(via Boing Boing)
That’s my Dad’s favorite saying, oft repeated after seeing a particular appalling example of human stupidity. Today I’d like to highlight a prime example of stupidity and weak minds at work that rears its head again and again – book banning. This time it came up in Houston, Texas when Alton Verm, of Conroe tried to get the school board to ban Farenheight 451, a novel by Ray Bradbury (story on the Courier website).
The great irony is that Mr. Verm proposed banning a book about book burning during the National Library Association’s Banned Books Week. Banning books is the act of intellectual cowardice. Those who fear the spread of knowledge are relying on a state of ignorance to hold their world together. Sometimes this comes in the form of government officials attempting to hold onto power by keeping the citizenry uninformed. This time it comes in the form of a parent, who has admittedly not even read the book in question, trying to keep a book with content that he is told he would object out of the hands of students. He wants ban the school from providing this book to its students. Apparently, his 15 year old daughter reading this book would undermine her fragile belief system.
No belief is sacred or should be safe from challenges in a free, open society. While respect for the beliefs of others is important, it is only through the free and open exchange of ideas and through exposure to many viewpoints that children can form a functional, reasonable world view. Trying to ban books is not the path to becoming a better person or society. It is simply a path to willful ignorance and dysfunction.
The school district in question should be applauded for the way they have handled Mr. Verm and his daughter. They have refused to remove the book from the curriculum, but they provided a book with similar themes but less “offensive” language for the young Ms. Verm to read instead. This respects her and her father’s right to refuse to learn or be exposed to new ideas without caving to their unreasonable demands that their self imposed ignorance be imposed on all students.