JULY 26, 1948
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I have just received from the Superintendent of the New York City schools, as Chairman of the Board of Superintendents, a long communication sent to the committee that protested the abrogation of the subscription to The Nation. This abrogation was based on some articles in The Nation that the Board of Education considers contained attacks on certain religious faiths and beliefs.
It seems to me quite natural that magazine subscriptions and the choice of books to be allowed in school libraries must rest with some group. It is not censorship to make a choice as to the books, for instance, that you allow different age groups to read in school libraries. It is not censorship to subscribe or not to subscribe to certain magazines. The Nation had been subscribed for, however. Therefore, the question at present is whether giving up this subscription was fair under the circumstances.
I joined this committee because it seemed to me unfair to give up a subscription because of these articles. The reason for my feeling is this: within the school system there should be no criticism by teachers or pupils of different religions, but there should be material available to pupils, when they reach the proper age, that will give them an insight into possible criticisms that may be made of different religions as well as different political opinions, or economic theories, or scientific discoveries.
Personally, I believe that the articles under criticism expressed opinions that were derogatory to the Roman Catholic Church and with which I do not agree. But I do not consider that a sufficient reason for giving up a subscription to The Nation.
I have read criticisms of the Protestant Church in various other magazines and of Protestant ministers and Protestant procedures, which were quite as derogatory. Certainly, the Moslem faith and the Jewish faith are frequently criticized. These criticisms should be available to young people when they are mature enough to weigh them and to understand that they are the opinions of individuals, not to be accepted as facts unless they themselves consider them truthful, after study and in the light of experience.
I would be opposed to using the articles that appeared in The Nation as teaching material, but not at all opposed to having the magazine available in school as one of a number of magazines that the proper age group may read.
When I was young, in my grandfather's house there was a large library. He happened to have a great many theological books. They did not interest me much as a child, but I did read bits here and there which I think must have been extraordinary if I gave them much thought. They were too profound for me, however, and I don't remember anything about them now.
I read a great deal along many lines because I was brought up in a family that did not believe in censorship. It must have been reasoned that if certain things were over my head, I would forget them and that I would be less curious about undescribable knowledge if there were no forbidden areas in the library bookshelves.
This theory might be helpful to the Board of Superintendents, which seems to me, in this case, to have taken its choice of literature a little too seriously.