“This is the kind of stuff we like,” one of my students commented. “We don’t want anything about this little piggy or little Miss Muffet. We like the dark stuff.”
We’ve been reading an article about censorship this week as we work toward writing our own argumentative essays. We’d already looked at the side of the argument that said book-banning and censorship shouldn’t be happening. It was easy to get through because most students agreed with that view point. But this week, trying to get them to understand the other side of the argument, even if they didn’t agree with it has been difficult.
One student asked me today what my view on the whole censorship issue is. I told her that I wasn’t sure. Some days I’m all about freedom and kids having a choice in what they read. Other days I want to censor. And in a lot of ways I think it could line up with the Christian worldview about training a child in the way he should go and guarding your heart and mind. This world is dark, and I want to keep them from it.
There are times when I walk through the library or a bookstore, and as I pass through the teen section, I can’t help but shiver a bit. The covers and titles, they feel so dark. And at a time when young minds are most influenced, that is the kind of stuff they’re reaching for because that’s the kind of stuff they like–and that’s the kind of stuff made available to them.
It makes me sad. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been pursuing this writing thing. I want younger readers to be able to look through the shelves and find a story that gives them hope–something that is often missing from so many young adult novels. My stories are definitely not fluffy. They are real and raw and deal with hard issues; but in the midst of it I hope my readers see Jesus. I want them to see Him breaking through the darkness of fictional lives, and realize that He’s doing the same thing here in the real world.
But there’s the other side of the coin too. As much as I wish I could shelter these souls from all of that darkness, I realize that doing so would only hurt them down the road. They have to learn how to discern good from evil, light from dark. I do my best to try and guide them to good books that are clean, deal with real issues, and provide hope. I try to read books the kids are reading, even some of the dark ones, just to know what they are getting into and so I can be prepared to discuss some of the issues with them when they come up.
I want to teach them to discern. I want them to understand that the choices they make in media and books will leave some kind of impact on them. Perhaps that impact is imperceptible, but it’s still there. That’s the interesting thing about art: It impacts us. It can serve to encourage and inspire. It can reflect life as it is. But I also believe that art can shape what we become.
The truth is, this unit and some of the comments that have come from my students over the last few weeks have sent me running back to God. “It’s so dark here, Lord…”
I worry for this generation. My student said it–they are drawn to darkness. We are drawn to darkness. And it will only get worse. Unless someone points us, points them, to the Light.
I know this is a different sort of post. It’s not meant to be a downer, but more a way for me to process. The truth is, it’s not about censorship. We can limit what kids see and hear and read and watch, and in some cases I believe that’s completely necessary. But I think even more than limiting, we need to give. We need to give truth and light. We need to not just say, “No you can’t” but offer stories and movies and music and moments are raw and true and real; things that point to Jesus.
They need to know about Him.
They need to be able to recognize the Light.
Live in His love!