Porn, Guns, Curses and Kids

The following three stories, all from the online magazine Salon, attack the ever-controversial subject of censorship and children. But instead of asking the traditional questions (What material should be censored? Who should decide? Is Marilyn Manson corrupting more youths than Eminem?) these articles question the assumption at the root of all censorship: Do kids really need to be protected at all?

Author and free speech advocate Marjorie Heins says no. Her new book, Not in Front of the Children, chronicles the ideological and political underpinnings of censorship from Plato to the Victorians to the present day.

In a telephone interview from her office in New York, Heins spoke to Salon author Amy Benfer about the fallacy of the "harm to minors" argument, the insidiousness of V-chips and Internet filtering and her belief in the need to replace media censorship with media literacy. The result is "The Fallacy of Protecting Kids from Porn."

Advancing the argument is Charles Taylor's in-depth analysis, "The Morality Police." Taylor writes that "modern society's fetishistic construction of childhood as a time of asexual innocence ... has to be counted among our most destructive and costly delusions." In other words, it's time to stop insisting that kids are fragile and ignorant. We should know better; weren't we all exposed to some sex and violence at an age we'd now consider too young?

Finally, a powerful personal narrative from high school student Daniel Silverman shows the almost laughable antics of overzealous censors. Silverman took a stand against a school Web-filtering system (which screened out Planned Parenthood but not the Christian Coalition) by setting up a whole new server for his classmates and teachers. The administration suspended him in a huff. He refused to back down. The eloquently written story, "Censorship High," leaves no doubt that such filtering software can only weaken kids' minds.

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