Clatskanie Middle High School
To ban books or to not ban books, that is the question. People have been banning and burning books around the world for over two thousand years. A few of the more popular classics to be banned over the years are the Bible and an array of Shakespeare’s works. A Scene of Shakespeare’s Richard the Second was forever removed from all copies by order of Queen Elizabeth the First after reading the scene where the king was deposed from the throne. Another ‘popular’ instance of books being banned was during the Holocaust in the 1940s.. Yeah, the Nazis every book that has opposing ideologies, beliefs and opinions, to them in front of the Jews.. We are not burning books as much anymore. However, according to ALA’s list of frequently challenged books, books are getting banned from schools and public libraries for a multitude of reasons. Spanning from sexual reasons, such as subtle references to sex, books with LGBTQ+ characters and topics, to rape and pedophilia. Books handling moral conflicts like religion, mental health, racism or the opposite, supporting diversity get challenged to be banned as well. The third biggest reason books get challenged for banishment is for being violent and abusive whether that be physically, mentally, or with substances.
In the last few decades, parents along with Student and City council members have been more adamant on books in schools and public libraries to be constrictive on what books are available for students. Removing too sexual or controversial books from the library for being too mature for students. Books like: The Color Purple, The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, Beloved, Catcher In The Rye, and, 1984, just to name a few. Parents want to be able to decide what, when, and how their children are exposed to certain content. The only way they can be positive that this is happening is by removing it from the whole student body. Due to the fact that if others are exposed to these topics around their children, they are going to hear about it from talking to the others who have read the book (ProCon). Along with the fact that parents want their kids to come home with safe books that do not upset them or scare them especially in this time period where our youths have excessive amounts of anxiety and depression from the craziness of the world, says the librarian from a K-5 elementary school during an interview with a children's’ author (Conversations). The librarian used Spaced out, The Hunger Games Series, and the I survived books as examples of series that have frightened her students.
Studies have also shown that books with graphic material when read at a younger age have led to negative psychological effects. Some of the results of these studies have reported that participants who reported frequent contact with Sexually Explicit Material or SEM for short had more casual sex and started being sexually active at a younger age. Along with women having sex for the first time at a younger age and a decrease in both sexual and personal relationship satisfaction. The same outcome has been recorded with movies of the same caliber ( Parents and Smut ).
The other biggest reason for wanting to have books removed from students' access to certain books is the language and the way Contemporary works decide to handle certain situations. For instance, how books are allowed to say ‘fuck’ and other profanities all they want, but a student gets sent to the office and written up for doing the same. Books used in schools should be held to the same standards ( Parents and Smut ). A Mother in this same article explained this concern perfectly : “Our society provides our children with enough sexually charged, profane messages. They don’t need it as required reading [at school].” Along with the fact that some middle/high schools are focusing more on Contemporary fiction and leaning away from classics from authors like Austen, Conrad, Dickens, Hawthorne, and Shakespeare. In doing so has dropped the average Reading Level from 9.1 in 1923 to 5.6-6.5 in 2016. This is due to Contemporary being extremely light on complexity and focusing more on the mechanics of rape and other topics instead of Sentence structure, vocabulary, literary value and the deeper themes of the text like the Classics do ( Parents and Smut ). Due to all this parents and board members too believe books marketed towards Children and Young Adults have become a ‘cesspool’ agenda driven market set out to expose kids to the horrors of the world around them ( In Defense). However they do acknowledge that removing these books from their school and local town libraries do not eliminate the access to these books.
Yes, it is undeniable that not every author out their has their hearts one hundred percent driven to the best interest of their audience, and that not every book is written for the right reasons. For instance ‘Rainbow Party’ is a book about a teenage blowjob party… Targeted as a Young Adult (YA) novel. YA is a novel age range for 12 to 18 year olds usually. In YA sexual content is very lightly dusted over. So.. NOT teenage blowjob parties! The authors knew this though, they knew it would cause an uproar in the community. They wrote the book for that exact purpose. I have not read this blowjob party book but my guess is it’s more New Adult to Adult range. So in that aspect I get the ‘cesspool’ agenda driven age inappropriateness. That book is completely targeted to get attention and uproar.
