The most debatable and controversial form of censorship today is the banning of books in school libraries. Banning books that educate students is wrong and selfish. Censorship of books in school libraries is neither uncommon nor an issue of the past. Books with artistic and cultural worth are still challenged constantly by those who want to control what others read. The roots of bigotry and illiteracy that fuel efforts to censor books and free expression are unacceptable and unconditional. Censoring school books in libraries can often lead to censorship of our basic freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. In some cases, a minority ends up dictating the majority in censorship cases. To be told what is permissible reading material and what is not is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The First Amendment of the Constitution is the most important and debatable of them all. The First Amendment states; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression defines the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, association, and the corollary right to receive information. Human rights and intellectual independence; the two are inseparably linked. Freedom of opinion and determining what you want to read is not
derived from or dependent on any form of government or political power. This right is inherent in every individual. The power of freedom cannot be yielded, nor can it be denied. True justice comes from the exercise of rights.
Students enjoy going to the library and being able to read what they want to read, without any indecision. As soon as a censor claims a book should be censored, the student’s hope of reading that book is diminished. Censorship, ignorance, and limitations on the free flow of information are the tools of dictatorship and oppression. The “tyrant” simply chooses to pull that book from the shelves of knowledge, and the students right of the First Amendment is violated (Appendix A).
Books like The Chocolate War, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Of Mice and Men have been placed on the controversial bookshelf of many school libraries. The Chocolate War and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings were challenged for reasons of being “sexually explicit” Of Mice and Men, challenged for using “offensive” language. Also Harry Potter for encouraging witchcraft, sorcery, and Satanism. If it’s not one “ism,” it’s another. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has been targeted by censors for supporting New Ageism, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for promoting racism. Sometimes books are banned or censored for unusual and often ridiculous reasons. An example of such banning is of Little Red Riding Hood in two California districts in 1989. In the story, Little Red Riding Hood is bringing a cake and a bottle of wine to her grandmother’s house. The districts claimed they were concerned because of the use of alcohol in the story. Where does that leave today’s
children? It appears that the children of today are in danger of being “protected” from a lot of great literature. I feel that by the time a child can read these books, they are at an age where they can distinguish between things that should and should not be said. I think that it is up to the parents to educate the child that just because they say it in the book, does not mean he or she should do or feel the same. I can just imagine next years headline: “Goodnight Moon: Banned for Encouraging Children to Communicate With Furniture!” “If we got rid of everything these people object to, there’d be nothing left, but Black Beauty, and after a while that gets a little thin for adolescents” (qtd. in White 91). One man in South Carolina has gone so far as to demand that the Bible be placed on an adult’s only shelf of the library because parts are too graphic for young children (Hunt 89).
1998, a Republican state legislator introduced a “no promo homo” bill that would make it a felony for anyone to provide a minor with a book that shows “alternate lifestyles” without the child’s parents’ consent. The proposed bill would require any group or individual to have parental permission before distributing such information. The bills sponsor did not explain
what he meant by “alternate lifestyles,” although a parent testifying in favor of the bill said she was alarmed that books such as Leslea Newman’s, Heather Has Two Mommies are available in school libraries.
School libraries are stations for information and ideas. All books and other library materials should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all students in the school. Libraries should provide books and information presenting all points of views on cultural and historical issues. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide students with knowledge and enlightenment. Books should not be prohibited because of the origin, backgrounds, or views of the authors. There are no reasons to
ban a book. There is no rational excuse for a school library to ban a book at the request of a “concerned” parent.
One should be able to read all types of books. Schools are learning institutions and for information. Telling a child that he or she cannot read a book they want to is a slap in the face for our American Education Program. A student’s values and culture should determine how he or she uses the information obtained from the book. Even if kids do not read vulgarity in school, they will eventually be exposed to it elsewhere. In schools, where young people are under the logical guidance of responsible adults, is the perfect place to expose them to negative options.
Most would-be banners act with what they consider to be the highest intents protecting themselves, their families, and communities from perceived oppressions and preserving values and ideals they would have the entire society comprehend. The result, however; is always and
ever the denial of another’s right to read. The censors are mostly parents and other community residents of all backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, who are sincerely concerned about the reading habits of today’s children. The situation leads to the personal standard of what one parent or small groups of parents, being mistaken for a community standard. A minority ends up dictating the silent majority. That goes against all of America’s basic freedoms.
“What is at stake here it the right to read and be exposed to controversial, thoughts and language. The most effective antidote to the poison of mindless orthodoxy is ready access to a broad sweep of ideas and philosophies. There is no danger in such exposure. The danger is mind control especially when that control is exercised by a few over the majority” (qtd. in Hunt 82).
If a book offends one person why not just ban it? It is a book that my child may never be able to read. It seems that the only logical reasoning to aid in what offends people is to completely eliminate the book from the library. A better approach is to understand that this book may help them examine other beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions and to accept, tolerate, or even reject these ideas without prejudices against people who hold particular views. In the democracy In which we live, where regularly all ideas are debatable. A wide range on all points of view should be available to the public.
For more then 200 years, the right to choose what we read has been one of our most cherished freedoms. Permitting restraints on literature sets the stage for attacks on all expression that is artistically or politically controversial or that portrays unpleasant realities of life. The ideas and information absorbed from these banned books topple the walls of hate and fear and build bridges of cooperation and understanding far more effectively than weapons.
to expand, the society portrayed in the book may even become reality.
“Where they have burned books, they will end up burning human beings ” (qtd. in Heine 44).