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Despite the firestorm (1, 2) over the WSJ article about YA fiction, I did agree with this paragraph by Meghan Cox Gurdon, which she talks about the process of guiding what young people read:
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"In the book trade, this is known as 'banning.' In the parenting trade, however, we call this 'judgment' or 'taste.' It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person's life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks 'censorship!'"
Censorship is a word that has sprawled over its boundaries in Kudzu-like fashion to places it doesn't belong. Examples:
- "Self-Censorship." This is a terrible mashup. There is no such thing. Instead of bastardizing the idea of the censor, you might adapt language like "prudence" or "selectivity."
- "Parental Censorship." There is no such thing. That's just called parenting. Parents have a responsibility to try to guide their child's development, which includes limiting access to some content in books.
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The word censorship should be reserved for places it truly belongs, such as acts by the government or by government intermediaries (public schools) to forbid all access to a certain work. It's not censorship, however, if the government knocks a controversial book off the required reading list for a school and yet keeps that book in the school's library. That's curating. That's using literary judgment (even though it's occasionally a skewed judgment).
Anyone from a repressive country would recognize the loose way we fling around "censorship" and laugh. As if losing the ability to discuss a work in English class truly qualifies as censorship. As if students couldn't go to the library or read it on a Kindle or find it online. By using the word censorship so broadly, its power is neutered.
End note: To see me reacting against censors, read my apologia against censorship back in 2009.