Saturday, May 23, 2009

The censor's dilemma?

Yes, censorship is still here and it even can be used against one of the most interesting and successful green books - The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Thanks to Tom Laskawy of Grist I learned that it seems like The Omnivore's Dilemma is being censored at Washington State University (WSU). The story is that WSU officials decided to cancel Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma as the common reading assignment for freshman orientation next year, with hints that pressure from Washington agribusiness interests may have been behind the cancellation.

As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "an explanation on the university's Web site is vague and implies the withdrawal of the book was due to budget constraints. But some people on the campus say that the university, which has a prominent agriculture college, bowed to pressure from agribusiness interests. They also question the budget argument, noting that the university has already purchased more than 4,000 copies of the book."

But is it really about money? The Chronicle also reports that "In an e-mail message to The Chronicle, Patricia Freitag Ericsson, an assistant professor of rhetoric and professional writing who also sits on the implementation committee, said that in a meeting on May 4, an administrator told panel members that the common-reading program would be canceled, in large part because of political pressure arising from this year's book choice."

If the cancellation is really due to such a pressure of local powerful agribusiness this is really a shame, given the importance of the book and the fact that many members of Congress were carrying copies of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma" as recently reported on the New York Times. Maybe the agribusiness weren't acting fast enough in the Capitol..

In any event, it looks to me that like in many other cases, these efforts will eventually fail and only push more students at WSU to read this great book to learn what is this book that the university doesn't want them to read.

Raz @ Eco-Libris