To Read or Not To Read: Banned Books

Banned Books (1)Story by Anna-Jo Stuart, Reporter

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

September 23 marked the start of “Banned Books Week”. During this week, the idea that no book should be banned is promoted. Books are banned for a multitude of reasons ranging from explicit language to sexual activity, banned books contradict the beliefs of those who challenge them.  

In the early 1900s, the United States would frequently ban books deemed too explicit.  One infamous example from this period was the banning of “Ulysses” by James Joyce. Banned in 1921, the U.S. Postal Service was known to burn copies that were attempted to be mailed. Today, “Animal Farm” is banned in Cuba and North Korea, in an effort to preserve their communist states. The book is also banned in the United Arab Emirates’s schools due to the talking pigs being contradictory to Muslim beliefs and values.

Banning books is not just a practice of the past or in more extreme governments. It is a common practice in the modern school system of the United States. Some books that are restricted from the shelves of schools are “The Catcher in the Rye,” for offensive language, and suicidal motifs: “Two Boys Kissing,” for homosexuality and promoting public displays of affection: “Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan,” for religious viewpoints and violence: “The Holy Bible,” for religious viewpoints: “Looking For Alaska,” for language, and sexual explicitness.

Censorship is a big issue because schools are censoring the type of information that their students can have access to. The goal of education is not just to teach a student proper grammar and how to multiply fractions. Education is the opportunity for students to widen their worldview, and gain a better understanding of people who are different from themselves. If a school is feeding students information that only fits the mold of their backgrounds and beliefs, the students will never have their own ideas about the world challenged. It is important to be challenged, it is what makes us  grow.

Through reading books that challenge them, students will either have their views shifted, or become more firm in their beliefs. At the very least students must have the ability to understand that there is a diverse population of people with a variety of beliefs and values, and that is okay. Books help students become well-rounded, and more understanding and compassionate.

Our world is increasingly becoming interconnected. It is only right that the education system reflects this. Now I’m not saying that this means every book should be in our high school libraries. “Fifty Shades of Grey” may not be suitable for students, but we have to be careful that we do not exclude books simply because they reflect backgrounds different from our own, or because they push the line. The world does not change because people stay in their comfort zones, the world is changed when we are challenged.