Against Banning Books | Teen Ink

Against Banning Books

August 30, 2009
By Neha Kumar BRONZE, Memphis, Tennessee
Neha Kumar BRONZE, Memphis, Tennessee
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The Catcher in the Rye. The Scarlet Letter. Huckleberry Finn. Harry Potter. The Diary of Anne Frank. Animal Farm. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Da Vinci Code. The Grapes of Wrath. These literary classics have been vital to the education of many, especially children and adolescents. These great novels both teach important values and educate children about world affairs and classic themes. Unfortunately, each of these novels has been banned at one point in time. Many of these classic stories have been banned because of sexual references, racial slurs, religious intolerance, or supposed witchcraft promotion. Although some may consider these books controversial or inappropriate, many English classes have required us to read these books. Like the teachers that assigned us these books, I believe that even controversial books can ultimately boost, not deter, our educational wealth. I oppose book banning for three main reasons. First, I believe that education should be open to everyone. Everyone should have an opportunity to read any literature of their choosing and form his or her own opinions based on the reading. Micah Issitt lists "three basic rights covered under the freedom of the press: the right to publish, the right to confidentiality of sources, and the right of citizens to access the products of the press." My second reason specifically addresses the last right stating that citizens should have access to the press. The government should not restrict books from being published or interfere into personal affairs as this is an infringement of the First Amendment. Finally, I believe that parents should monitor what their own children read, but not have the authority to ban other children from reading these novels. For these reasons, I conclude that the government should play no role in the issue what citizens do and do not read, and that book restriction should remain a solely private matter.
At first glance, the debate over banning books appears unimportant. Nevertheless, this debate has divided our nation into those who favor censoring books to protect their impressionable adolescents, and those who argue that education should be open for everybody without interference from the government in restricting the publishing and accessing of these books. Issitt argues that censoring books violates the First Amendment, stating that "citizens must be free to seek out any media, regardless of content, that they deem appropriate for entertainment, information, or education. Denying the rights of the consumer, in any area, is one of the hallmarks of authoritarianism."

While I do not equate banning books with "authoritarianism," we do endorse Issitt's belief that individual citizens have the right to choose, under their own discretion, what books to read. The First Amendment protects the freedom of expression and speech, and by prohibiting certain messages, the government clearly infringes upon public rights. On the other hand, Healey claims that censorship does not "repress information that teenagers and children are exposed to," but merely gives parents the rights to educate their children in the ways they deem appropriate. Though I concede that parents do have the right to monitor what their children read, they do not have the right to remove books from public libraries or monitor what other children in the city read. Healey attempts to persuade readers that "censorship of books should not be about silencing voices on important topics, but about steering young people toward the best possible literature;" however, she fails to specify what constitutes as "the best possible literature." Some of "the best possible literature" also happen to cause the most controversy, including Huck Finn, Harry Potter, The Scarlet Letter, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those who protest against these books have clearly not studied them in depth. For example, the main theme in Huckleberry Finn focuses not on advocating racism, as some suggest, but proving that race does not define a person's intelligence or capability for compassion. Even Healey admits that "concerned parents and community members react without taking the time to closely investigate the books they want banned."

While I agree that parents should play an active role in educating their children and as their primary guardians, have the legal right to monitor what their children read, I disagree that this legal right extends to controlling what other children in the neighborhood read as well. Prohibiting children from reading a book will not enhance their moral values. Rather, banning a book more likely will increase curiosity for reading it. I also empathize with parents who ban books with controversial or uncomfortable subjects because they are unsure as to how their children will react or how to explain such topics. A good way to discuss these subjects with children is to read books with various views on the subject so that children can experience multiple points of view before forming their own opinions. Healey herself agrees that such a method "might help young people better understand the world they live in, the human condition, and issues they face in their culture."

