It’s time to turn the page away from literary censorship

DePaul recently participated in the Library of Congress’s Banned Books Week by hosting a read-aloud of titles that have been banned around the country. Although this issue may seem like a thing of the past, it is still crucial for people everywhere to understand the effects that censorship can have on our society.

DePaul understands the importance of having access to all kinds of knowledge, whether it comes from a simple textbook or books of a more provocative nature. Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Academic Engagement Heather Jagman, helped to organize the events last week.

“I think all readers should be able to freely choose the type of material they want to explore,” she said. “If everyone’s access to a particular text is restricted because one person finds it objectionable, individuals may be deprived of information that is important to their learning and development.”

Many students support this movement and DePaul’s decision to embrace it. Freshman Austin Woodruff feels very strongly about the topic of censorship of reading material.

“I believe that censorship comes from a weak place in people,” Woodruff stated. “I believe that when people challenge certain books, it says a lot about who they are as a person.”

Woodruff brings up an interesting point in his views of censorship. We tend to hate what we don’t understand. Rather than inquiring more about certain topics, it’s easier for people to take the “ignorance is bliss” approach.

Jagman believes that censorship goes against the principles of our government. “In order to have a democratic system people need to be able to read and think freely,” she said. “In other words, the flip side of freedom of speech and of the press is being able to freely consume and consider the information that is being produced.”

Censorship is considered a dangerous issue in many countries around the world, most notably in China. According to Jonathan Mirsky from the New York Review of Books, China often rips out pages of articles in foreign magazines that they believe are critical towards the Chinese government.

Many journalists face censorship in other countries because of their strict censorship laws. At first glance, it’s hard to grasp that a private religious school such as DePaul would support their students in having the freedom to read any material that they desire. However our team of librarians at DePaul know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“As librarians, our job is not only to teach students how to find things, but also to help students understand why it is important to seek out information and expertise, as well as think critically about who created the information and for what purpose,” Jagman stated.

Unfortunately, not all schools in America are as lucky as DePaul when it comes to censorship. According to Maddie Crum from The Huffington Post, many books are removed from shelves because of offensive language, homosexuality, violence, religious viewpoints, drugs and descriptions of nudity.

The numbers of challenged books are highest in the young adult category and occur in middle and high school district libraries. Many parents don’t want their children being exposed to material they believe to be inappropriate or risqu’ÛΩ. What some fail to understand is that for many children, school is more than a place to learn about math, science, English and reading; it’s a place to learn about themselves, which many times can happen through the pages of a book.

Censoring materials only limits our understandings of the world and the many perspectives present in it. We are privileged to live in a country where we are allowed to grow from the conversations that books help us start. It’s a shame when people challenge this right and work to remove titles from school curriculums and public libraries.

As the growth of the Internet surges, this issue seems to have newfound relevance as print texts are transferred to screens. The issue of censorship will continue as people fight to restrict the access that children, young adults and even legal adults have online.

As we keep making progress forward in the area of censorship, we can only hope that new technology doesn’t push us back.