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Letter to the Editor: Freedoms, democracy and selecting literature

To the editor:

One person's freedom ends where another person's freedom begins. This fact has been affirmed from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to John Stuart Mill to Abraham Lincoln.

People fortunate enough to live in a democracy understand this, because it is a fundamental tenet of their government. It's both a deep philosophical concept — and as simple as taking turns at a stop light.

It's closely related to freedom of speech, another fundamental tenet of democracy, one which guarantees that all voices have the right and the opportunity to be heard.

The grand purpose of public schools in America is to produce citizens who understand and perpetuate our democracy, and literature is one of our most powerful tools for doing this. In both fiction and non-fiction, it teaches that all kinds of people, with all kinds of lifestyles and beliefs, can learn to understand each other and work together for common goals.

Of course, we need to use good judgement in selecting literature that is age-appropriate and exemplifies good quality writing. As mature adults, we are certainly able to do this, and when we, as human beings surely will, make mistakes, we are certainly able to deal with them according to our democratic principles of equal rights and freedom of speech, and to move on, with a common purpose.

Carol H. Varner

Alexandria, MN