Editorial: Ban at your own risk


Warning: This editorial contains mention of oral sex and explicit content. Please consult with your parent or guardian about the consumption of the following reading material.

The three top reasons cited for challenging books are the material was “sexually explicit,” contained “offensive language” or was “unsuited to any age group.”

Parents should be able to decide what your child can and cannot read — but that doesn’t include restricting the access to others because of your opinions. In this case, curriculums pose a bigger difficulty for parents — since they are not able to pick and choose which books get taught. But, in libraries, parents have more control over what their children read, without the need to outright ban certain titles.

In an age where mass communication and the Internet connects everyone, there are resources available to parents in the forms of apps, websites and blogs that talk about what books are age appropriate and why. An Internet search will tell parents what their kids should or shouldn’t be reading, and it’s up to individual parents to make that call.

Banning a book because you don’t want your child to read it is taking the opportunity away from others to read and learn from them.

Reading a book is the only way to travel to distant lands without moving from your chair.

It’s the only way to explore inside of other people’s minds as characters reveal their innermost thoughts, secrets and feelings.

Research shows individuals who often read fiction are better able to understand others, empathize and view the world from alternative perspectives. This remains true for young children because the more stories they read, the stronger their mental model of others’ intentions.

If this is the case, everyone should be avid readers — or, at least, parents should push their children to read. Although, many parents encourage reading, others try to ban books from students’ curriculums or local libraries. These challenges often don’t amount to bans, but the action itself is problematic.

Another problem with banning books is if they are banned, it’s oftentimes done without taking consideration the context of the story as a whole. For example, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green was the most challenged book in 2015 for a scene in which two characters engage in oral sex. But this scene is described in clinical language and is awkward for both characters. A couple of pages later, two other characters have a more intimate interaction that didn’t lead to any sort of sexual actions. When taken in context, Green is arguing that sexual encounters can sometimes be less meaningful than more innocent acts, like kissing.

The whole book is challenged for one scene, which is sometimes taken out of context. The themes of the book as a whole are often overlooked. “Looking for Alaska” deals with grief, loss and the adolescent mystery of finding oneself — all themes that can be explored in high school classrooms.

This isn’t the first book that has been challenged. Many books that are taught in high school English classes have been banned or challenged at one point or another. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger is arguably the most recurring and controversial on these lists, yet, who went through high school without at least one reference to Holden Caulfield in English class?

Not only are books supposed to entertain us, but they’re also supposed to challenge our world view. How will that happen if some books are prohibited simply because one person does not agree with them?

Putting age limits on books for curriculums might be a solution in this case.

Instead of saying no one should read this title, you can say this title is only appropriate for ninth grade and up. That way, teachers still have the flexibility to put the book in their curriculums, while staying age appropriate.

Although books are mostly challenged to protect children, isn’t it better for them to explore these topics, which they will eventually encounter as they grow up in a controlled environment like a classroom? Isn’t it healthier for them to analyze and contextualize books and their themes so they’re better able to react to situations when they arise in real life?

What does banning really do to protect kids from certain topics?

After all, a quick Internet search can give your kids more worrisome content that a fictionalized account of reality.

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