Will Unwound #836: “Sunday Meditation: It Takes a Village”August 18, 2013
In our post Christian world, there are several ways that librarians justify taking the position that library computers should not be filtered to block pornography to children:
- It is censorship.
- Pornography filters block out some non pornographic sites.
- What a child accesses at the library is the responsibility of the parent.
Here is my response.
- Yes, it is censorship. But censorship is a good thing when it protects children from abuse.
- With the advances that have been made in filters this argument has become largely irrelevant.
- Parents have a reasonable expectation that their public institutions will not expose their children to abuse. Just as public parks and recreation programs require background checks of all volunteers to filter out molesters, the library should filter out pornography.
I am particularly concerned about librarians who abandon their responsibility to protect children from abuse because they feel it is a parental responsibility. I know of no parent who wants their child to be able to access pornography at the library. None. Zero. Zippo. Nada. Bupkis. Society may no longer agree that there are such things as moral absolutes, but if anyone truly believes that providing pornography to children is not intrinsically evil and morally wrong, I would love to hear their reasoning. That is why I strongly believe that it is a cowardly cop out for the library to abdicate its role of providing for the common good by insisting that it does not want to usurp the responsibility of the parent.
If we were still living in the era of the Beaver Cleaver family, the argument that “what a child looks at in the library is the responsibility of the parent” might hold a trickle of water… well, no, not really. What would June Cleaver (the stay at home mom who baked cookies while wearing pearls) say if Wally and the Beave came back from the library talking about the copy of Playboy magazine they saw there. She’d have Ward hurry on down to the next library board meeting to raise holy hell. No one on the board would be saying to Ward: “Your wife June should stop baking cookies and follow Beaver and Wally around everywhere to make sure they stay out of trouble. If they saw Playboy at the library that’s her fault, not ours.”
But the situation is much different today. The Beaver Cleaver family is the exception. One parent and two paycheck families are now the norms. Kids have more free time and alone time than ever before. A parent cannot monitor everything a child does especially in the public library. Isn’t a parent justified in the expectation that their child will be protected from abuse at the rec center and in the public library? In the words of an old and wise African axiom: it takes a village to raise a child.
Why is it so hard for librarians to admit that intellectual freedom has both practical and moral boundaries? Why do librarians feel so intimidated about straying from the extremism of the ALA “anything goes” party line on intellectual freedom?
Do librarians suffer from peer pressure or moral cowardice? Or both?