Find out more at her web site, www.nataliestandiford.com.
To me the central issue behind censorship is respect. Dictators who don't want their people to read what they please, who are afraid that exposure to new ideas will undermine their power, don't respect the people they rule. They don't respect their intelligence; they don't want them to develop intelligence. They only want obedience.
I studied Russian in high school and college and spent some time in what was then called the Soviet Union. Books, movies, music, news, and all kinds of art were heavily censored in Soviet Russia. The leaders wanted to control how their people thought—but it didn't work. The Soviet people knew they were being lied to. They were hungry for new ideas and forbidden books and found ways to gain access to them in the face of huge obstacles. The leadership could not stop them from thinking, no matter how hard it tried. And at last the Soviet regime collapsed. No amount of censorship could keep it going. In the end, censorship is futile.
Adults need to respect the intelligence and sensitivity of young people and allow them access to whatever books they want to read. Yes, words can be powerful; they can make people think. But they can't change who a person fundamentally is. Books cannot turn a good person into a bad person. But they can turn an ignorant person into a thoughtful person. The role of young people in our society is not to obey us blindly or to be who we want them to be. It's to explore who they want to be. They should be allowed to do that exploration freely, and part of that process is access to all kinds of ideas, all kinds of books and people, so they can sort out this crazy world for themselves. They are perfectly capable of doing this without adults controlling everything in their environment. Guidance is fine, but dictating will backfire, just as it did in the Soviet Union.
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