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Monday, September 17, 2012

Banning Books In Our Schools and Local Libraries

 

                                                                                                     Image from Daily Clip Art

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Still individuals and groups continue to attempt to ban books in our schools and in our public libraries.
As a child who was reading adult books from a young age (since I'd read the whole children's and young adult section) I was appalled at all the books that people have attempted to have banned. To me banning books is just one way small groups of vocal people try to force their beliefs on the majority. Censorship can be subtle, and nearly imperceptible, or it can also be blatant and overt, but, no matter how it occurs censorship is always harmful.

To hear people have attempted to ban books based on vulgar language, teen sexuality, or racism, all the things that are real if you walk into any school today is absurd. In any school today you can hear the 'vulgar' language, you can overhear the discussions in hallways about graphic sex, and sadly you hear racist comments. These books ARE what teens and middle-schoolers today can relate to, they are what these kids are doing and saying. No matter how we as parents want to deny it, our kids are growing up far faster today than we did at their age.

We can't ban books and think it will protect our children and teens from experiencing what the characters in the books are going through. Some of them are sexually active and they are using language that would make grandma blush, just like the characters in these books. Some of them are either the object of racist comments or the instigator of them. Racism, sex, and vulgar language are alive and well in our schools.

Banning a book as being unsuitable for an age group is almost as bad. Any teen or preteen who is made uncomfortable by the content of a book will simply not read it. So choosing to ban a book based on age group is also unconscionable.

Would I ban Catcher In The Rye? (a true classic) No. Ann Frank? No. It is an important observation of life during WWII. Nickel and Dimed? No. Since when are differences in political opinions a reason to ban a book? Water for Elephants? No. While maybe a tough read for a middle-schooler, certainly great for high schools. Brave New World? No. And the list goes on. Yes, some of these books may contain language or attitudes that are offensive but sometimes we need to look past what we hear and think about what we can learn, even if it's only that this is not how we want our world to be.

There are other books on the list that someone wanted banned, but the one that surprised me the most was The Hunger Games. Probably every kid I know who enjoys reading has read this book. It speaks to them. It is what they want to read. Attempting to ban or banning a book often just make it all the more attractive to young readers.

So if you have no respect for our Constitution, stop to consider how attractive adults make something that is out of reach. Stop trying to ban books. Respect our Constitution and credit our great young minds with knowing what they want to read and let them read it.

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