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The Constitution of the United States of America

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The Constitution of the United States of America contains the basic rights of citizens of

this country. There is, perhaps, no right more controversial than the First Amendment in

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the Constitution, first introduced on December 15, 1791. The First Amendment states,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the

free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of

the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of

grievances”(1st Amendment, Internet). Due to the indecisiveness of this Amendment,

arguments over the interpretation of the words written by the founding fathers have

flourished for years. One of the main arguments that has arisen over the years is over the

interpretation of what is meant by free speech and free press. While this argument has

stemmed off in many directions, one of the most recent and heated debates is over the

governments ability to censor material to the public.

Some of the major forms of

censorship occur in television, music, literature, and most recently, the Internet.

Censorship has taken place in various forms since the earliest rulers existed. These

earliest forms of censorship existed through a leader of some sort trying to keep his people

from saying bad things about him. This censorship, while fairly undocumented, has taken

place in various governments throughout time in most areas of the world. While

censorship today has taken a different form in the United States, the same basic principles

have remained the same. Censorship is basically an attempt by the government to limit

what the public sees, hears, or absorbs. I believe that all forms of censorship are basically

a violation of the basic First Amendment right that so many people take for granted.

Some limit must be put on the ability of the government to censor any kind of

communication in the United States, or the basic rights of the people will be infringed

One of the biggest forms of censorship that takes place in the United States today

exists in one of the largest mediums of communication we know of. This medium is

known as the television. In 1999, it was reported that over 99% of all American

households have at least one television, with a majority of the households having more

then one set available(Chafee, 173). This startling statistic is accompanied by another fact

that shows the average American watches 30 hours of television weekly(Chafee, 173).

With this kind of participation from the American public in any kind of medium of

communication, it is no wonder why some people consider the idea of censorship with so

much enthusiasm. However, adults have the right to view material they please, and

therefore, their rights should remain intact. The problem that most people have with

violence, sex, and profanity on television comes into play when considering the number of

children that watch television without a parent or any sort of controls on their viewing. It

has been reported that 10,000 acts of media violence are witnessed in one year by the

average American child(Zeinert, 88). One must keep in mind that this statistic does not

include any sexual content or profanity children may view. The American public has

expressed some concern over the material their children view each day, and that has been

the beginning and the continued push behind the need for some sort of censorship of

television. It wasn’t until the dramatic increase in violent crimes committed by children,

however, that there was a strong public demand to censor the material children have

access too. While the claim that something needs to be done to at least reduce the amount

of violence, sexual material, or profanity that American children view has began to pick up

support among the American public, the means by which to accomplish such a task have

yet to be resolved. Some argue that censorship is the only way to accomplish such a large

scale problem, but others argue that the problem starts at home. A survey conducted by

the Roper Center concluded that over 50% of parents do not monitor what their children

watch at home. This figure shows me that parents are not taking the responsibility to

watch their children, and instead are just relying on television to show programs intended

for younger viewers. With the help of some electronic blocking devices, such as the

V-chip, parents can monitor what their children are able to watch, without getting the

government involved. The V-chip can help parents watch their children even when they’re

not home. This new safeguard is the best alternative to censorship. Since many programs

are beginning to contain a rating system displayed at the beginning of each show, parents

can get a basic idea of the content of the show without having to sit through each program

their child wants to watch. Instead of censorship of the whole community, it would

merely become an issue of parents dealing with their children(Zeinert, 89). I believe this

issue is much less controversial and should help relieve the push for censorship in

America. So why do we need censorship of television when the parents, assisted by

technology, can monitor what their children watch while still being able to watch

programs they would like to see themselves? The simple answer is, we don’t.

A second area in which censorship has started to interfere with is music. Music

was originally censored much the way free speech was. In the 1700’s, New York’s

Governor Crosby attempted to keep a group of citizens from singing songs that went

against the King of England(Chafee, 182). More recently, however, censorship of music

has taken place due to explicit lyrics. Similar to the worry of violence, sex, and profanity

being shown to children on television, the worry of children listening to explicit lyrics in

music has caused concern. The first real case of this occurrence occurred when a rap

group known as “2 Live Crew” was banned from areas of Florida because of their songs

lyrics(Zeinert, 82). “2 Live Crew” was arrested for public obscenity, but they won their

case in the appellate courts based on the idea that it was illegal to ban entertainment

groups from performing or selling their act(Zeinert, 83). In 1985, the Parents Music

Resource Center was the first company to put stickers on compact discs and cassettes

giving a warning of “Explicit Lyrics,” and giving “Parental Advisory” (Chafee, 195). I feel

this is the first step in the right direction. Instead of trying to censor music lyrics, the

Parents Music Resource Center is trying to inform parents what their children are

listening to. They leave the decision of what children can listen to up to the parents,

instead of trying to censor the entire nation. Again, censorship seems unnecessary, and an

infringement upon the rights of citizens of the United States of America.

