Each year, libraries across the United States report hundreds of challenges. The leading causes for contesting a book are sexually explicit content, offensive language and inappropriate subjects for minors [source: American Library Association]. Only a minority of the requests actually make it through to banning the book from its respective library. The Catcher in the Rye. The Scarlet Letter. Huckleberry Finn. Harry Potter. The Diary of Anne Frank. Animal Farm. To Kill a Mockingbird.
The Da Vinci Code. The Grapes of Wrath. These literary classics have been vital to the education of many, especially children and adolescents. These great novels both teach important values and educate children about world affairs and classic themes. Unfortunately, each of these novels has been banned at one point in time. Many of these classic stories have been banned because of sexual references, racial slurs, religious intolerance, or supposed witchcraft promotion.
Although some may consider these books controversial or inappropriate, many English classes have required us to read these books. Like the teachers that assigned us these books, I believe that even controversial books can ultimately boost, not deter, our educational wealth. I oppose book banning for three main reasons. First, I believe that education should be open to everyone. Everyone should have an opportunity to read any literature of their choosing and form his or her own opinions based on the reading.
Micah Issitt lists “three basic rights covered under the freedom of the press: the right to publish, the right to confidentiality of sources, and the right of citizens to access the products of the press. ” My second reason specifically addresses the last right stating that citizens should have access to the press. The government should not restrict books from being published or interfere into personal affairs as this is an infringement of the First Amendment. Finally, I believe that parents should monitor what their own children read, but not have the authority to ban other children from reading these novels.
For these reasons, I conclude that the government should play no role in the issue what citizens do and do not read, and that book restriction should remain a solely private matter. At first glance, the debate over banning books appears unimportant. Nevertheless, this debate has divided our nation into those who favor censoring books to protect their impressionable adolescents, and those who argue that education should be open for everybody without interference from the government in restricting the publishing and accessing of these books.
Issitt argues that censoring books violates the First Amendment, stating that “citizens must be free to seek out any media, regardless of content, that they deem appropriate for entertainment, information, or education. Denying the rights of the consumer, in any area, is one of the hallmarks of authoritarianism. ” While I do not equate banning books with “authoritarianism,” we do endorse Issitt’s belief that individual citizens have the right to choose, under their own discretion, what books to read.
The First Amendment protects the freedom of expression and speech, and by prohibiting certain messages, the government clearly infringes upon public rights. On the other hand, Healey claims that censorship does not “repress information that teenagers and children are exposed to,” but merely gives parents the rights to educate their children in the ways they deem appropriate. Though I concede that parents do have the right to monitor what their children read, they do not have the right to remove books from public libraries or monitor what other children in the city read.
Healey attempts to persuade readers that “censorship of books should not be about silencing voices on important topics, but about steering young people toward the best possible literature;” however, she fails to specify what constitutes as “the best possible literature. ” Some of “the best possible literatures” also happen to cause the most controversy, including Huck Finn, Harry Potter, The Scarlet Letter, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those who protest against these books have clearly not studied them in depth.
For example, the main theme in Huckleberry Finn focuses not on advocating racism, as some suggest, but proving that race does not define a person’s intelligence or capability for compassion. Even Healey admits that “concerned parents and community members react without taking the time to closely investigate the books they want banned. ” While I agree that parents should play an active role in educating their children and as their primary guardians, have the legal right to monitor what their children read, I disagree that this legal right extends to controlling what other children in the neighborhood read as well.
Prohibiting children from reading a book will not enhance their moral values. Rather, banning a book more likely will increase curiosity for reading it. I also empathize with parents who ban books with controversial or uncomfortable subjects because they are unsure as to how their children will react or how to explain such topics. A good way to discuss these subjects with children is to read books with various views on the subject so that children can experience multiple points of view before forming their own opinions.
Healey herself agrees that such a method “might help young people better understand the world they live in, the human condition, and issues they face in their culture. ” As Healey stated, parents also tend to ban books based on “moral grounds, although some books have been condemned for their perspectives on civic values and history. ” For this very reason, the general public should read these books. Our society, especially our younger children, needs to read these books since fully understanding a topic requires knowledge of both sides.
