David C. Berliner is one of the most honored researchers in the field of education.

He sent the following reflections on censorship. His thoughts reflect my views about censorship and abortion. If you are opposed to certain books, don’t read them. If you oppose abortion, don’t have one. Don’t impose your views on others.

Dr. Berliner wrote:


I was asked some time ago to write about censorship for the Horace Mann League. My explorations of the topic led me first to a personal statement:

“It is the right of people to not listen to, and not read, anything they find offensive. But this right is limited: it does not give them the right to limit what others choose to hear or read. It gives concerned citizens absolutely no right to forbid anyone else to listen to or read what they choose.

The only exception to this statement is with one’s own children. Parents do have both a right, and an obligation, to react to what their children are listening to and reading.

But that right and obligation is limited to their own children—not mine! I will make such decisions for myself. And I happen to trust school teachers, and librarians, to act for me, to act in “locus parentis.”

And I hope that every librarian and teacher is thoughtful enough to remember that merely avoiding certain discussions is itself a form of censorship!”

David C. Berliner

Some of the thoughts of others that I thought worth thinking about follow:

“The real heroes [in our society] are the librarians and teachers who at no small risk to themselves refuse to lie down and play dead for censors.”
― Bruce Coville

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
― Joseph Brodsky

“Free societies…are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom’s existence.”
― Salman Rushdie

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
― United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”
― Clare Luce Booth

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”
― Mark Twain

[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”
― Judy Blume

“Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory… In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If you can’t say “Fuck” you can’t say, “Fuck the government.”
― Lenny Bruce

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession

“[Public] libraries should be open to all—except the censor.
[Response to questionnaire in Saturday Review, October 29 1960]”
― John F. Kennedy

I

“Only the nonreader fears books. ”
― Richard Peck

“Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot.”
― Eugene Gladstone O’Neill

“If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is “right” and what is “best” should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. … As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.”
[Bangor Daily News, Guest Column of March 20, 1992]”
― Stephen King

“When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine’s Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Plus, of course, friendship—though I like to think that my reaction would have been the same if I hadn’t known Salman at all. To re-state the premise of the argument again: the theocratic head of a foreign despotism offers money in his own name in order to suborn the murder of a civilian citizen of another country, for the offense of writing a work of fiction. No more root-and-branch challenge to the values of the Enlightenment (on the bicentennial of the fall of the Bastille) or to the First Amendment to the Constitution, could be imagined. President George H.W. Bush, when asked to comment, could only say grudgingly that, as far as he could see, no American interests were involved…”
― Christopher Hitchens,

“The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him, and that is why Puritanism was the most destructive and evil force which ever oppressed people and their literature: it created hypocrisy, perversion, fears, sterility.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

“Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

“Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice.”
― Holbrook Jackson

“Censors never go after books unless kids already like them. I don’t even think they know to go after books until they know that children are interested in reading this book, therefore there must be something in it that’s wrong.”
― Judy Blume

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the difference between independence of thought and subservience.”
― Henry Steele Commager

“Our freedoms are vanishing. If you do not get active to take a stand now against all that is wrong while we still can, then maybe one of your children may elect to do so in the future, when it will be far more riskier — and much, much harder.”
― Suzy Kassem

“I also hold very strong personal convictions about censorship. I don’t believe in forbidden knowledge.”
― Andrea Cremer