As Healey stated, parents also tend to ban books based on "moral grounds, although some books have been condemned for their perspectives on civic values and history." For this very reason, the general public should read these books. Our society, especially our younger children, needs to read these books since fully understanding a topic requires knowledge of both sides. If we choose to disregard even a highly unpopular opinion, we intentionally choose to live in ignorance, only partially educated in a topic we claim to know so well. Without a doubt, if we continue to ban books and ignore what some consider taboo topics, we hinder ourselves and our children from finding ways to solve society's problems, thus hampering the development of our nation as a whole.

Many conservative groups make the argument that the books that have been banned have material that is inappropriate, immoral or contradicting the beliefs they have ingrained in their children and/or their society. Take for consideration the controversial books that tackle difficult, touchy social issues like homosexuality. Books like "Heather Has Two Mommies," by Leslea Newman and "Daddy's Roommate" by Michael Willhoite (both books written for youth with gay parents) were shot down by conservative groups because they attempted to educate children about homosexuality, an issue parents felt needed to be taught to their respective children by them. While this may seem like a valid argument, really it is just skirting around the actual issue. Book-banning cases usually concern the protection of children and their innocence, but all that is happening is sheltering parents showing an awkward avoidance of their children's confrontation with uncomfortable matters. It is not only selfish, but also harmful to the overall education of their children. This act of prohibiting books is just the parents way of evading of the conversation with their child about these sensitive issues. These two books are issues that Healey brings up in her argument on how groups were upset about the way these books informed their children of homosexuality. Homosexuality and other touchy social issues are part of every day life, and for a group to attempt to censor this subject from younger society is almost absurd; these issues are not monstrous and the censorship of them not only shows prejudice but lack of respect. Banning books seems to be the most public solution for a private matter- not everyone should have to suffer restrictions because one group feels uncomfortable with the book. That being said, there are often books that contain graphic and often highly inappropriate material; I do consent that these books should be censored at the discretion of the parent, or anyone involved however, no one is forcing books upon others, so we should not be forced to remove them. Other groups would say that it's also the duty of the government to regulate these books to protect concerned citizens and their families, but I would have to disagree. It's the exact opposite of the government's role- our private lives, the books we read, should be regulated and controlled by us. Banning books from public congregations is not what the government was intended to do.

Topics that seem socially outlawed in public, let alone published, have been banned because their immoral content may have a negative affect on younger children. In these books, authors doesn't promote or encourage bad behaviors, they prepare their readers for some of the real world challenges. The child would never be able to learn these things if the book was banned, nor be able to form his or her own opinion about that certain topic. Healey discusses that the book, 33 Snowfish, a "dark story of three teenage runaways who are victims of various forms of abuse..." by Adam Rapp may be an unsuitable way to educate children on these timely topics. However, having these stories banned all together would just further shelter a child whose parents may not be willing to discuss these issues with them at all. Even though these books center around scary topics, they are educating children on real life matters that they will be exposed to once they venture into the world themselves. Healey goes on to make the point that the books should not be banned as well, since it is a matter of private opinion not one to be made by the public libraries of a community. She suggests that schools should "inform parents about the kinds of books they offer children" in their libraries and classrooms instead of banning them. With the knowledge that some of these books have to offer, children can learn how not to act and what can be the consequences if they do misbehave. This learning experience could turn around with the help of a parent and pass a positive affect over the child.

Clearly, banning books not only hinders a child's educational development but also leaves them unaware of the true state of the world. Books do not simply impart general information; they heavily influence a child, the future generation. Without regular access to books, both adults and children could not form sound opinions, only narrow-minded ones. Both advocates and opposers of book banning agree that "books are powerful instruments." Otherwise, a debate on the subject would neither have arisen nor lasted so long. Because books "can be used to...inculcate values and transmit ideology, and to stimulate the imagination," as Healey suggests, any person should remain free to select his or her reading material. This personal issue of selecting reading material has no relation to the government. On the contrary, government action interferes with individual education, a primary American value. Ultimately, children can learn personal responsibility in determining which books to regard and which to discard. In the future, these children will become well-educated adults who can benefit the American society.

The author's comments:
The irony of banning books: are you really "protecting" your children from the evils of the world?

