By: Dakota Rains, Arizona Delegation
The old saying goes, “dogs are man’s best friend” and I would like to disagree. Books and literature will always be the “best friend” of the human race. Everytime a book is opened, a portal to a whole new world is opened along with it. A portal full of outstanding works of fiction, heroic adventures, and even cautionary tales. A portal you can get completely and utterly lost in and a way to escape reality or even dive deeper into it. No matter what or how you read, it’s apparent that literature is such an important part of our society and can influence generation after generation, no matter the genre.
The impact literature has on everyone, especially today’s youth, leads us to ask a vital question with the utmost importance. Why are books and overall classic works of literature constantly being challenged and even banned by federal governments and school boards across the country? According to a study by PEN America, 1,145 books were banned in schools all across the United States in the short, nine month time period between July 2021 to March 2022. This information not only shines a light on the topic in a clear and concise way but also shows that book bans are not just a thing of the past.
As the years go by, the list of banned books continues to grow larger and larger along with the reasons why they are banned. These reasons can range from a number of topics including LGBTQ+ content, race and racism, sexual health, overall sexual content, and offensive language, just to name a few.
Britannica.com defines censorship as “the changing or the suppression or the prohibition of speech or writing that is deemed subversive of the common good.” Censorship can occur in all manifestations of authority and within multiple forms of media. When given the definition, it is quite obvious that the widespread and constantly growing act of banning books in US schools is a strong act of censorship. One of the most notable details about this act, though, is that the challenges against books in schools are usually initiated by parents pushing school boards to take action.
As someone who has grown up with nothing but love and admiration for the literature that I have absorbed, I can say with confidence that my parents giving me full literature freedom is what helped shape me into the person I am today. Book banning within schools takes away the chances for young readers all across the country to experience personal change due to literature. That change should not be blocked from anyone but it especially shouldn’t be blocked by a child’s parent. When parents initiate challenging books, they are directly affecting their child’s education. Without books that discuss certain topics, a child can become completely close-minded to the world around them or even themselves. Education allows students to be exposed to the world around them. With this education censored, students don’t have the chance to read about people like them, be exposed to characters who are different than them, or read about experiences that they may face in the future. These are scenarios that students should not be shielded from not only for the sake of themselves but for the sake of others.
When it comes to the opposing side of the argument, there is quite a lot to consider. When asked about their stance on book bans, one anonymous delegate stated that “book bans ensure that the content is regulated”. Another delegate stated that “book bans keep younger children from books that may not be mature for their age group, elementary school kids don’t need to be exposed to scenes and scenarios that may seriously upset them”.
These are excellent points from the opposing side. It is more than understandable that people believe in content regulation for younger students but at the same time, when does that regulation stop and where do we draw the line? As students grow older and become more mature, it is important that they are exposed to ideas and situations they are not used to. I understand that I sound like a broken record but it is so important that students are allowed these opportunities and book banning takes every chance of that happening away.
Book bans are overall not ideal and not something that should be as consistent as they are today. School boards, parents, and the federal governments participating in said bans need to truly think about what may happen when they ban books. Asking questions such as “will this book benefit students in learning their life experiences?” or “will this book provide strong learning opportunities to multiple groups of students?” is an important thing for these people to consider when deciding to challenge a piece of literature. If the answer is yes to questions such as these, it’s important to allow these students to have these books available to them.