An often misunderstood topic to society is banning books in schools. Many believe that banning books is something of the past but it still happens till this day. Books provide knowledge of real-life situations and controversial topics. The numerous ideas discussed in books help widen the lens of a student. In 2017 alone, more than 350 books were challenged in schools, libraries, and universities (Godlewski).
Educational institutions ban books in order to protect students from explicit and controversial content but also to avoid controversy with the public and protect their own image.
School systems ban books to shield students from explicit content and controversial content to escape the intense wrath of the public. Constantly, schools are “often under intense social and financial pressure to maintain established standards” (Ringel). This includes parents, teachers, and students repeatedly criticizing schools for their approach toward sensitive topics. Nowadays, word spreads quickly due to social media influence, and continually there are strong opinions from the public. Controversy sparks worldwide talk especially dealing with explicit content that can be offensive to many.
Exposing students to complex topics like gun violence, police brutality, immigration, racial discrimination, and sexuality let them “build empathy for people unlike themselves” and “possibly discover a mirror of their own experience” (McMahon). For instance, in the book, The Hate U Give, it gives a perspective from a girl, Starr, who is faced with racial discrimination and gun violence. She is “too afraid to speak” when she wanted to “have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew” about when her childhood best friend, Khalil, is killed by a police officer.
(Thomas 52). The protagonist overcame great difficulty to speak up as a student.
When books are banned, schools lose the ability to look at the world with open eyes. Instead, they close their eyes like how they closed the banned book for others to enjoy and appreciate. The various ideas presented in such banned books are halted because educational institutions block students from voicing their opinions. School systems want to escape the downhill spiral of riots, protests, and controversy, at all costs. Avoiding controversy from the public allows educational institutions to protect their own image. It is common for one to have their own personal opinion on an issue. As a result, these opinions pile up and most of the time criticize educational institutions for their actions. In order to preserve their reputation, they claim that they “are empowered by state law” and “long-established customs to decide what will be taught and read in local public schools” (Campbell). Though such schools state this is a valid justification, “there are no clear Federal laws that specify what rights school boards or local governments have to decide what books will be available in school or public libraries” (Campbell). School officials make up excuses for their own interests of themselves and what others will perceive of them. In the book, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, it discusses abortion, an arguable ideology. The little Chinese seamstress does not want to become a “teenage mother” and “there was not the slightest chance of her being allowed to keep the child anyway” (Sijie 160). This leaves her with the only choice of aborting the baby.
Abortion is a debatable topic due to some people believing that it is ethical, while others believe it is extremely unethical. Yet abortion is not the most tasteful topic to talk about, many students have already been revealed on such topics. Schools do not want such content accessible to students because it damages their image as a whole. It is a selfish act on the educational institutions’ part because it takes freedom away from the students to widen their lens on these topics. Prioritizing their own image over students will only affect students in the future. School systems make many believe that they want the best for students so they shield students from controversial and explicit content. However, their alterior motive is maintaining their own status. It is understandable that schools ban books because of such explicit and controversial content but they do not release that these types of ideas cause sparks and keep students’ minds alive. Perhaps, if schools could consider a student’s future, and the long term effects it could possibly have, they will soon realize that it would be more beneficial to stop censoring books.