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April 25, 2014

Just how bad is school censorship?

In today's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column I examine two very different events that both relate to the problem of school censorship. Here's an excerpt.

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Spring is here, which means that it's time once again for the American Library Association's annual top-10 list of "most frequently challenged books." These are the books that have drawn the largest number of formal complaints "requesting that materials be removed [from a library] because of content or appropriateness." Each time it comes out, enlightened readers hasten to snigger at those benighted members of the booboisie who dare to suggest that "Of Mice and Men" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," both of which have previously appeared on the list, might possibly be thought unsuitable for consumption by youngsters....

These 10 books inspired just 307 challenges last year. That's chump change in a country of 318 million people, a quarter of whom identify themselves as Republicans.

Furthermore, I'm struck by the fact that these books, as well as the other most frequently challenged titles of the 21st century, are for the most part--if I may say so--rather less than stellar in quality....

Do the classics get censored? Once in a while--but usually with different results. Consider, for example, the passionate protests that were inspired by the recent decision of New Hampshire's Timberlane Regional School District to cancel a Timberlane High School production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd." The school board, according to Superintendent Earl Metzler, was "uncomfortable with the script...We felt there were parts in there that just weren't acceptable." But virtually all of the protesters were opposed to the cancellation....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted April 25, 2014 10:05 AM

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