The dark side of censorhip: bad books

As a journalist for the better part of 30 years (not counting the samizdat paper I wrote and published (on my dad's mimeograph machine) in my high school seminary), I worship our first amendment.? And as a student of the French Revolution and its pre-guillotine press, I'm also a big fan of Monsieur Voltaire and his famous utterance, to the effect, `I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right say it.'

Does this mean I believe in an unfettered web in our schools, the subject of an interesting report by Winnie Hu in today's New York Times?

Well, I think I would agree with William Fitzhugh, the respected editor of The Concord Review, who told Hu,? ?I think students should have unfettered access to the library."

In other words, we have a much huger problem than the kind of Internet censorship that Banned Websites Awareness Day seems to be worried about.? A glance at school curricula, summer reading lists, or what pass as textbooks these days, indicate that our educators are already doing a pretty good job of censorship, keeping children from THE BEST of what our civilization has produced over the last couple thousand years.? I often quote from Pat Conroy's My Losing Season, wherein an English teacher answered the budding writer's question about what he should read: ?The great books, Mr. Conroy, and nothing but the great books. There isn't time for anything else.?

What's a great book? you ask?? Well, like the pornography that proliferates on our unfettered Worldwide Web, you know it when you see it. ? And as much as the computer has put information -- including great books -- at our fingertips, it has yet to give us a longer day.? There still isn't time for anything else.

So, not only would I keep a tight lid on the Web in our schools, I would consider supporting a Ban Bad Books Day.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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