Censorship in Public Schools

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor's January 1996

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-A principal in a California high school bans five books written by Richard Brautigan

because he thinks they might contain 'obscenities or offensive sexual references' (Berger


-A Vermont high school librarian is forced to resign because she fought the school

board's decision to remove Richard Price's The Wanderers, and to 'restrict' the use of

Stephen King's Carrie and Patrick Mann's Dog Day Afternoon (Jones 33).

-An Indiana school board takes action that leads to the burning of many copies of a

textbook that deals with drugs and the sexual behavior of teenagers (Berger 61).

These cases of censorship in public schools are not unusual and there is evidence

that such challenges are increasing (Woods 2). These challenges are actually typical of

the ones being leveled against school libraries today. These challenges can come from

one person or a group concerned with the suitability of the material in question. In almost

every case, the effort to ban books is said to be 'justified by fear of the harmful effects

that the books may have on young children' (Berger 59).

The result of these censorship

attempts has been two opposing sides: one side believes that 'more suitable materials can

usually be found from among the wealth of materials available on most subjects (Woods

1), and the other side believes that students' 'intellectual freedom' can be upheld only if

students are allowed to examine 'any available relevant materials in order to gain the

insights needed to reach their own conclusions' (Woods 1). In the simplest terms, the

debate is between censorship and the freedom to read.

The most important question when discussing censorship deals with its

constitutionality; does censorship violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free

speech? Censorship advocates actually use the words of the First Amendment to make

their point; 'the...