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This article has 37 comments.

on Jan. 28 2012 at 11:20 pm
PaePoQuin SILVER, Espanola, New Mexico
8 articles 4 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The simple joys of life will forever leave me speachless."
"Don't point your finger at crazy people!" - Girl Interrupted

I agree! In the past during the Holocaust, Hitler banned books. He burned them and millions of people were stripped from their stories. Since he was able to burn the books he was able to subject the Jewish population to near extinction. Are we, as a country, any better than Hitler? If we take away from our own history we will be easy to milipulate and in the end, it will be our down fall.

on Jan. 11 2012 at 7:16 am
Balletgirl6 BRONZE, Columbus, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Common sense would tell parents never to send their children to a ballet school. Common sense would tell teenagers that there is a wider and happier world beyond the grueling strictures of daily barre and class. Common sense would tell the graduating student that there are infinitely superior ways of making money than joining a professional ballet company. Common sense would tell a young dancer that very few (laughably few) of his or her colleagues will ever make it to the top or even near the top. Yet... there remains the dance and the dancer.” - Author Unknown

Great job! I completely agree with you, books with controversial subjects expose children to the subjects prior to the real- world. Books like this not only increase their reading level, but expand their exposure and prepare them for later in life!

Joo77 said...
on Jan. 11 2012 at 7:16 am
Joo77, Juliustown, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I have not yet read a book that I felt put me in any of these positions. They really don't seem that bad. Banning them would be like banning Dr. Suess. There is alot of controversy around these boks. Iv'e only read a few of them but they don't show any of the traits you have mention to an exteme state.

on Dec. 27 2011 at 6:56 pm
BlueRain BRONZE, Clarkston, Michigan
2 articles 5 photos 254 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you was beyond my control."

I think if parents are facing a situation where their children want to read a certain book but they are nervous about it, then they should read it with them. Then if anything bad or confusing comes up, it can be discussed. But really, are we still in the age where we think little demons are going to fly of the pages into our kids just because they read the book? If your child decides to follow immoral behavior because of something they read in a book, that is their fault and the parent's fault for not teaching them better. I mean, I read the entire Twilight series, and I actually liked it at first. Then I began to think what the books were Really saying and how well written they were Not, and now my opinion of them is completely different. The books showed me relationships I did not want. Abs and sparkles don't mean anything. And then I went back to some real literature. Reading is all about interpretation and how you act on it. While us Potterheads value the friendship, courage, and strength shown by Harry, Ron and Hermione in the face of a greedy media and bullies of various sorts, all the religious people want to concentrate on is that "Oh! They use magic! Who cares if they're a group of kids Fighting evil instead of submitting to it! They don't mention God or Jesus at all, can you believe it? It's all evil!!!" Good job judging a book by it's cover and not looking deeper than the summary. But if that's what keeps them happy, so be it.. Just let us have the freedom to have our own interpretations! Ideas can be weapons, but it's not about the ideas that you are given, it's how you use them.

EnderWiggin said...
on Nov. 3 2011 at 2:37 pm
EnderWiggin, Pittsfield, Maine
0 articles 0 photos 21 comments
I agree with you. I mean, even Twilight can be used as an example of what not to do when writing a novel.

wavesofgrace said...
on Oct. 20 2011 at 7:36 pm
Teenagers (and adults) do not want to admit that there might actually be content in books that is not worth reading.  Just because something is out there and I need to be educated on it does not mean that I need to read a pornographic book about it.  I mean really?  It is important to be knowledgeable about certain topics, but just like you try and make good choices with your eating need to make good choices with what you read.  This isn't about someone telling you what you can and cant read.  This is about people making good choices all on their own.  It is actually kind of sad that we need other people telling us this.  

on Jul. 26 2011 at 12:00 pm
yousaypotato... SILVER, Peacedale, Rhode Island
9 articles 1 photo 42 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A good friend will bail you out of jail. But a best friend will be sitting right there with you saying 'Dang, we really screwed up this time.'"

