Journeying back to the land of censorship

| Staff Columnist

Remember that part in “The Odyssey” when Odysseus returns to Ithaca and finds that everything has changed, up to the suitors prancing around like 50-year-old men at a prostate exam, legs clinched and manliness on full showcase? Well, I journeyed back to my old high school last weekend, voyage unimpeded by one-eyed monsters and evil whirlpools, to find young Telemachus under the authority of evil, ultraconservative men who would like nothing more than to corrupt Odysseus’ kingdom and take his sweet Penelope.

Sorry…I’ve been reading a lot of Greek literature lately, and I needed a slightly relevant lede.

Though at press time I find myself childless, I felt almost paternalistic and most definitely outraged when I returned to my high school and discovered the state of censorship that had fallen. I had a chance to talk to my old newspaper adviser, only to find out that my old principal, against whom the Vernois News staff and I fought for free speech for two years, censored another portion of the newspaper and has now voiced his disapproval of the teaching of “Of Mice and Men.”

I can’t believe he’s gone back to bleeping spots out of the paper. I almost feel like being here has made me forget what that time in my education was like when I had to worry about what the authority might think of what I have to say, which is something that should not be forgotten.

I was censored four times in my last two years of high school by this man, as were the works of other students. This time, the principal struck the entire artistic section out of the paper because of “questionable” photos of a graveyard. What’s wrong with a graveyard? Furthermore, the idea of cutting “Of Mice and Men” from the curriculum is ridiculous. While it may have some issues with violence and language, it is still a classic that reveals to the reader a little glimpse of some of life’s truths.

I write this not to give a 600-word complaint about my old high school, though, but rather to remind us that there is a world out there that is not as free to speak and read and write as they would like. So often we get caught up in the Wash. U. bubble that we don’t realize how lucky we are.

Where are those professors who try to prevent you from saying what you want to say? Where is that editor who will not let you run a column because of “questionable” content? For the most part, you will not find those people here.

We need to see that we are now in an empowered position to speak out about what we don’t think is right, especially if it is a case of censorship. My high school paper can’t speak out against the closed-mindedness of their principal’s cuts because he is the ultimate authority on what is printed in our school’s paper. I, on the other hand, can.

I am no longer hindered by him, just as many of you are no longer inhibited by some administrator who kept you from expressing your opinion. As a result, we have a responsibility to speak out against this sort of control. So, I will.

To high school students (and even to the administrators who insist on monitoring your reading and writing), I want to assure you that there is a real world where you can write and draw and express yourselves in the manner in which you know you should be able to.

I am by no means Odysseus, but I, just like you, can be an advocate for those who feel like their opinions aren’t being heard, or even those who feel they are being silenced. All it took was one man to string his bow and shoot an arrow that made Penelope’s oppressors run away.

Mike Hirshon | Student Life

Mike Hirshon | Student Life

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