To the Editor:
I am writing on behalf of the Herndon High School Freedom to Read Club to protest the actions that are being taken by a group called PABBIS. PABBIS is a group of parents who are trying to ban the use of books and films in school that they feel are inappropriate. PABBIS has been working to restrict the learning and development of students for over a year. The works of PABBIS and groups like them is insulting and counterproductive.
Restricting the rights of students in no way helps the educational system. Schools are supposed to be a haven where new and exciting ideas are formulated and discussed. The basis of education is to foster an environment where thinking and innovation are encouraged; school is a place where there should be no intellectual boundaries or limits. If the ability to learn about new and challenging topics, that may be controversial, is in any way hindered, then the entire basis of education is destroyed. Students should have the access to and the right to learn about ideas expressed in literature and film in the classroom setting. Without this basic right,
education fails its primary goal. New ideas may not be discussed, and students will grow up following in the paths of conformity. Diversity is a pillar of our society, and education that allows for a free flow of ideas helps build and foster diversity.
The classroom should be a place where there is no fear of censorship. There should be a feeling of openness in the classroom that transcends race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. There should not be the fear in students' minds that if they express an "inappropriate" viewpoint they will be censored. Teachers should not be handcuffed by restrictions on what books or films may be used, or discussed, in class. The classroom must be a fair and open environment that encourages, not represses, free thinking. If teachers and students are limited in their discussion, how can intellectual progress be made? How can students be expected to be tomorrow's leaders if they are not allowed the right to free thought?
Censorship is an insult to both teachers and students. Censorship implies that students are not mature enough to discuss challenging issues. Censorship does not acknowledge the fact that students are able to understand, comprehend, and discuss challenging issues in a mature fashion. Eventually, students will need to learn how to deal with difficult issues like death, racism, and sexism. How will today's students be able to function in college and the professional world if they are not able to discuss these issues in a structured environment? Today's students will soon be adults, and will have to face issues and problems that are challenging. Censorship also implies that teachers are not mature enough to discuss mature issues with students. Teachers should be trusted by both parents and students to be mature and knowledgeable enough to discuss these and other tough issues.
The classroom should be free from censorship and all of its evils. There should be no fear when teachers and students discuss challenging topics. At the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson once said, "We are here not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." Jefferson knew the importance of education and the folly in not being able to freely pursue the ideas that education could conjure. It is sad to think that in the 182 years since Jefferson said those words we have taken a step backwards from his ideals.