However, banning books is completely over the top. I completely understand the want to protect your young from the ‘Big Bad’ from the younger generations. But pulling the wool over their eyes is going to make it ten times worse when they inevitably are exposed to it. Books are incredible for learning about the real world and learning how to handle these situations with the knowledge and experiences they give us. I mean books legitimately put us in someone else’s shoes. Giving us perspective. Books make us use this incredibly powerful thing in our mind called ‘imagination’ and just with a few words we are inside a world of your own mind’s making, talking to people, visiting places and worlds you would never be able to otherwise. ‘You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.’ Neil Gaiman from ‘Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming’ says perfectly. That is the beauty of reading. Without this, people cannot understand each other, and if we can’t communicate, we cannot exchange ideas and change the world. The world’s most brilliant humans know this. During an interview Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Telling kids what books they can read absolutely destroys the passion to read, the want to learn and explore, to make those life altering inventions floating around in their head never come to fruition. The idea that there are bad and ‘age - inappropriate’ is far from the truth.
Everyone has different tastes in books, if they seek out and want to read that book, they should be able to read that book. You might be terrified about the content in that book but you have to trust that your kid knows exactly what they can handle and what they can’t handle. If they cannot handle a book, they put it down. “Parents have to trust their kids more and trust the ways that they’ve raised their children,” (Unsuited and Censorship). Kids find books that help them get through whatever they are going through, to make sure that they aren’t the only ones going through what they are, you just have to trust them (Conversations). Not liking that books use profanity and you believe this book you kid choose is not ‘age-appropriate’ is totally understandable. However, here’s the thing. Profanity is used for the exact same reason you and me cuss: to add emphasis to a statement or to convey an emotion. It’s a natural way for us to respond to a situation (Censorship). As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says to the players: ‘The purpose of drama is “to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature.”’ It’s what we do. In terms of ‘age appropriateness’, the reality is that it has very little to do with age. Something is age appropriate when that person has sufficient life experience and cognitive skills to comprehend and understand the material (Censorship). You wouldn’t explain how a lion kills a gazelle when that person does not know that lions kill gazelles. That is a bad example but it gets the idea across. Everyone matures at different rates, with the hands of fate they have been dealt. It is the whole trust thing again. You have to trust that they know what they need and how far they can be pushed.
Books are just another way that we get to express ourselves when nothing else can. It gives us an temporary escape from our reality to go through everything in our mind, calm down, and come out of it with fresh eyes to handle that situation. And yeah sometimes that means reading about a Civil War Slave to help put things into perspective and see that if they can get through all that and come out improved, so can you.
The decision of what books to read is exactly that- a decision. It’s a choice we all have to make for ourselves. While there are ways to help each other make our decisions. For instance : 71% of people have suggested that books get ratings like tv shows, movies and games to help be transparent of the content and that is an excellent idea that wouldn’t be super difficult to implement ( Banned Books, Parents and Smut ) Straight out right banning a book from a student’s access is not the way to go about it. Books are a huge part of our lives, they teach us an exorbitant amount of things that no other type of media can do quite the same. I’m not saying you can’t monitor what your child reads, I’m just saying don’t take away the book indefinitely because you think they aren’t ready for it, and never want them to be ready for it. In terms of ‘ To ban or not to ban’ I think we need to give our students some slack and trust that they know what they are doing.
- Admin. (2019, September 26). Banned & Challenged Classics. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics
- Banned Books - Top 3 Pros and Cons. (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.procon.org/headline.php?headlineID=005365
- Censorship in Schools: Learning, Speaking, and Thinking Freely: The First Amendment in Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Censorship_in_Schools_Learning_Speaking_and_Thinking_Freely_The_First_Amendment_in_Schools.html
- Culture. (2014, March 20). In Defense of Book Banning. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://thefederalist.com/2014/03/11/in-defense-of-book-banning/
- Education. (2016, March 17). Parents Shouldn't Let Schools Force Kids To Read Smut. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://thefederalist.com/2016/03/15/parents-shouldnt-let-schools-force-kids-to-read-smut/
- Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming
- Gross, J. (2014, September 26). Unsuited to Age Group. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/unsuited-age-group/
- Kmessner. (2016, June 14). An Important Conversation about Elementary Library Book Selection & Omission. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.katemessner.com/an-important-conversation-about-elementary-library-book-selection-omission/
- Sphynx_Admin. (2018, April 21). Adults Are More Likely To Believe There Are Books That Should Be Banned Than Movies, Television Shows, or Video Games. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://theharrispoll.com/in-just-four-years-the-percentage-of-americans-who-believe-there-are-any-books-that-should-be-banned-has-increased-by-more-than-half-28-believe-this-to-be-the-case-today-vs-18-in-2011-one-fourth/