This editorial was first published in the Corsicana Daily Sun. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
In his novel Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury tells the dystopian story of a “fireman,” Guy Montag — one who burns books for a living — who one day picks up a book to read it instead of setting it on fire.
In the story, reading is banned, and Montag knows that full well. His boss explains why: better to have an ignorant public than one that worries its head over controversial, politically charged topics. Or so the argument goes.
“Peace, Montag,” his boss tells him. “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data … Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving.”
We won’t spoil the rest of the story. Suffice it to say, Montag wrestles with that argument and finds where it falls short. He starts memorizing verses from a few scraps of a Bible he salvaged from a fire. He chooses the books — or better said, the world of ideas he can discover through books.
The irony? This book about banning books has itself been the subject of attempts to ban it.
This week, Sept. 22-28, is Banned Books Week, celebrating your freedom to read. Fahrenheit 451 is just one of many books that people have tried to have removed from school, university or public libraries for various reasons, and this week is when librarians, booksellers, publishers and teachers support people’s freedom to seek out ideas even if they’re unpopular.
Simply put, it’s your right to read what you choose and to make that same decision for your children. Somebody else shouldn’t make that decision for you.
There might be very good reasons that a particular person shouldn’t read a particular book, especially where children are concerned. Some books contain explicit scenes of violence or sexuality, language that some consider offensive or other content that readers need to be mature enough to handle.
But whether a child should read a particular book is for that child’s parents to decide, not a government employee — a librarian or a teacher or anyone else.
We encourage families to be involved in their children’s reading habits. But we also recognize that just because one person thinks something is inappropriate doesn’t mean everyone else must abide by that standard. Enjoying the freedom to read what we choose means standing up for that same freedom for everyone else.