Another piece from my archive of censorship essays from early in my career.
Moe. L Is it Political Correctness or Weeding? The Book Report March/April 1993
An incident I heard about recently set me to questioning if the motive for removal of a book [in the school’s library] was weeding or censorship. The book in question was published in the early 1970’s when some “research” purported to show blacks were inferior in intelligence to whites. One chapter of the book presented this idea as fact.
A student who was offended by the chapter asked the librarian to remove the book. The librarian refused. Later, after a phone call from a parent, the principal took the book from the shelf and presumably destroyed it.
We all know that removing books in this manner amounts to censorship. Yet, given the date of the publication and inaccurate contents, I have asked myself, would I have weeded this item before it became an object of a challenge?
One could justify keeping the book for historical purposes as an example of ideas representative of the early 1970s. In this case I would have to verify authorship and authenticity. I believe in freedom of information, yet I also feel the information in the school library should be current and accurate.
What would I have done? I don’t know. I didn't see the book, but this incident has given me a push for writing a selection, weeding and reconsideration policy. With such a policy, a challenged book at least has a chance for due process.
Author’s note. Since this piece appeared two decades ago, I have experienced numerous challenges. In no case was a book permanently removed from the shelves. Some were moved to closed reserve, and others labeled not appropriate for certain age levels books with false information are weeded before they come under question.
Read a banned book/