our government really does not need to take extra lengths to squelch Americans' imaginations - we have done it to ourselves. Really, what have we done with our freedom so far? We've cranked out 8 dozen reality TV shows and during the commercials we flip over to MTV to see how short our skirt needs to be to be 'in' this week. The cummulative effect? We are mass-producing Americans, not necessarily meaning we're breeding like rabbits, but that all these baby bunnies look exactly the same... just fall asleep in a tanning bed, bleach your hair, wear jeans with a 2 inch crotch, get a boob job, buy an SUV and a pet chihuahua and you'll fit right in. Who needs an imagination? Who needs books?

I'll step off my soap box for one minute, but only to address those of you who are fighting tooth and nail to keep your children from being exposed to bad words in good books. Forget it, you're efforts are futile and ignorant. If your child does not read a bad word in a book, they will hear it on TV. If you do not let them watch TV they will see it on the internet. If you take away computer access they will hear it at school. If you send them to a private school where only the most prim and proper are allowed to attend, even here there will be a bad egg just waiting to try and corrupt your child. And if you stave off all of these evil influences what are you left with? A child who knows nothing about reality. I'm not telling you to give up all efforts and let your kids run willy-nilly. But if you see one bad word in a book your child brings home, don't be so quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If your child isn't so busy being mortified by a word they've never seen before, they may actually gain a bigger message from the book, and you might too.


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