A third area in which censorship has taken place is in literature. Censorship in

literature has increased dramatically in recent years. In fact, from 1991 to 1994, there has

been more than a 50% increase in the number of demands that books be banned in schools

libraries as well as public libraries(Zeinert, 109). Some of the books being demanded to

be removed from libraries nationwide include, Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain,

Forever, by Judy Blume, and The Bridge to Terabithia, written by Katherine Paterson.

These American classics have been removed from shelves due to various reasons. Mark

Twain’s novel, for example, has been attacked for its use of the term “nigger”, as well as

its portrayal of African American slaves. “The state office of the National Association for

the Advancement of Colored People issued a statement, Feb. 3, 1998, claiming that Mark

Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is offensive to black students and

should be banned from classrooms across the state” (Meyer, Internet). This kind of

censorship, whether it be from public or school libraries, not only denies the author

freedom expression, but denies the reader the ability to judge for themselves the contents

of a book. Many children learn about racism, sex, abuse, or drugs through books that

some libraries have banned. Without these books, some children will not come to

conclusions about these subjects until they are encountered in the real world, and some

important lessons such as trusting yourself, knowing what you believe in, and having

tolerance will not be learned until the children are adults(Chafee, 199). It is not right to

deny people important lessons in life by denying them the right to choose which materials

they read, just because some might find it offensive. Once again, rating can be placed on

books that give parents the idea of what they are reading before even opening the book,

and so censorship is not needed, but only information.

The final, and probably most controversial, issue on the topic of censorship

concerns the Internet. In the past ten years, the Internet has become one of the hottest

areas of debate dealing with censorship. Once again, the majority of concern comes in

with the nations youth. The Internet, a tool by which great amounts of information can be

found, also holds profanity, violence, and especially sexual material. With over 60% of

American households owning a personal computer, and over 90% of children in the

United States having access to the Internet in some way, there needs to be a way to

safeguard these children from harmful material(Meyer, Internet). Once again, censorship

is not the way. It is unconstitutional to censor, ban, or control any Internet sites

containing sexually explicit material(Meyer, Internet). However, due to the fact that a

large percentage of the nation’s youth has access to the Internet, it is not unreasonable to

expect some sort of control on sexually explicit material. After all, it is illegal for a minor

to purchase pornography. In the same way, children should not be allowed to view

sexually explicit material on the Internet. By the same reasoning, sexually explicit material

cannot be banned from the Internet, because adults have the right to purchase, and

therefore view this material. Instead, Internet sites have been forced to at least advertise

that their site contains sexually explicit material, and that you must be at least of legal age

to enter(Meyer, Internet). This is not enough protection for the youth. New technology,

such as the E-chip, much like what can be used to help parents limit what their children

can watch on television is now available for the Internet. This technology allows parents

to control the type of material their children can view on the Internet without censoring

material for all people. So once again, the parents are in control of the process of

censoring, and not the government. This leaves the legal issues of the First Amendment

and the freedom to speech out of the picture while still helping limit what children see. In

1997, President Clinton has voiced his support of such material and parent involvement, as

well as stricter enforcement of laws prosecuting those Internet users who intentionally

break pornography laws(Meyer, Internet). Clinton has also pushed popular Internet

providers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator to provide free programs with

their products to allow parents to control what their children can access(Meyer, Internet).

Once again, this steps back from censorship and violating the rights of American citizens,

and steps towards giving parents the tools they need to protect their children.

People should be able to express ideas in any type of medium without government

regulations. All the areas that currently concern censorship have created a lot of

controversy in the United States courts. Due to the nature of the Constitution, these

controversies may never be fully solved. However, it is clear that censorship is not the

best answer to many of the issues it directly deals with. Instead, giving the ability for

parents to control what their children have access to in everyday life is a much better

alternative. Not only does this method refrain from infringing on the rights of citizens, but

it also allows parents to individually choose what they see fit for their children. The

government needs to continue to support such ideas as the V-chip and E-chip, that give

parents control. Not only will it help keep the government out of family affairs, but it will

stop them from having to make laws that may reduce peoples rights and cause further

“1st Amendment.” 1999. Internet. Accessed on 04/10/99 at

Abrams, Floyd. “Clinton vs. the First Amendment.” The New York Times Magazine. 30
March 1997: 42.

Chafee, Zachariah Jr. “Free Speech in the United States”. Versions of Censorship. Ed.

John McCormick and Mairi MacInnes. Chicago: Aldine, 1962. 172-200.

“Constitutional Law.” 1999. Internet. Accessed on 04/20/99 at

Gelfand, Ravinia. The Freedom of Speech in America. Learner Publications Company.
Minnesota: 1967.

Hogeboom, William H. “Censorship vs. Censure-ship.” Billboard. 27March 1993:6.

Mayor, Federico. Unfettered Freedom. Unesco-Courier, may 1995, p.38. InfoTrac
SuperTom full text, November 1998.

“Prayer and Religious Instruction in Schools.” 1999. Internet. Accessed on 04/23/99 at

“Supreme Court Cases.” 1999. Internet. Accessed on 04/23/99 at

Zeinert, Karen. “Free Speech”. New Jersey: Enslow

Cite this The Constitution of the United States of America

The Constitution of the United States of America. (2018, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-constitution-of-the-united-states-of-america/

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