CNET’s Michelle Starr posted an article Thursday detailing the release of a new app that replaces dirty words with socially-acceptable ones. The app is called “Clean Reader” and it was developed by a couple who wished to appease their teenager.
This is one of the worst forms of parenting I have ever encountered, and you bet I’ve seen my share of poor child-rearing tactics.
I won’t reiterate the entire article, but I’ll go out on a limb and share a few quotes about censorship from a few of my favorite authors, then if you choose to read a rant about why this app should not exist, I won’t stop you.
- “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” – Laurie Halse Anderson
- “Beware those who are quick to censor, they are afraid of what they do not know.” – Charles Bukowski
- “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.” – Mark Twain
- “What is the freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie
- “I’m not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance.” – Jon Stewart
Parents, if you want to applaud your child for choosing to read obscure and/or bold classic texts, then encourage them to bring their own interpretation to the table. Challenge them, enlighten them, or plead arrogance give them your take on the tale in question, but please don’t spoil your child, or better yet, belittle her by catering to her desire to shield herself from the big, bad outside world.
The best authors are courageous souls who pour themselves into their writing to bring readers by alluding to the truth through intimations in their stories. If you laud this app as being some sort of improvement upon classic books like Voltaire’s Candide or Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, then you are not only condoning the thought that your version of the text is better than the works of genius minds much more astute than yours, you’re also simultaneously rewriting history.
Read the footnotes
Have you ever cared to read the footnotes of a complicated book? In my personal experience, I have found them quite helpful when deciphering the reason as to why the author used none other than those exact words. The carefully constructed descriptions are placed in small print, subsequent an asterisk or two to make readers painfully aware as to the meaning of the passage, in case you didn’t know.
Surely, if you don’t care that your teenager actually understands a book she’s reading, by all means, censor the heck out of the text to the point where you’ve basically allowed a series of mathematical equations to reconstruct the imaginary world of one author or another. I do appreciate a good romp through the interwebs myself, but how dare you allow a computer to rewrite Burroughs, Keats, or Tolstoy?
Let me ask you, not to sound like I’m parroting an age-old cliche, but have you ever read George Orwell’s 1984, where the main character actually makes a living by falsifying historical texts, to manipulate the masses into thinking that their Motherland is at war with one country one day and another disparate entity the next month?
Why don’t we dive right into Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where firefighters seek out any and all books and destroy them via immolation. If you had it your way, you’d say, “Bye, bye!” to all offensive materials and swiftly turn them into smoldering ash to prove bad words never existed in the first place.
Grow up, already
Well, guess what? You can’t shelter your children forever, I’m afraid. One day, they’ll grow up having believed the stories they read on your iPad or laptop produced an entirely different meaning than what the original authors were trying to say. They’ll reread their favorite childhood stories, then think, “Gee, my whole life is a lie,” just as I’m sure the average person re-watches cartoons from their younger years wishing they could go back to a time when they were innocent.
In any case, I just think it’s wrong to replace an author’s original thoughts with sentiments that may be more easily digestible to young stomachs. Heaven forbid, your child actually feels fear or anger or dare I ask them to cry over a book that’s broken their heart or left them confused.
That’s what good books do! They shock you, they’re appalling and strange and dirty and grotesque and all-too-human. Why try to digitize and render them more palpable because your kid expressed some kind of anguish about a passage they read once? Instead of being the “grown-ups” that you are and trying to explain the story to them as to how those particular words relate to the overall picture, you simply gave up and surrendered to your own fear of having to express some inkling as to your own personal knowledge of literature. (Frankly, if you made this app, then how could you claim to appreciate the classics anyhow?)
Instead you took the easy route and created a program to dumb down books for you so that you don’t have to actually raise your child the right way by allowing them to ask you tough questions like, “What’s a ‘beetle-headed, flap-eared knave’?”
So, congratulations Jared and Kirsten Maughan, you win the Worst Parents of the Year Award presented by every admirer of literary verse, ever.