612. Censorship

We aren’t supposed to teach people younger than us to be us. Not that we could, anyway, but it would be good to be aware both that we can’t and that we shouldn’t try to. We can let them know what’s important to us, and hope that whatever is becomes important to them, too, but I think that if we react to the ways they’re different instead of responding to them, everybody loses.
I recently heard about a group of teenagers who wanted to produce a play in school. It wasn’t the kind of play that’s usually chosen by adults for youth to perform; it contained language that adults who design curriculum tend to avoid – Catcher in the Rye-type language. I guess the adults involved felt that allowing this play to be produced in school would send a message to the community that the play represented the thinking of the school and school system. And that isn’t a message they wanted to send.
So in effect, the people in charge banned the play. They denied the young thespians permission to rehearse or perform the play in question in school. When I first heard about this, I had trouble imagining it. This was happening near the end of the twentieth century! That meant the people who were making and enforcing this decision were probably people who went to college around the time I did. The Woodstock generation!
People who should have known all about how it feels to want to be heard and to have those in power attempt to silence them!
I don’t want to dwell too long on that stereotype of my generation. True, many of us work for some fundamental changes in society, but some members of my generation also vote for conservative politicians
and do other things I wouldn’t do. The Aged of Aquarius have managed to transform society in some ways, but somehow, a lot has stayed the same or regressed. I hope that one of our successes is that we’ve gotten people who end up in positions of authority to be more likely to be a little open-minded.
If we censor what young people do, we set an obscene example for them. There couldn’t be any words or ideas in the play that was causing all the controversy that were more objectionable than censorship. Our country and culture are based on respect for individuals, and individuals ought to be free to express themselves. Even if they don’t do it in words other individuals like. Allowing the play to be produced would have indeed sent a
message to the community: it would have told people that the school system took responsibility not only for teaching children “basic” skills, but also for teaching them that they and their ideas were important –
more important than linguistic and ideological conformity. And that’s an awfully important message to send.

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