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The University of Montana -Western September 28, 2005 Banned Books Week: Knowledge is Power By Rachel Tre mis Censorship has exploded in the past fifteen years, with an estimated eight thousand books on a challenged list, compiled by the American Li brary Association (ALA). This is the list of the most frequently challenged and banned books in this country from the last year, decade and century. Award winning children’s author, Richard Peck, gives his opinion as to why censorship is becoming such an issue, “parents are terrified of the world their children are growing up in, that is why so many are moving to the suburbs and sending their children to small private schools.” Censorship is a problem affecting the whole na tion, because one person's view can impact others individual rights to in formation and literature that would otherwise be accessible. How is a book challenged, and pos sibly banned? When members of a community believe a book is inappro priate, they can first express opinions to newspapers, radio stations and any one who may be able to take the book off of the shelves. By someone requesting the removal of a piece of literature, it is officially documented, and the book is considered challenged. The American Library Association explains: “A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials based on the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of these materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather they are an attempt to remove material from the library or curriculum, thereby restricting it.” Most books challenged are based on the grounds of sexual innuendos, racism, profanity, and corruption of religious views. Today, no book is safe, with bans on some of the greatest literary clas sics of our time. As stated by advocate against censorship, Dawn B. Sova “the famous and thought provoking novel, The Adventures o f Huckleberry Finn , written by Samuel Clemens, caused an uproar hours after it was published, and continues to be one of the most highly challenged and banned books known to this country. At the time of its publication, the detail that infuri ated Americans was the fact that Jim, the fugitive slave, told Huck of his plans to steal his wife and child from a wealthy plantation owner. Today the book is highly criticized because of the incessant number of times the word “nigger” is presented.” Current best-sellers are not immune to censorship crusaders. The Harry Potter books by author J.K. Rowling, are the stories of a teenage wizard named Harry, and his friends Ron and Hermione, and the adventures they share at Hogwarts School of Witch craft and Wizardry. These books are frequently targeted by churches, reli gious fundamental groups and parents. The challenges state concern that these stories will give kids ideas, and make them wish to turn to witchcraft and magic to help solve their problems. Nonfiction is just as likely to be targeted. There have been many religious works, reference books and textbooks removed from shelves or had their contents censored because they insulted a certain group of people. The American Library Association shares the following example: “In 1969, the American Heritage Dictio nary was pulled from libraries all over the country, because it put the defini- . tions for sexual slang words inside its pages. Parents were becoming alarmed when children started reading the dic tionary for fun.” Banning books out of libraries, schools and bookstores is in violation of rights protected in the First Amend ment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Though the Con stitution protects an individual’s right to read and receive information, it hasn’t stopped parents, school boards, or community organizations from at tempting to censor what books are available. The American Library Association reports the following case: “The school board of the Cedarville, Arkansas, voted to restrict students’ access to the Harry Potter books on the grounds that the books promoted disobedience and disrespect for authority and dealt with witchcraft and the occult. As a result of the vote, students in the Cedarville school district were re quired to obtain a signed permission slip from their parents or guardians before they would be allowed to bor row any of the Harry Potter books from school libraries. The District Court overturned the Board’s deci sion and ordered the books returned to unrestricted circulation. In so do ing, the Court noted that while the Board necessarily performed highly discretionary functions related to the operation of the schools, it was still bound by the Bill of Rights and could not abridge students’ First Amend ment right to read a book on the basis of an undifferentiated fear of distur bance or because the Board disagreed with the ideas contained in the book.” Banned Books Week, September 24 through October 1, raises aware ness about censorship issues in the United States and abroad and is spon sored by the American Library Asso ciation, the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Foundation, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Na tional Association of College Stores. For more information turn to page 10 of this issue. Professor Roger Dunsmore lectures to his English 102 students during Block 1. Photo by Wally Feldt.