Blog Post: How Librarians are Taking the Heat to Hold Back the Menace of Censorship; Why Freedom to Access Ideas is Vital

Linda Elder
Sep 20, 2022 • 69d ago
How Librarians are Taking the Heat to Hold Back the Menace of Censorship; Why Freedom to Access Ideas is Vital

{"ops":[{"insert":"Access to literature is now increasingly at risk as censorship becomes more common in U.S. libraries. Of course, throughout history ideas have been censored by powerful groups interested in keeping people from considering ideas they themselves find intolerable. Today these attacks are coming primarily from radical conservative groups. But a preeminent conservative thinker, H.L. Menken once said:\n\nI believe in liberty. And when I say liberty, I mean the thing in its widest"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"imaginable sense — liberty up to the extreme limits of the feasible and tolerable."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"I am against forbidding anybody to do anything, or say anything, or think"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"anything so long as it is at all possible to imagine a habitable world in which he"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"would be free to do, say, and think it. The burden of proof, as I see it, is always"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"upon the policeman, which is to say, upon the lawmaker, the theologian, the"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"right-thinker. He must prove his case doubly, triply, quadruply, and then he"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"must start all over and prove it again. The eye through which I view him is"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"watery and jaundiced. I do not pretend to be “just” to him — any more than"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"a Christian pretends to be just to the devil. He is the enemy of everything I"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"admire and respect in this world — of everything that makes it various and"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"amusing and charming. He impedes every honest search for the truth. He"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"stands against every sort of good-will and common decency. His ideal is that of"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"an animal trainer, an archbishop, a major general in the army. I am against him"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"until the last galoot’s ashore (On Liberty, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Nation Magazine"},{"insert":", Dec. 5, 1923, pp. 193–194)."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nFor those concerned with censorship at our libraries, I recommend this article entitled: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"“We’ve moved backwards”: US Librarians Face Unprecedented Attacks Amid Right Wing Book Bans:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"blue","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":" ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Guardian"},{"insert":", September 20, 2022).\n\nThe article illuminates the problem of censorship in our libraries; and it points out the burden librarians now face in attempting to defend our freedom to access literature that narrow-minded persons find offensive. Retired Texas school librarian Carolyn Foote has teamed up with other people to establish FReadom Fighters, a kind of support group for librarians in distress. How sad that we now need a support group for librarians trying to defend our right to ideas.\n\nWithout freedom to read ideas that may expand our minds, we are limited to the ideas we do have access to; when books are censored, the ideas we can consider are themselves limited. Rather than suppressing access to books, which only illuminates fear of ideas, we need to foster in students the critical thinking abilities and characteristics they need to open their minds and think within alternative views with intellectual courage and intellectual autonomy. We need to teach them tools for internalizing ideas that are reasonable, enlightening, deep, and which help us progress to higher ways of thinking and living. We need at the same time to teach students to reject ideas that do not stand the test of reason – ideas that are narrow, confining, self-serving, parochial, or which thrust us back into antediluvian or archaic mindsets. We do this by helping students develop confidence in reason, intellectual empathy and fairmindedness. We do this by expanding and enlarging the mind’s ideas through access to the best thinking. On the other hand, limiting access to ideas, which our censors would have us do, can only constrict already narrow, biased, prejudiced, and bigoted views.\n"}]}

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