Members of the S.C. House can dislike "Fun Home," recommended 2013 summer reading for College of Charleston students. They can find it offensive, inappropriate and lacking in academic value - and many would agree with them.
But for the House budget-writing committee to dock the college's funding for using the book in its summer reading program is far more offensive and inappropriate.
One aim of the reading program is to provoke students to consider difficult subjects and discuss them with each other. "Fun Home," which explores author Alison Bechdel's coming to terms with her sexuality, is almost certain to meet that goal.
But even if it fell flat - if no student found it challenging or interesting or compelling - the Legislature still shouldn't be meddling in such decisions. It's called censorship.
When the government, in effect, attempts to dictate what college students must, or must not, read, the state is going to suffer. Not only will its censorship impede academia from innovation and honesty, it will, as Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said, hurt the state's efforts to attract jobs. Who wants to live in a place where legislative budget writers determine what gets taught in college?
Voters expect their representatives to fix roads, fairly fund education and make laws for the safety of citizens, not to police people's thoughts.
The College, in the wake of controversy stirred up over "Fun Home," has expanded the committee that chooses the summer reading offering, and has increased the number of books under consideration from 50 to 100. That should ensure some balance in the process.
But if the larger committee chooses a book from the more numerous selections that offends the sensibilities of some legislators, it is still not their role to interfere.
One can argue persuasively that some of the courses being taught in colleges and universities do not enhance students' knowledge or ability to reason. And one can lament some of the material that has replaced classic literature and standard history courses.
But unless textbooks have been manipulated to skip the part of American government dealing with free speech, legislators should know that censorship has no place in a free society.
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