Sunday, 25 June 2006

Censorship has gone mad in North Carolina. The Guardian in the U.K. has published a short piece about the banning of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang in local schools. The compiler of the book, Jonathon Green, responded equably enough:

"I'm very flattered," said Mr Green. "It's not exactly book-burning but, in the great tradition of book censorship, there never seems to be the slightest logic to it."

The group responsible is called Called2Action.

But Catharine Lumby, head of Sydney University's Media and Communications Department, says there's nothing to worry about. In an article published in the weekend supplement goodweekend — which is distributed along with The Sydney Morning Herald — and aimed squarely at politicians and those in the community who have made comments recently on education issues, and who say that the curricula in schools are being 'dumbed down' and infected by postmodern influences, she observes that:

The ability to appreciate complex works of art and literature is a valuable skill, but a great source of pleasure for a minority of people. It was ever thus. Our schools should certainly give all students the opportunity to develop that kind of refined sensibility. But let's not kid ourselves that most Australian teenagers in the 1960s were lying around under trees quoting Milton and Wordsworth.

She says that teaching kids through media such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just as valid as teaching them through the classics. But she also says there is no correlation between what kids read and how they behave. And so claims by groups such as Called2Action are baseless:

[If] we look at the research into which kids are most at risk of becoming abused, violent, drug-addicted or winding up in jail, it's clear that popular culture has very little to do with it. One of the most comprehensive Australian reports ever done into the causes of violence in Australian society, published in 1990 by the Australian Institute of Criminology, put media influences at the very bottom of a long list which begins with the influence of family and economic equality. And while there is understandable concern that it's children most at risk who are most likely to be vieweing media unsupervised, it is countered by research showing that the place they are most likely to be learning antosocial behaviour is out on the streets.

So it's hardly likely that The Cassell Dictionary of Slang is going to cause youths to become disaffected and take drugs. These right-wing evangelical Christians — and we have plenty of them in this country, too — are just incredible. In fact, a family that bought this book and studied it along with their kids would have a lot of fun:

It covers the recorded lexicon of English slang from the Elizabethan period down to the present day. It includes rhyming slang, street slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and even some standard English terms where these have arisen out of slang. And not only British slang, but also that of other English-speaking countries, including North America, South Africa, the anglophone Caribbean, and Australasia, though not India.


kimbofo said...

I can't believe that in this day and age people want to ban books. I had a good old rant about the Turks banning Winnie the Pooh, but, to be honest, banning a dictionary of slang seems even more offensive to me.

JahTeh said...

The world would be a boring place without slang but I'm old-fashioned and don't include 'rap' as slang. I find the origins of the words fascinating and rhyming slang especially.

TimT said...

What, they seriously think that a dictionary will move kids to violence? What a bunch of nutters.