Scientific Research & Self-Development Activism
I was inspired to write this as a result of reading some of the comments on SparTom's forum post but I did not want to hijack that thread so decided to start a new one specifically on censorship.
Personally I am not in favour of any form of censorship. But - I AM in favour of protection. Meaning - to protect those who cannot protect themselves or do not know how to self regulate or who do not possess the life skills to be discerning.
Primarily here I am talking about children. In this case I believe it is the moral duty of the parents to protect the child from that which could be harmful to them.
It's a big bad world out there - in some respects - and in particular when we are talking about the internet there is all manner of material readily available which even the most hardened adult mind might find disturbing. There are certainly many things I have seen that I would not want my children to see.
But - can I stop this? Is it possible? The only way to completely avoid that would be to not give them internet access. But is that feasible? At home - perhaps. But of course then one must deal with the fallout of being seen as a strict and disallowing parent. And as the children get older their resentment at being denied things that their peers are not denied will only grow. This is not the way.
I believe the best approach is to be open and honest with children and talk to them about everything - to a point. In this way they are not only best prepared for the inevitable time when they do happen to be exposed to something for which they are perhaps not ready - and also they are more likely to come to you, the parent, to deal with whatever difficult or other feelings they might have as a result, instead of shamefully sneaking a look at whatever it is and seeing it as a dirty little secret or whatever.
An example from a slightly different angle - our local public school (as do most) has a subject called RE (religious education) as a part of the standard curriculum - beginning with the very youngest classes which here are called "Prep" and come before grade 1 (the next step up from kindergarten). The deal is that all children do this by default unless they are specifically excluded by their parents wishes.
When my first born child started prep, my wife and I decided we did not wish her to do this class. The reason was basically that I felt fairly strongly that it was basically subtle indoctrination to so called "christian" beliefs - and therefore not an unbiased "education" - not to mention that the fact that they call it religious "education" which is not true at all. True religious education in my view would be explaining to children that there are things called religions and religious beliefs in the world and so forth and that it is the individual's choice as to whether or not they wish to believe in them and so on. But - to teach christian beliefs as if they were fact (which is the case with this class) was in my view NOT education but indoctrination - and I was not at all happy about my children being subjected to this. And so we did not let her take part.
This was all fine - there were a few other kids who did not take part and the teacher would give them some other stuff to do when the RE class was on.
So - this happened the same with our first two children.
When my son started prep, we had the same intention. But as it happened - he was the only child whose parents had asked for him to be excluded. And this meant that he felt very singled out and isolated and he was very upset about this. So we had a dilemma. After discussing this with my wife we decided that the best thing for him was to allow him to do the RE class - so as to feel included and not somehow "different" - and we figured that whatever potential brainwashing or the like that might occur - we could deal with by discussing the issues with him in an open and unbiased way.
Just to clarify here - I am not saying that I wish to tell my children that "God does not exist!" but what I am saying is I have a problem with allowing the school system to tell them that "God DOES exist". What I want is for them to understand that there are differing views on the subject; that no one can actually "prove" it either way; and that it is up to the individual to make up their own mind ultimately to what they choose to believe in.
So - this may be a slightly odd example but I use it to illustrate that I believe the best philosophy is to champion openness and the idea of discussing everything with children rather than trying to shield them from that which we believe might not be in their best interests.
In other words I am saying that yes, it is important to protect the vulnerable as much as is feasible, but - it is impossible to protect them completely and so the best way is to try to prepare them for the inevitable exposure to that which they may not be ready for - by cultivating an open and honest relationship and friendship with them - which will make it much more likely for them to include you in whatever happens or to come to you for support if and when they need it.
I think you have approached the subject very wisely. I was brought up in an evangelical home, and it took me 22 years to overcome my indoctrination, so I think you are giving your children a head start. I have to agree that you must protect children and let them experience things at the appropriate time, and your hands on approach is best. I like that you don't tell your children definitively that there is or isn't a "God" and let them discover for themselves. It is clear that you care about your children and do your best to give them the best that you can. I only wish most parents were so open minded, level headed, and concerned about their children's education. I still butt heads with my parents over the religion issue. It is only recently that I sat down and wrote a eight page letter entailing all the destructive Bible verses that I could find, (or really just got to the point that I think I got the message across) that my mother backed off, and realized I wasn't rejecting Christianity because I had been corrupted by the world, but because I had very logical, and valid concerns over what is contained in the passages. It may have even broke her shell a little, but who knows. In the end it is clear that most of what we hold to be true are just ideas that we have accepted as truth. If we can recognize that most of the things we do are because of ideas and not absolute truth, we can begin to change these ideas and start to function with a little more harmony.
Again, I would agree, that censorship what so ever is a bad thing. It usually does the opposite of what it is trying to accomplish, and makes the assumption that adults can't decide for themselves. When things are made taboo or unacceptable people want to do them just for the sake of doing them, and ignore the consequences. I live in a state that Meth is a huge problem, and was rampant in a town that I lived in. I never had the desire to do it at all, and that is because it was easy for me to see how destructive it is, and I was educated on its manufacturing and effects. Even with it being illegal, it did not restrict my access to it, and in fact probably made it more available. People are able to profit quite heavily from the manufacturing process and it causes a black market crime ring. Furthermore I would say that many of the things that are illegal should not be, and are the biggest reasons that the drug cartels and violent criminals have the strangle hold that they do. Marijuana has been a part of nearly all of humanities cultures and I find it ridiculous that it remains illegal. The huge demand for it makes it a cash cow for people who want to supply individuals and creates a huge burden on tax payers who have to pay for the prosecution of those who want to supply the demand. This whole issue is probably worthy of its own article, and should probably digress right now. Any who, I agree with your approach, and am a huge advocate of reducing the amount of censorship going on, instead of increasing.
It is all about each individual (assuming they are old enough to be capable of being responsible and making reasonable decisions) taking responsibility for their own lives.
And to "tell" someone that they cannot do something is often like a red flag to a bull. Of course they will then be more likely to at least try it.