Banned Books in School: the Necessity of Discomfort

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Many varieties of censorship thrive in the US today, but none of them stand out quite as much as the censorship of literature in academic environments. The censorship that degrades one’s potential to learn is the worst type of censorship, as it allows those in charge to remain in charge by carefully manipulating the viewpoints of their audience to make them believe only in what they can see. Leaders use the guise of shielding the weak and the innocent to maintain the air of kindness and dependability while further strengthening their control over the consumption of literature. They will ensure that only approved content makes its way into the minds of students, effectively shaping the next generation to their will. Censorship has no place in high schools and book bans should be lifted because young adults need to be taught about the world from multiple points of view, have an inherent right to form their own opinion on a subject unrestricted from boundaries, and can learn to be more open-minded by having their beliefs challenged.

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Many books that are banned in high schools have been banned due to content that is considered offensive such as strong language, violence, sexual themes, and blasphemy. These things all exist in the world and young adults should be allowed to learn about them and process the associated emotions in a safe and comfortable learning environment. When books like these are disallowed from high schools, or even colleges, their potential audiences lose the opportunity to learn about “trauma visited on peoples [that] are so deep, so cruel, that, unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination” (Morrison). Allowing young adults in high school to read books that are currently banned will lead to a better understanding of difficult topics and uncomfortable situations, without the need to experience it for themselves. When students read a book about the way slaves were treated or about inhuman acts of wartime, they are exposed to subjects they have seen before, now from the side of the oppressed and the forgotten, forcing them to re-evaluate their views. Re-hearing a story they’ve heard before from the standpoint of the opposed can help form an understanding that all the people in the world around them, including those considered to be on the other side, are as complex and as real as they are.

Reading and learning about new subjects, no matter how others may feel about them, allows students to form a personal opinion with less outside bias. Banning books because they contain things disliked by certain individuals will almost certainly force the students subjected to the ban to view such books with disdain, although they lack knowledge of the content and an understanding of why they should feel this way. Altering a person’s thought or consciousness through this means can be considered indoctrination, which contradicts the principles of proper education. Schools should not be teaching children what to think but instead how to think; because without the ability to think for themselves, they would be capable of little more than parroting the ideas of others. If students continue to be starved of this information if we continue to allow the ones in charge to dictate what our children can or cannot think, the progress of humanity will slow to a crawl. New thoughts and ideas will be rejected due to fear and hatred that stems from calculated censorship of materials deemed unworthy or revealing. “These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because the truth is trouble” (Morrison). The leaders who fear writers that threaten to disturb the status quo are leaders with something to hide and leaders we do not need. Yet they are the very same authorities who remain in positions of power through manipulation of information released to the public, especially towards those who are young and pliable.

Since a person’s beliefs are such an intricate part of who they are, having those beliefs challenged can leave some feeling offended. Allowing others’ opinions to co-exist with our own or changing the way we think as a result of them, is a learned skill; a skill that should be taught from a young age. When people do not learn how to gracefully have their opinions debated or denied, their instinct is to clamp to those beliefs with fervor and obstinance. In a world that changes as rapidly as ours, being open to change and having malleable opinions is vital. Reacting to change with stillness, which is a thorough investigation to gain a full understanding of the content before making judgments, is easier for those who keep an open mind and is also necessary for our existence (Morrison). The world will always be populated by unique individuals with vastly differentiated thoughts and feelings; learning to accept these differences and live together is not just a sign of an open mind, it is exactly what we need.

While many may disagree with these opinions, I still hold firm that banning literature from academic institutions is unethical and should become unlawful. Banning books of any kind, for any reason, deprive those who aren’t receiving the removed content from making their own decisions about how to react to these so-called explicit materials. This retardation of the emotional health of society is a slow process controlled by leaders who recognize texts as a threat and convince the masses that they are dangerous or harmful. Eliciting fear over content that could de-throne them is a past-time of the rich and the powerful and is how they retain their position of authority. The cycle needs to come to an end, and censorship needs to be stopped; not only to help our future generations to see things from multiple perspectives, but also to help them form opinions that are true to themselves while retaining a sense of open-mindedness to the opinions of others.

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