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Controversy behind banned books

By Alexa Garrett, Staff Writer

We have been learning about past world wars spanning all the way back to Elementary School. However, it is likely that certain accounts of the war are missing. The concentration camps stationed in Germany are not a point of discussion. You are assigned a book, but this book only discusses where the war was fought and who was involved. Many crucial stories are left out to perpetuate a specific narrative. This phenomenon can limit the accurate understanding of history and the integrity of educators. 

Award-winning literature is banned each year from school libraries, and this has caused an uproar of concern amongst the younger generation of students. “Learning about the darkest moments in our shared history is a crucial part of education. We must trust educators to guide students through these difficult, essential lessons,” said National Education Association (NEA) member Rebecca Pringle. 

Literature inspires students to think creatively, it fuels their drive to learn and understand different aspects of the world and significant historical events. Reflecting on history is important for current development. We learn a tremendous amount of lessons and philosophies from reflecting on the actions of past humans. According to the Harvard Gutman Library, the first account of a banned book was in 1637.  “New English Canaan” by Thomas Morton, was banned by the Puritan government as it was considered a “harsh and heretical critique of Puritan customs and power structures,” said Gutman Library. Another fundamental area impacted by book bans are recounts of the Holocaust. The famous book-burning Holocaust event had novels written by Jewish authors being burned in different cities and towns.

Courtesy of Alexa Garrett

Today, literature is discouraged for various reasons: discrimination against LGBTQ members in certain states, an attempt to mask violent or political acts, the usage of drugs or alcohol, and the detest of sexually explicit material. According to Marshall Libraries, the award-winning novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have been banned due to racist commentary in the books. Some novels have been challenged as opposed to banned completely. “A book challenge may have a positive outcome, which is more centered around the perspectives of the people involved in that book challenge. Whereas a book ban doesn’t even go through the book challenge route. It’s just like, here’s a list, get rid of these particular resources,” said Director of the Palmer School associate professor Beatrice Baaden. 

 Freshman early education major Erin Yung believes that book bans can have a positive effect on young children.

 “Children can be exposed to racism and other political issues within their home and when their parents feel it is best for them. However, I don’t think it should be up to schools to indoctrinate kids or force political views. I think violence, sexual activities, and most political issues should be limited to young children,” said Yung. 

Without the resources available to our future generations, how are the children expected to flourish? Parents and other members of the community have enforced their opinion on what novels should be done away with. This has greatly affected the availability of famous novels in the nationwide library system. “There’s no reason why your personal preference should be everyone’s personal preference. There are reasons why there are specific texts and resources in libraries. That is because the person who’s doing the book reviewing has been highly trained through their library education, as to how to review these resources, and how to make a case for why this particular resource may be in that institution,” said Baaden. 

On the other hand, Yung believes that fewer books within each library institution will not have a dramatic effect amongst young students. 

“I do not think this will affect how much children will learn about the world around them. There is enough coverage in the media and everyday life for children to be able to learn more when they are older. At such a young age, most children are impartial to political issues and will not care to learn about these things anyway,” said Yung. 

In opposition to book bans, organizations such as Unite Against Book Bans, attempt to fight against censorship. Unite Against Book Bans participates in events throughout the country to bring awareness to the ever-growing issue. According to the American Library Association, there were 1,269 attempts to censor library books and resources in 2022. This is an exponential increase in the attempted book bans towards libraries during the past 20 years. The group urges everyone to get involved by joining their campaign. 

Those who join receive information on what they can do within their community to prevent censorship in the future.

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