Censorship in the Public Education System

When looking back at history, it’s clear to see how certain patterns and trends affect populations of people. One such trend is the attempt to stifle or limit the public’s right to access information. Whenever a group of people feels that the metaphorical wool is being pulled over their eyes, the situation can escalate in rebellious conflicts.

America’s public education system is walking on the “slippery slope” of censorship. On one hand, administrators strive to protect students from harmful information, but on the other, useful and educational material is often not allowed in the classroom due to subject material, racial issues, regional dialect phrases, etc.

For decades, schools across the nation have elected to ban certain reading materials because of the discussion of “sensitive” topics. Although in some cases there may be valid logic behind the bans, I feel that most cases of censorship occur because of an individual’s own biases against a subject.

Just because a student is reading and learning about a certain character in a book that exhibits less-than-desirable behavior, it does not mean that he or she will begin to act or speak like said character. Individuals who are biased against certain materials are simply against it because of the use of racial slurs, discriminatory phrases, or the like. They fail to see past the questionable statements to actually see the benefits of studying what is deemed appropriate behavior now, and what was acceptable in the past.

For example, perhaps the most famous case of censorship in schools surrounds the book “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. The book has been deemed “unacceptable in the public school system” by those who feel that the use of certain terms to describe character Jim is offensive. I could not put it better than Leonard Pitts Jr., a writer for the Seattle Times, when he states:

“[…] this is an act of literary graffiti, this attempt to impose a political correctness upon the most politically incorrect of American authors.”

He goes on to say:

“It is never a good idea to sugarcoat the past. A glance at the historical record will show that Twain’s use of the reprehensible word was an accurate reflection of that era.”

While such instances of literature censorship may not be prevalent in my own school in Shanksville, it’s imperative that students all across the country are aware that such instances do occur, and that they cannot be tolerated. Unless students are allowed to study why certain words were used, how will they be capable of understanding why they are offensive today? By cutting certain sections and words out of books, we are essentially cutting out and refusing to analyze and learn from crucial points in our country’s history.

In addition, the Internet is also home to a barrage of censorship. While I realize that some censorship techniques are necessary in the school system (such as Sonic or Firewalls), in order to prevent students from abusing the privilege of being able to access the Internet at school, it has the possibility of becoming too strong. For example, all blogs, including this one, are blocked at Shanksville, due to “web communications.” When benevolent, educational websites are blocked, or students are unable to use certain Web-based programs due to the blocking, administrators approach the line of infringing on a student’s right to access information.

I have seen the effects of excessive Internet blocking at my own school. Dozens of reliable, informative websites are blocked thanks to software that simply searches for keywords or phrases. Even if the website has nothing to do with an inappropriate topic, it is blocked anyway. Until improved software is available (that only blocks dangerous or inappropriate sites and leaves others alone), Internet censorship in schools will be a necessary, yet inconvenient, evil.

When officials, be that school administrators or federal government politicians, start to control what we are allowed to know or learn about, what is going to prevent them from controlling other aspects of our personal lives?

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