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The Victory Gardens of WWII

Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!

The Science and Technology of WWII

Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world.

Operation Footlocker

Turn your students into history detectives as they ponder over the origins and uses of these intriguing pieces of WWII history.

2010 3rd Place Winner

Sam Cohen, 11th Grade
Georgetown Day School
Washington, DC


Two Kinds of Censorship

            With the ubiquity of communications devices and the internet, one assumes that in a modern society freedom of speech is a protected and sacred right; almost no one would argue that government censorship is ever justified.  Certainly having seen the Nazis burn books to terrorize a people, any censorship has ominous tones to it.  There are, however, certain instances in which censorship is not only thriving but also necessary.  This paradox can be seen in Iraq, Germany, the United States, and China.

            Iraq and Germany both have tumultuous histories and prominent dictators in their pasts—Hitler in Germany and Hussein in Iraq.  In order to prevent a repetition of history and to quell all sympathetic sentiments, the Nazi party and the Ba’ath party have been banned in their respective countries.  No swastikas may be displayed in Germany, under threat of prosecution.  This is clearly government censorship, but perhaps it isn’t detrimental censorship.  History has shown the devastating effects of a mob mentality coalescing around the swastika in the past, so for Germany to move beyond its gruesome history completely is required to prevent history from repeating itself.  Similar fears cause the Ba’ath party from being included in Iraq.  There, however, the disqualification of certain candidates with alleged ties to the Ba’ath party has caused an uproar and put off an election until the dispute can be sorted out.  In this case, it seems that government censorship may not be beneficial like in Germany.

            The United States Supreme Court recently decided a first amendment case in which the Court said that a ban on corporation and union spending on elections was an infringement on their first amendment rights.  The Court said that the corporations should be allowed to buy ad-time to run ads during election campaigns, thus influencing the outcome of the election.  Opponents of this argue that corporations are not protected by the Constitution, nor should they be allowed to spend billions of dollars to buy elections.  Though on the surface, it may appear that the Court upheld the first amendment, in reality the speech of everyday people will be drowned out by the roar of corporation cash—perhaps limited government censorship like in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws was good, after all.

            There are, of course, examples of censorship that fit the stereotype of authoritarian government control.  Google recently announced that elements of the Chinese government had hacked into its servers in order to track down Chinese human rights advocates.  Google declared that unless China agreed to let it remove search term restrictions, Google would pull out of China.  This was a remarkable announcement because China has the world’s fastest growing market of internet users—a market Google is obviously very interested in.  In response, China declared that if Google did not want to follow Chinese laws, it was time for Google to leave China.  This brazen disregard for the fundamental rights of its citizens is worrying and Google should be commended for taking a hard stand.  Unlike the censorship of Germany or Iraq which does not shut out legitimate voices, Chinese censorship purposefully silences dissenters and activists.

            No longer can a government round up books and burn them to suppress the ideas; the internet has made that obsolete.  Now, authoritarian governments focus their efforts on restricting internet usage.  In the fight against censorship, we must be able to distinguish between the two types of censorship: the German-Iraqi type and the Chinese type; we must be careful not to confuse totalitarian censorship with tension-reducing censorship.  The first should be fought against at all costs, the latter considered more thoughtfully.

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