The other day I was reading an exclusive essay on “Self-Censorship” by Ai Weiwei, a Chinese dissident currently under house arrest. The essay got me to thinking about how censorship affects learning.
I quickly thought of two examples of censorship that we experienced while living in Shanghai.
The first was something I experienced myself. I was in a book club and we had read “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers. It was the habit of our club to discuss the book’s author as well as the book. However, hard as I tried to glean any information about him, I couldn’t. All websites and information relating to Mr. Eggers were blocked. You might think this odd, but he is considered an activist and as such he espouses radical thought and might be dangerous. No matter that he has said nothing about China.
The other example was when we were watching the news on television and a commentator began to discuss the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. In a mere second, the screen went black. A few minutes later it came back on in the midst of a different report.
While there are groups of people who believe that it’s time for a bottom-up labor movement here in America and that education is not necessarily the way out of poverty, there is a larger number of people including John J. Wood, founder of “Room to Read,” who agree that it is a way out.
I am in agreement with the latter. If you look at developed countries you will note that their educational systems are strong and that large portions of their populations have access to free education. However, if you look at the world’s top ten censored countries you’ll notice that this is distinctly NOT the case.
Education without censorship allows students to imagine a world different from the one we live in today and provides them with the tools to get there. When thinking about living and studying abroad, consider wisely.
Which side of the argument do you sit on?