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FIGHTING OFF CENSORSHIP

An attempt by some Williamsville parents to remove a science fiction book from Transit Middle School's library is an attempt at censorship that was rightly rebuffed by the Williamsville School Board.

At issue is a book titled, "Shade's Children," by Garth Nix. "Shade's Children" is a story about a world dominated by "Overlords" who harvest the minds and bodies of children to produce half-human, half-mechanical warriors. A parent discovered her 11-year-old with the book and launched a protest to ban the tome.

Parents presented a petition to the school board with 295 signatures protesting the book, and wanting it pulled from library shelves. There also was a suggestion that books be flagged for adult content, similar to what the recording industry does for adult-themed music. In this case, parents would have to sign permission slips before the book could be checked out.

Those are bad ideas. Not only is it wrong to censor materials, but it is also wrong for one group of parents to dictate to another group of parents what books are acceptable. Besides, who would be the next group of "arbiters" on literary standards, and what would it object to?

In the past, parents have objected to works ranging from Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" to the painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware," in fifth-grade textbooks at a Georgia School. It seems as if the watch chain hangs low across Washington's abdomen, and from this chain there dangle two round ornaments. School officials were worried that the children would think that the ornaments looked like Washington's genitals. To quote Dave Barry, we are not making this up.

Schools are supposed to be places of learning. And learning means exposure to a variety of ideas and literature. If some parents want to limit their own children, that's one thing. But to give them the right to limit ideas and books for other people's children is quite another. The school board made a good call here.

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