If we choose to disregard even a highly unpopular opinion, we intentionally choose to live in ignorance, only partially educated in a topic we claim to know so well. Without a doubt, if we continue to ban books and ignore what some consider taboo topics, we hinder ourselves and our children from finding ways to solve society’s problems, thus hampering the development of our nation as a whole. Many conservative groups make the argument that the books that have been banned have material that is inappropriate, immoral or contradicting the beliefs they have ingrained in their children and/or their society.
Take for consideration the controversial books that tackle difficult, touchy social issues like homosexuality. Books like “Heather Has Two Mommies,” by Leslea Newman and “Daddy’s Roommate” by Michael Willhoite (both books written for youth with gay parents) were shot down by conservative groups because they attempted to educate children about homosexuality, an issue parents felt needed to be taught to their respective children by them. While this may seem like a valid argument, really it is just skirting around the actual
issue. Book-banning cases usually concern the protection of children and their innocence, but all that is happening is sheltering parents showing an awkward avoidance of their children’s confrontation with uncomfortable matters. It is not only selfish, but also harmful to the overall education of their children. This act of prohibiting books is just the parents’ way of evading of the conversation with their child about these sensitive issues.
These two books are issues that Healey brings up in her argument on how groups were upset about the way these books informed their children of homosexuality. Homosexuality and other touchy social issues are part of everyday life, and for a group to attempt to censor this subject from younger society is almost absurd; these issues are not monstrous and the censorship of them not only shows prejudice but lack of respect. Banning books seems to be the most public solution for a private matter- not everyone should have to suffer restrictions because one group feels uncomfortable with the book.
That being said, there are often books that contain graphic and often highly inappropriate material; I do consent that these books should be censored at the discretion of the parent, or anyone involved however, no one is forcing books upon others, so we should not be forced to remove them. Other groups would say that it’s also the duty of the government to regulate these books to protect concerned citizens and their families, but I would have to disagree. It’s the exact opposite of the government’s role- our private lives, the books we read, should be regulated and controlled by us.
Banning books from public congregations is not what the government was intended to do. Topics that seem socially outlawed in public, let alone published, have been banned because their immoral content may have a negative effect on younger children. In these books, authors doesn’t promote or encourage bad behaviors, they prepare their readers for some of the real world challenges. The child would never be able to learn these things if the book was banned, nor be able to form his or her own opinion about that certain topic.
Healey discusses that the book, 33 Snowfish, a “dark story of three teenage runaways who are victims of various forms of abuse… ” by Adam Rapp may be an unsuitable way to educate children on these timely topics. However, having these stories banned all together would just further shelter a child whose parents may not be willing to discuss these issues with them at all. Even though these books center around scary topics, they are educating children on real life matters that they will be exposed to once they venture into the world themselves.
Healey goes on to make the point that the books should not be banned as well, since it is a matter of private opinion not one to be made by the public libraries of a community. She suggests that schools should “inform parents about the kinds of books they offer children” in their libraries and classrooms instead of banning them. With the knowledge that some of these books have to offer, children can learn how not to act and what can be the consequences if they do misbehave. This learning experience could turn around with the help of a parent and pass a positive affect over the child.
Clearly, banning books not only hinders a child’s educational development but also leaves them unaware of the true state of the world. Books do not simply impart general information; they heavily influence a child, the future generation. Without regular access to books, both adults and children could not form sound opinions, only narrow-minded ones. Both advocates and opposers of book banning agree that “books are powerful instruments. ” Otherwise, a debate on the subject would neither have arisen nor lasted so long. Because books “can be used to…
inculcate values and transmit ideology, and to stimulate the imagination,” as Healey suggests, any person should remain free to select his or her reading material. This personal issue of selecting reading material has no relation to the government. On the contrary, government action interferes with individual education, a primary American value. Ultimately, children can learn personal responsibility in determining which books to regard and which to discard. In the future, these children will become well-educated adults who can benefit the American society. ————————————————-
Courtney from Study Moose
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