“Censorship is a group of fanatics banding together to have Mark Twain removed from all schools.”

I’ve written before about students’ often-misguided impulse to “define their terms,” but this one is okay by my guidelines: that is, it doesn’t merely parrot a dictionary definition but shows the reader the limited or special sense in which the writer is using the word.

My student’s definition sentence certainly sounds as if he thinks he’s giving THE definition, though, not some special narrow application.

And as such, it fills me with relief. Publishers, writers, courts, and governments have long sought to come up with a clear-cut definition of “censorship,” one that can be applied to any instance of that charge. My student has given them one.

If the case doesn’t involve Mark Twain, fanatics, and schools, it isn’t censorship.

Any questions? As many of my students say, I think not.

He looks as if he'll give those fanatics a fight…

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

One response to ““Censorship is a group of fanatics banding together to have Mark Twain removed from all schools.”

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