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Not in Front of the Children: 'Indecency,' Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth 2nd Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813542218
ISBN-10: 0813542219
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wouldn't Edward Lear have been startled to learn that in 1998 his poem "The Owl and the Pussycat" wasn't available on many school library computers because obscenity-sensitive Web searches had targeted the word "pussy"? Heins (Sex, Sin and Blasphemy: A Guide to America's Censorship Wars) argues potently that the age-old idea of protecting children from "corrupting" influences which can be traced at least as far back as Plato's Republic has reached dangerous proportions in the U.S. Constructing a history of child protection movements and legal precedents (from the Supreme Court Butler and Roth decisions in the 1950s to lawsuits brought by the ACLU and the American Library Association to remove state mandated Internet filters from public libraries in the 1990s), Heins charts evolving concepts of childhood, based on such diverse sources as Philippe Ari?s's Centuries of Childhood and SIECUS reports. She points to a new wave of social and sexual puritanism engendered by the political and Christian right, which takes a variety of forms, including Wendy Shalit's 1999 A Return to Modesty and groups such as MOMS (Mothers Organized for Moral Stability). In tackling the issue of the possibly deleterious effect of sexual or violent materials on children, she refers to everyone from Piaget, Rousseau and Freud to Todd Gitlin and Carol Gilligan, and touches on events like New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's offensive against the Sensation art show. Heins's historical argument makes an important contribution to the literature of civil liberties and child psychology. Agent, Anne Depue. (May) Forecast: Drawing on the foundation laid by Edward de Grazia's landmark historical critique of American censorship, Girls Lean Back Everywhere, Heins's provocative work should attract review attention in sophisticated publications as well as fans of the social criticism of Alan Dershowitz and Wendy Kaminer.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

At a time when censorship cases have reached record numbers, this work by the director of the National Coalition Against Censorship's Free Expression Policy Project provides a scholarly discussion of numerous issues related to censorship, especially as it applies to youth. The book begins by examining the history of "indecency laws," from the time of Plato to the present. Based on extensive research, the 10 chapters provide the intellectual information necessary to argue serious threats to free expression not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Some of the important and timely topics included are: the "harmful to minors" argument, the Communications Decency Act, the Child Online Protection Act, the Motion Picture Association of America's movie ratings, school dress codes, book censorship, and student publications. Heins supports these discussions by citing specific court cases. Intended for anyone interested in free expression, this well-indexed book is the long-awaited tool needed in the academic environment to help shape personal and professional philosophies related to censorship issues. The amazing part is that Heins has managed to present these discussions in a completely objective voice.

Pat Scales, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; 2nd edition (September 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813542219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813542218
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marjorie Heins is a civil liberties lawyer, writer, and teacher, and the founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project ( Her recent book, "Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge," tells of the loyalty investigations and purges of teachers and professors during the McCarthy era, and the Supreme Court's eventual response, recognizing academic freedom as a "special concern of the First Amendment." Her previous book, "Not in Front of the Children," won the American Library Association's 2002 Eli Oboler Award for best published work in the field of intellectual freedom. In the 1990s, she directed the Arts Censorship Project at the ACLU; she has also been a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and the Frederic Ewen Center for Academic Freedom.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bravo to this book. It's time that someone injected facts and logic into debates that primarily have been based on myths, fears, guesses, hopes, assumptions, and hysteria.
A previous reviewer wants to know why we don't have more data on how, say, pornography affects teenagers. One reason is that a controlled experiment would be nearly impossible: finding teenagers who haven't been exposed to any pornography is difficult enough, but for a scientist or social scientist to get approval from human review boards for the other half of the experiment (the teenagers that you're going to make sure have been exposed to plenty of pornography, to study its supposed effects) would be nearly impossible. But as the previous reviewer points out, we have a vast profusion of anecdotal evidence: pornography is widely available in Europe, which seems to have fewer of the supposedly pornography-related problems than does the United States. Second, since almost all teenagers voluntarily expose themselves to pornography, it's safe to observe that the vast majority of them suffer from no effects. Who are we protecting with laws prohibiting minors from obtaining pornography? Parents who cannot and will not deal with the fact that their 12-year-old son is always horny and quite probably already is sexually (if not emotionally or intellectually) an adult?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though the scholarly discussions of legal cases were trying (pardon the pun) to get through, they were worth the effort. They helped to dramatize the incredible amounts of time, energy, and emotion misplaced in the "harm to minors" protectionism racket. Due to her civil libertarian background, I was surprised to see her frequent attempts to present (or at least understand) both sides.
She points out that censorship itself may have "modeling effects, teaching authoritarianism, intolerance for unpopular opions, erotophobia, and sexual guilt." In her conclusion, she comes utterly to the point: "Censorship is an avoidance technique that addresses adult anxieties and satisfies symbolic concerns, but ultimately does nothing to resolve social problems or affirmatively help adolescents and children cope with their environments and impulses."
She revisits the virtues (for all of us, including children) of ambiguity, catharsis, and irony and says that the humorless overliteralism of so much censorship directed at youth "reduces the difficult, complicated, joyous, and sometimes tortured experience of growing up to a sanitized combination of adult moralizing and intellectual closed doors."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erika L on March 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a responsible and important study of how we rationalize censorship policies to "protect" children. The interests at stake here are as obvious as they are important. The freedom of expression has long been considered the touchstone of individual liberty and, in turn, democracy. Legally, we have enacted many safeguards to protect this essential aspect of our society, and continue to give mouth service to its importance. But, even as we tout the importance of such personal freedoms, both overseas and on American soil, we are sadly failing in one critical respect: we are not instilling these values in our children. Instead, we are showing them that an authoritative regime may censor and punish unpopular or offensive speech in the name of safety and conformity. We lecture students over the values of the freedom of speech while allowing schools inappropriately broad latitude in declaring student behavior inappropriate or dangerous if it even references violent or sexual themes. Anything considered "sexual" in nature is censored from school life entirely, and even sexual education classes suffer in their ability to inform and protect students.

What are teenagers learning about the importance of personal freedom when they see their peers suspended, expelled, and even imprisoned, for their artistic expressions? Students can legitimately complain that many primary and secondary schools unnecessarily subject them to enforced orthodoxy and repressive strictures, particularly in regards to sexual and violent imagry.

I agree with the author that this paternalistic censorship harms children in many ways, and her discussion of the "modeling effects" and the teaching of authoritarianism should not be dismissed lightly.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stella on June 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My reading group chose this book, because we felt that there weren't many books out there that focused on the topic of censorship and the protection of children and innocence. But while she brings up many issues that shows censorship as troublesome, she addresses them in such a dry manner that it became harder to read as the book became more or a summary of all the court cases there have been regarding the issues. It would be a great book for a communication or law class, but for recreational reading, it was very difficult for us as readers to get to the end of the book.
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