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Who benefits when JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which opens much-needed discussions for younger generation about fighting good vs. evil, is banned for its depiction of magic and “anti-Christian content”? Christian schools across the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, have refused to allow the phenomenally popular novels to circulate in their libraries. Nationwide, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association. Among them the masterpieces of the world literature: Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, J.
D. Salinger, ’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, and many others prize-winning, commercially successful books.
In fact, research by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) reveals that 2017 saw an increase in attempts at censorship across the United States. Common reasons for materials being challenged include “violence,” “racism,” “offensive language,” “sexually explicit” content, and of course, being “emotionally inappropriate for the age group.” With reasons like these, it’s not difficult to imagine how wide the range of challenged materials is.
“Censorship is the enemy of truth, even more than a lie,” says the ninth White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers. “A lie can be exposed; censorship can prevent us from knowing the difference.” (par1.). Generally, no one person or group should decide what should or should not be read.
One might object here that certain books should be banned because they are absolutely inappropriate for certain ages. Presence in the books of drug use, alcohol consumption, sex, profanity, and violence are the reasons why books must be banned.
The never-ending attack of violence from tv and internet, books, video games, and movies pushes children to antisocial behavior. Erin Manning, a PHD professor of philosophy and cinema at Concordia University, Montreal, in the article ”It’s not censorship, it’s parenting!” points, ”We are living through a time of cultural divide, and whether you think it’s a good or a terrible idea for novels aimed at eleven-year-olds to contain sex and violence, is largely going to depend which side of that divide you and your family is on.” (par.15).
It’s understandable that adults want to minimize children’s anxiety, and schools are often under intense social and financial pressure to maintain established standards. While these reasons are mostly legitimate, there is far more danger and harm in holding a book back from the children. Banning books is the indication of an intolerant society. Not only this is wrong and limits the freedom of reading, and it can shelter children from the real world and hurt them in the long run. Literature is a powerful force that influences our lives in infinite ways. Immersing into imaginary world makes us wiser, more compassionate, and fearless. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.
Usually, when we think of censorship, we imagine autocratic political regimes that burn books as Nazi Germany or North Korea. Regrettably, however, the most books that have been challenged or banned are books for young people. In the case-study ”The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century” Rebecca Knuth, professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Hawaii, describes the historic context of this topic.
”During the 19th and early 20th centuries, debates over the target audience of the American children’s-literature industry largely centered around the question of how much adults should trust children to choose what they read. Before the Civil War, the prevailing answer was “very little.” Accordingly, kids’ books and magazines addressed the instructional concerns of adults without worrying much about readers’ interests. New entertainment options, from dime novels to nickelodeons, led to a greater effort to retaining children’s attention by amusing them. Yet even as publishers focused more on engagement, they carefully avoided subjects that riled the parents who bought the books.” (Knuth, 12).
Appreciated and loved by generations of kids, L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, for example, were removed from a large number of public libraries in the United States throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was attacked for depicting women in ”non-traditional” (non-submissive) roles. Adults, who took the decision on banning, believed that series was mass-produced, commercial, didn’t have any cultural value, and would harm the children reading it!
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