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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona closing in on ‘Fahrenheit 451’

    In Ray Bradbury’s 1966 classic, “”Fahrenheit 451,”” he details a society in which books are burned by “”firemen”” for fear of the malicious ideas they will propagate.

    One can only hope that the Arizona Senate has not taken the first steps toward inoculating college students from the spread of the same malicious ideas. Senate Bill 1331, which passed committee Feb. 15, would allow college students at any of the state universities and community colleges to opt out of reading assignments that they consider personally offensive or pornographic and instead receive alternative material.

    Most concerning about this bill is the broad brush used to paint it. The worrisome terms lie in the ambiguity of the phrase “”personally offensive or pornographic.”” The vagueness of this statement leaves it open to a wide range of interpretations. What is pornographic and offensive to one is merely art to another, especially when considering literature.

    Do we really want students, those attempting to receive educations, dictating to the professor what they will and will not learn? The mere idea is so counterintuitive it should call into question the sanity of the proponents of the bill.

    Much is at stake for university students if this legislation is allowed to pass.

    At its most basic level, the bill will fundamentally alter the way that a student receives a university education. It would allow students to fortify themselves in a cocoon of “”personal beliefs”” against the wide array of ideas that they must be exposed to in a well-rounded college education.

    The ability to question and defend one’s own beliefs against foreign ideas is an essential component of the learning process and a true education. It is certainly the right and responsibility of the student to disagree with any professor’s assertions, but the educated student should be armed to defend his or her views rather than bury his or her head in the sand with the ostriches -ÿwhich is what this bill amounts to from a learning perspective.

    As a result, the value of a college degree from an Arizona school will undoubtedly decrease in comparison to those of peer institutions. The dilution of one’s personal college education cannot but translate into the dilution of the college curriculum as a whole, making a mockery of the degrees endowed by the UA, ASU, NAU and the community colleges of Arizona.

    Educational dilution and legitimacy aside, the mere attack on educational freedom should be abhorred. One specific book called into question, “”The Ice Storm”” by Rick Moody, talks of sex, drugs and suicide in a frank manner. Is that different from many other books we revere as “”classics?””

    If one is to buy the assessment of the state Senate of Moody’s book as “”pornographic”” and “”smut,”” one must also be willing to ban such “”pornography”” as Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece “”Lolita,”” which details the relationship between an adult man and a 14-year-old girl and is regarded as one of the greatest works of the 20th century.

    Perhaps we should also begin banning Shakespeare because his plays consistently reference sexual situations, drugs, alcohol and – lest we forget “”Romeo and Juliet”” – suicide.

    The dangers of singling out books such as Moody’s are easily apparent. State senators have overstepped their bounds. They are not experts on education to be striking down books as unfit to teach. They are not morality police.

    It seems they would be content to create a list of banned books regarding adult subjects to “”protect”” adult students from an adult education.

    The book-burning protagonist of “”Fahrenheit 451″” is questioned in the book: “”Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores.””

    Maybe the Arizona Senate should begin to understand the academic quality and texture and the living ideas that lie within the books that it would ban before throwing them on the proverbial fire.

    Shurid Sen is a junior majoring in political science and economics and can be reached at

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