Banning books fails at advancing society

Published by adviser, Author: Stephani Damato - Commentary, Date: October 9, 2014

Banning books is something that school districts have been doing for decades. If one tiny aspect of a story could offend or be inappropriate in any way, the book is banned. The Outsiders has gang violence, but ignore the fact that it brings awareness to the struggles teenagers face. Harry Potter has witchcraft, but never mind its overall message of love and eliminating prejudice. As an English teacher and literature lover I completely understand why we teach classic novels even if I’m not a huge fan of all of them. However, how could we possibly look at young adult novels and deem them inappropriate when the classics relay similar themes and situations? Romeo and Juliet has underage sex. Huckleberry Finn has racism. Of Mice and Men has a brutal murder. The Great Gatsby has marital affairs. And yet California is already banning The Fault in Our Stars. It is implied that the two teenaged protagonists have sex. For half of a page. And yes, children have cancer in the story as well. Why are people pretending like these things don’t happen?

The purpose of literature is to educate people and help them to empathize with others. There is no, and I repeat, there is no such thing as a novel that doesn’t offend at least one person in the slightest way. That’s just how stories work. Why should we prevent our students the opportunity to experience the hope, love, friendship, and very emotional encounter with death that TFIOS provides us? It reminds has how very mortal we are and encourages us to live in the moment and be grateful for all we have. News flash: kids have sex. They die of disease. Why is something like this banned already but William Shakespeare is still taught in every English class? His tragedies, racism, sexism and inappropriate language isn’t enough to ban his works? (Not that I’m trying to push good ol’ Billy out of the curriculum).

This is what I’m saying: young adult literature is relatable, appropriate, and inspiring to young minds. Why should I force my students to read a classic when I can see they’d rather read their “teen” book that they borrowed from the library? Why is nonfiction pushing out the fiction? Fictitious stories can teach us just as much as nonfiction even if the plot is entirely made up. It is still a product of human emotion and ideas and is still crucial to understanding our world. If a book is getting kids to read then I say let them read it in school. The whole idea of banning books definitely isn’t going to advance our society in any way, and we can take a look at history to prove that point.


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