Recently I posted a piece of fiction in response to a writing challenge posted over at Terribleminds, a blog hosted by Chuck Wendig. The particular challenge was spurred by an objection to a new app called Clean Reader. The point of this app is to scrub profanity from e-books, thus allowing people to read books they might otherwise find offensive. Had it not been for this challenge I probably never would heard it. Now Mr. Wendig’s, as it happens, has a problem with the app, as do other authors. I feel their concerns are understandable. I did a small amount of research myself and decided to do something I don’t normally do, in a somewhat serious manner.
Express my opinion.
I am not going to scream about censorship. I am not going to worry you about authorial consent. I am not even going to explain in-depth the obvious point that; if you do not like the language a writer uses, guess what, you don’t like the writing they produce.
I just want to say that, I feel, this app was born of laziness and fosters ignorance. Especially where children are concerned.
The masterminds behinds this idea were parents of a child who apparently was having a frowny-face-day because she read a book at school that had some bad words in it. They wanted their daughter, who was apparently a capable reader to be able to seek out books that were challenging but, not have to read profanity. As a result they got someone to develop their little brain child. Their way of phrasing this can be found on the apps FAQ page.
Did they discuss with their child the fact that swear words are in fact part of human language? Did they explain to their child the appropriate usage of language? Did they sit down a talk about what is and is not appropriate reading material for their child? Did they make an attempt to reaffirm the values they wished their child to believe in and uphold?
Nope, apparently they decided it would be better to invent a friendly robot to shield their beloved lust spawn, and keep it clean and ignorant of the nuances of human interaction. Why? Well probably because it was easier than, I don’t know, maybe being a parent. Also probably because they figured they could make a couple of bucks by helping to limit the access to choice to the youth of other overprotective parents trying to raise good little mindless, whiny, dullards in this immoral society that lets children have access to such dangerous things as words and books and ideas.
Now I am sure their hearts are in the right place. Granted, as I say that I am picturing a small, engraved wooden box, a chalked circle, and several candles that must never, under any circumstances, be extinguished. Their might possibly be several contracts drawn up in blood. I have a vivid imagination though.
In a way I can relate though. I have a daughter, who I love very much. She is a fairly advanced reader for her age and we make an effort to get her to read more complex material. Now, I have seen the library at her school, I have no worries about the content available to her there. At the public library we walk with her and talk about her selections. There will come an age where this is neither welcomed nor necessary, as I do intend to raise her to be a thoughtful and independent young woman. I have to admit I will be a little sad when that day comes, but I don’t fear for her encountering some awful, filthy disgusting language. One, because I don’t believe such a thing exists, and two because she already has heard and knows a few swear words because they are so available in society.
On the first point I’d like to clarify that words, are in no way offensive, it is intent and usage that gives words their weight. Language is not vulgar or crude, that distinction belongs solely to people. What I find more offensive than the speaking of any epitaph is the notion that somehow the decay of moral society has anything to do with the utterance of some, to be honest, quite hazily defined list of words and phrases.
Secondly, when my daughter began to experiment in the use of profanity I took her aside and explained to her that she shouldn’t use certain words, or phrases in public because they might offend some people. I told her this with the full intention of that under my careful tutelage she will one day know exactly when it is both appropriate and necessary to properly offend those people.
Those who know me in my personal life have probably witnessed my frequent and creative uses of various expletives; those who have read the content of my space here know I don’t often go in for gratuitous uses of profanity in my limited experience as a writer. I do use it but, in correct doses. Partially because I don’t feel it warranted to convey my ideas and, partially because, unlike face to face communication, the written word offers me use of commas and other punctuation to help direct readers minds where I would like them to go.
I am a parent, an involved parent, who wants their child to be educated and to read challenging books. Challenging books, as it happens, contain words and ideas that might be uncomfortable, that provoke thoughtful discussion, and will allow her to reach her own (eventually) mature and informed conclusions. Simply eliminating words from view, changing what has been written, or otherwise sanitizing text is, in my opinion, counterproductive to that goal.
Worse, it is lazy parenting, and it is possible you will wind up raising ignorant, easily pacified adults.
But, that’s just my opinion; and it’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.