Opposing Book Bans: The Value of 'Mice and Men'

Categories: Of Mice and Men
About this essay

The book “Of Mice and Men” is one of the top ten most challenged books of the 21st Century. (Olson, 4) This means that many people, including parents and school administrators, request that school libraries remove the book from their catalogue. This is an occurrence that should not happen. Of Mice and Men should not be banned in schools because of precedents set by the Supreme court regarding censorship, its value as a historic text, and the learning opportunities it presents.

In the United States, the Supreme Court sets precedents that are followed by all courts based on the outcome of the cases they handle.

Due to the outcomes of different cases involving censorship “Of Mice and Men” cannot be banned in schools. Precedents set by cases such as Jacobellis v. Ohio, Miller v. California, and Board of Education v. Pico have determined censorship guidelines in the US. Jacobellis v. Ohio determined that the community standards of obscenity must match national standards.

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Miller v. California then updated the guidelines of obscenity.

Warren Burger, Chief Justice at the time, wrote that obscenity was to be determine by “(a) whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct … and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (Censorship,5)” Board of Education v. Pico determined that school libraries are not permitted to remove books once they have been put in the library.

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Based on the precedents set by these cases, it is clear that Of Mice and Men cannot be banned.

The book does not appeal to a prurient (sexual) interest nor does it depict or describe sexual content. The book also has literary, artistic and political value. Based on the guidelines set forth by Miller v. California, Of Mice and Men should not be banned in schools. The book is also quite obviously in libraries if people want it removed, therefore they cannot be removed, according to precedents set by Board of Education v. Pico.

The banning of Of Mice and Men not only goes against precedents, but also inhibits the learning of those who are not permitted to read it. During an interview in 2008, author and child therapist Chris Crutcher states “Intellectual freedom includes not reading things … but it doesn’t include people making decisions for other people.(Olson, 2)” Relating this to schools, when parents do not wish for their children to read a book because of content discussed, that is perfectly fine. The student in question can simply read a different book.

However, it is not okay when a parent goes to the school board or the administrator and asks them to remove the book from the curriculum, which will disallow all students from reading the book. Of Mice and Men is a classic novel that shows insight into the life of a 1930’s worker. It is also a great example of 20th century American Literature. When you ban the book from being taught in class, you are denying the students an opportunity to learn about a part of our history in regards to society and literature during a certain time period.

While certain issues brought up in Of Mice and Men may be uncomfortable to talk about, it is necessary to talk about them. After a parent from a Minnesota school district complained about the book Little House of the Prairie, the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) responded saying, “educators should use the offensive content in [the book] to discuss the pervasive nature of racism and how things have and have not changed since the book was written… [and]… isn’t a teachable moment… more valuable than a lifetime of ignorance? (Petress, 2)” This statement can also be made about Of Mice and Men. The book discusses topics that are uncomfortable such as racism, mental disabilities, and death. This does not mean we need to shy away from the book. Discussing these topics will only allow us to better understand them and change different perception people have of these issues. When those perceptions are changed, the ignorance people have regarding these issues will fade and the world will be better for that.

John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men is a great example of 20th century American Literature and the 1930s working man’s life. It discusses many issues prevalent in both the 1930s and today’s society. For these reasons, the book should not be banned in schools and should be a part of the curriculum.

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Opposing Book Bans: The Value of 'Mice and Men'. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/the-book-of-mice-and-men-by-john-steinbeck-should-not-be-banned-because-of-the-social-issues-pertaining-to-the-life-of-the-workers-in-the-1930s-essay

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