Book Bans Do Not Belong at School

Abigail Elperin, Staff Writer

Students deserve access to all of the world’s knowledge and perspectives at school. Though school can often seem like a prison, it was intended to be the ultimate destination for growing as a person. The harsh realities of high school prepare you for the harsher realities of the real world, and acquiring knowledge is what many consider to be the purpose of school. Struggles at home become irrelevant once you have retreated to a book. Books have the power to greatly diversify your worldview, discuss topics that reserved families may be unwilling to discuss, and grant accurate and meaningful representation. It is deeply important that high schoolers learn more about complicated subjects than our generally surface-level curriculums have to offer. Books are the most effective way to do this Common Sense Media says, “Exploring complex topics like sexuality, violence, substance abuse, suicide, and racism through well-drawn characters lets kids contemplate morality and vast aspects of the human condition, build empathy for people unlike themselves, and possibly discover a mirror of their own experience.” If books that shed light on different perspectives and topics are so crucial to young people, why is their presence in schools being challenged across the country? The answer lies in extremist ideology. 

People want to ban books for several reasons. Typically backed by conservative ideologies, some books are challenged because they are not in line with the challenger’s religious beliefs. Even the Harry Potter series was challenged because it was believed to have promoted the use of witchcraft, despite being beloved amongst many schoolchildren. Motivated by religion (though more likely internalized prejudice and queerphobia), books that share LGBTQIA+ experiences and explore topics of sexuality and gender identity are likely to be protested, too. If not religion, these books will be challenged because they are believed to contain “pornographic” elements that are “not suited for school-age children.” Books that share experiences of racism are likely to be met with backlash as well. The acclaimed book, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas has been widely challenged, attributed to “inappropriate language.” Anyone who has ever stepped into a high school is aware that it is not a squeaky-clean, PG, conservative utopia. It is absurd to ban a significant and deeply impactful book on the basis of profanity when there is not a high schooler in existence who is not already familiar with profanity. A right-wing group called No Left Turn says, “These are the books that are used to spread radical and racist ideologies to students. They demean our nation and its heroes, revise our history, and divide us as a people for the purpose of indoctrinating kids to a dangerous ideology.” A quick scroll on their website will reveal values based largely on censorship, extremism and intolerance, not unlike other pro-book banning groups. Banning and challenging books at school that help young readers navigate these complex subjects is one of the most destructive things that can occur within the next generation. When we see our identities suppressed and misrepresented, we grow up without a firm sense of self and basis of knowledge, all in the name of preserving the comfort of traditionalist adults.  

The number of book bans and challenges are rising in America. The Oakland Press says, “The American Library Association said in a preliminary report that it received what they called an ‘unprecedented’ 330 reports of book challenges last fall, each of which can include multiple books.” This can be attributed to many things, including increased extremist beliefs in the Trump-era pandemic. Even locally, criticism to books being taught in schools occurred, including Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” which is taught in many Language Arts classrooms in the ISD. A common argument that books should be allowed to be banned in school is that parents should be allowed to choose what their own children are permitted to read. While this is true, and critical conversation of popular literature should be encouraged, banning the book itself is extremely harmful. A total block of access to a piece of literature simply because it infringes on a parent’s individual beliefs is to deny children knowledge, and the immeasurable value of hearing a new voice. That is unequivocally a form of censorship, which has no place in American schools in 2022. As ProCon.Org says, “In the 1982 Supreme Court ruling on Board of Education v. Pico, Justice William Brennan wrote that taking books off of library shelves could violate students’ First Amendment rights, adding that ‘Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.’” Students agree, teachers concur, even in the court of law it was decided- book bans have no place in schools.