I must confess i didnt read the whole thing. it seemed quite daunting....but i doooo agreee with you on all terms. those books mostly hamper the use of slurrs. and they introduce readers to the world, which is not always a carebear full world. and it does contain worse than frivilous fictionary "witchcraft"....

on Jul. 4 2011 at 12:24 am
abnormal PLATINUM, Jonesboro, Georgia
24 articles 8 photos 44 comments

Favorite Quote:
Truth is eternal. Knowledge is changeable. It is disastrous to confuse them.

-Madeleine L'Engle

Yeah, I didn't even finish it. 

 I do agree about the parts I read though.  Parents have a right to their own children, not anyone else's.  They shouldn't complain to the school board or some offical about not wanting their kid to read a certain book; they should handle that themselves.

on Jun. 14 2011 at 6:07 pm
Jasmine7 BRONZE, Cecil Lake, Other
1 article 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou

I agree, but yor essay too wordy- the reader loses interest too soon. I think you could easily get your point across with some shorter pargraphs!

megantron said...
on Apr. 17 2011 at 3:20 pm
Amazing essay!!!

Butter said...
on Dec. 2 2010 at 11:15 pm
I agree but i think that some books should be banned because okay they are there for a reason for people to read them but some kids are still not at the right age to know about sexualism and all that other things like violence etc. its true that sooner or later they will know about it but there is a right age for that also now a day kids get access to anything they please its not really upto the parents because they dont know if their child had access in the internet or at the library. that is why i strongly believe that SOME books should be banned because of what they contain.

melloves92 said...
on Oct. 15 2010 at 2:19 pm

Do not burn literaure.

Burning books is a disgusting display of censorship.  People should always have the option of reading whatever they choose.

vicky1987 said...
on Apr. 6 2010 at 12:16 pm
That article was brilliant!. I'm researching teenage literature in an attempt to understand why teenagers so often go to the adult section to find the books the want to read. I have found a new genre of fiction "urban literature" which not only deals with sex, drugs and gangs in an unintelligent way but also contains reoccurring grammatical and spelling mistakes. I completely agree with the article in that banning books is an infringement of freedom of speech, however I feel not enough is being done to reduce the curiosity of "inappropriate literature" aimed at teens. It is no wonder books such as The Wizard of Oz and even the Diary of Anne Frank have become less appealing when placed next to brightly coloured books covered in bold vibrant graffiti typography. In a lot of cases more classical books are subject to poor marketing and poor design, and lets face it, however the saying goes we DO judge books by their covers. I say out with the new in with the old, so much classic literature surprisingly deals with up to date subject matters with characters you can still relate to, all that is needed is a revamped image (look at Alice in Wonderland). Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

NatalieB. GOLD said...
on Dec. 31 2009 at 11:48 am
NatalieB. GOLD, Loudon, Virginia
12 articles 0 photos 61 comments

Favorite Quote:
Make your own lines, and color outside of them.

Its just so ridiculous how things are working this day and age!!!! It's bad enough that the school ystem have banned the great works of Poe, but the literature issue is just infuriating!!! First' I would like to say that most children and adolescents do not read heavy literature. Second, the few children who do are mature enough to handle  sexual  refrences,racial issues, and whatever the language trend was in those time periods and are trusted not to repeat any explicet content they read. It's completely insane!!!!

on Dec. 9 2009 at 9:14 pm
Emily555 BRONZE, Virginia, Minnesota
1 article 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
Winners practice until they get it right. Champions practice until they can't get it wrong.

I have never heard of a book being banned in this time. Really? It certainly didn't happen where I live. I would be very disappointed if one of the books I liked was banned. I think it would be rather idiotic to tell a kid that they couldn't read something, but that may be just me.

brunelle said...
on Sep. 12 2009 at 7:08 pm
I completely agree with you! I see absolutely no reason for books to be banned and think it ridiculous that anyone would try to do so.

Swute52 said...
on Sep. 10 2009 at 8:42 am
That was amazing. wow =]