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I Am Not Sure

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I Am Not Sure! Essay, Research Paper

ensorship In School Is Not Right

6 pages in length. To be told what is permissible reading material and what is not

is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Yet all across the

country, school library shelves are being stripped of books that certain individuals

and groups deem as unacceptable. Censorship is alive and well in the United

States; its ripple effect on America’s students is often as damaging as reading

one of many so-called controversial books. The writer reveals why censorship in

today’s schools is both a violation of First Amendment rights, as well as a ploy

for radicals and liberals alike to control the minds of our children.


censorship has to do with forbidding people to express themselves in the manner

best suited to their needs.

The aim of censorship is to restrict thought–that is, to prevent people from thinking “bad” thoughts.

The censors’ basic premise is: Some ideas are so dangerous they must be suppressed. Material

is censored because, “it might give people ideas”–ideas that the censors wish to eradicate. Some

censors believe that “bad” thoughts cause direct harm to the person who entertains them. Some

Christians, for example, consider “impure” thoughts mortal sins that doom a soul to suffer in Hell for

eternity. Others simply hold that bad thoughts “corrupt” the thinker. For many years, this direct-harm

argument was used to suppress sexual material. According to the Hicklin doctrine, formulated in

England in 1868, the state had the right to suppress obscene material, which had a “tendency” to

“deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.”


ability to think is what makes us human, and our freedom of thought must be preserved at all costs.

And freedom of thought is not the freedom to think “good” thoughts. The distinction between fantasy

and reality is ignored or dismissed by the censors. This is why art is so feared by those at the

extremes of both the right and the left. But in the realm of the imagination, anything goes. In one’s

own mind, one may do heinous things. One may rape, torture, steal, and murder. Fantasy is not

reality and does not become reality by magic. Fantasy becomes real only by an act of will and

anyone who commits that act of will is responsible for the consequences.

Freedom of thought is meaningless without the freedom to communicate one’s thoughts to others.

Thus if freedom of thought is an absolute right, it would seem to follow that freedom of speech must

also be absolute. But speech is a transaction between two (or more) parties: one conveying

information and one or more receiving. All parties have the equal right to freedom of thought, and

freedom of thought entails the right not to hear, not to read, not to view, etc. In other words, by the

principle of equality, no one has the unlimited right to impose unwanted speech upon another.

Finally, the distinction must always be recognized between freedom of speech and freedom of

action. That is, adding a speech element to a criminal act cannot legitimize it. Catharine MacKinnon

has argued that speech is just another form of action and that if the state may regulate action it may

regulate speech. But speech differs from all other forms of action in that it conveys information and is

therefore privileged.

non to Pat Robertson–reject the principle of

equality. They believe that a certain segment of society, by virtue of its moral superiority, should have

the power and privilege of controlling access to information for society as a whole. Free-speech

advocates, on the other hand, believe that people should decide for themselves which books to read,

which movies to view, which images to observe, and what recordings to listen to. MacKinnon

cleverly argues the contrary–that equality dictates censorship to curb abuses by the powerful. What

she doesn’t acknowledge is that whenever a censorship mechanism is established it is always used by

the powerful to silence the powerless and not the other way around.

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