Opinion: Say no to book censorship

Book challenging and censorship has been a common way of silencing opposing opinions that somebody does not agree with. In schools, book censorship is often used because of foul language, adult content, and portrayals of violence. Parents who feel like a book is not suitable for their child will bring forward a challenge to get…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/vincentwang2023/" target="_self">Vincent Wang</a>

Vincent Wang

November 13, 2021

Book challenging and censorship has been a common way of silencing opposing opinions that somebody does not agree with. In schools, book censorship is often used because of foul language, adult content, and portrayals of violence. Parents who feel like a book is not suitable for their child will bring forward a challenge to get it removed from the school curriculum and libraries, making it publicly inaccessible to everyone in the community. 

Book censorship in schools is harmful and unnecessary as parents should only get to control what their own school-aged children read, not what the whole community reads. Controversial books can give students a different point of view on situations that they might experience themselves in the future, and many of books that people attempt to censor are award-winning and famous novels that give the students new knowledge about the world.

Although parents should be able to have control over what their own kids read at school, they shouldn’t have the power to decide what other kids read. According to the American Library Association, challenging a book is not just a matter of expressing a point of view, but rather an attempt to remove the ability for everybody else to access it. By challenging a book, the parents are also preventing other students from reading the same book as well. This is unfair to everybody else as a book’s availability in a school is now hinging on the opinions of one parent. 

Book censorship removes the chance for the students to explore more into society. Since not everybody has the same opinion, they will not have the same view of a book, and if we banned books depending on each person’s opinions, then we would eventually end up with no books left to read. 

The American Library Association states that parents should only be able to decide and restrict what their own children read, not other children.  This would be a better alternative to completely banning books as it presents parents with an opportunity to remove their kids’ access to books that they feel are inappropriate while also not impacting everybody else. Other kids’ educational curricula should not have to be affected simply because of one or even a few parent’s concerns. 

Megan Palmer, in her paper “Book Banning Bans the Future: The Negative Effects of Book Banning Regarding High School Students” argues that when books are being banned in an entire school instead of just individual students, it puts the educational curriculum at risk.  Teachers plan their lessons so that they are able to teach the same material every year, and to have a book completely banned from the curriculum can alter weeks, maybe even months of a teachers’ lesson plans. 

Many of these book lessons provide the students with an important theme or life lesson that they can carry on with them for the rest of their lives. This creates serious issues as not only will kids now get a different educational experience than kids before them got, the teachers will have to scramble to find an alternative book and make an entirely new lesson plan from scratch. This puts pressure on the teacher and results in a much more unstabilized education for the students. One parent or a small group of parents controlling what everybody else gets access to will simply cause much more harm than good.

Some award-winning books may contain inappropriate content for kids, but these books are important parts of literature. Some examples include “Of Mice and Men,” which has been challenged for containing foul and racist language; however, it gives students an important understanding of how society was during an important era in American history and human experience — the Dust Bowl. 

“Fahrenheit 451” is also a commonly challenged book. In an article for the Northwest Florida Daily News, parent Sonja McCall-Strehlow from Santa Rosa, questioned the book’s use of profanity and use of God’s name in vain, along with instances of sex, drugs, suicide, murder, and abortion. Her concerns are typically valid concerns at a school as they are about violence and inappropriate topics. 

However, the focus of a book like “Fahrenheit 451″ is not about the topics that she has mentioned; instead, the book portrays a powerful theme of what will happen if people end up banning so many books. Ironically, that is exactly what McCall-Strehlow was trying to do, which also shows that she probably did not read the book in the first place and just relied on hearing complaints about foul language from her daughter without hearing about the actual main theme and focus of the book. 

If she and many other similar book bans succeed, it will result in all other students in the school being deprived of the opportunity to study an award-winning novel.  By not understanding the actual theme of the book before challenging it, she is causing an award-winning and important piece of literature to be banned from school curriculums and libraries. This would result in students not being introduced to important core literature that has been a part of the education system for many decades, and they would have lost a chance to learn what the real world really is about. Many of these books also teach students not only the correct opinions, but also the opposing opinions, giving the student the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Banning core novels from school would undoubtedly lower the quality of education for many years to come.

Books contain the perspectives and experiences of their authors, and these new views may help the reader form their own solution if they ever face a similar problem. Many times these are adult topics that children need to be prepared for before they become adults. 

“Fahrenheit 451” serves as an example that fits in this description as it shows the problems that would arise if books were to be censored as a result of people finding them dangerous and offensive to themselves and others. 

Another example is “Speak,” which Macy Davis highlights in his article “Banned Book Highlight: “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.” In “Speak,” the main character, Melinda, represents the voice of thousands of victims who are struggling to find their own voice. Melinda represents what hundreds of people, young and old, experience on a daily basis. Her story and journey to speak out as a victim of sexual assault is one that victims are typically unable to share, and reading a story like Melinda’s may provide victims with the inspiration and courage to speak out. As a result, a book like “Speak” is able to empower others to step up, and banning it would be equivalent to silencing victims’ voices.  

Without books like “Speak,” countless victims will be left feeling hopeless about their situation. Perpetrators of sexual assault will take advantage of such a situation and continue to do what they are doing unless victims start speaking out about their experiences. Books like “Speak” can help people guide their own way through life through inspiration as well as just overall general knowledge and provide readers with courage to be brave in the face of adversity. Banning them just because of the explicit or uncomfortable content leaves people in the dark regarding such important problems in society and human experience.

Children are being prepared to become adults no matter what, and reading challenged books will give them a sense of adult subjects as well as provide them with an opportunity to evaluate these challenged books themselves. Professor James Blasingame from Arizona State University says that because kids are being prepared to be adults, they should be exposed to adult subjects. If kids are kept isolated from the adult world throughout their education, then once they become adults they will face a sudden bombardment of information and ideas that they have never been exposed to before, resulting in poor adaptation to adult society. 

Allowing kids to have access to different kinds of books also provides them with the opportunity to judge the book based on their own opinions, as noted by Reagan McMahon in a perspective piece for the Washington Post titled “Why your kid should read banned books.” Children should get a chance to experience such content and make the decision of if they would like to read it or not, instead of having adults making the decisions for them.  Young people need to experience challenged books for themselves so that they can make decisions after actually reading the book, and it also prepares them for when they become adults.

Those who seek to ban and censor books may mean well, but their good intentions will actually lead to detrimental consequences. Overall, book censorship does much more harm than good.