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Book banning within libraries censors diverse literature

Nicole Mui Nov. 3, 2021

On Sept. 7, a school district in southern Pa. reversed its ban on a list of anti-racism and social justice resources after weeks of student protest. The ban previously froze access to books such as Rosa Parks’ autobiography on allegations of spreading unfalsifiable theories about race. Pulling controversial titles off bookshelves was never unique—the history of banned books covers thousands of academic institutions across the U.S. Yet, the question of whether potentially suggestive literature is condemnable often comes at the cost of diverse discussion.

Literary censorship was first established by the Supreme Court in its 1982 decision permitting libraries to ban books that include language inflicting harm upon a specific group. According to Butler University, the common determinants of book bans constitute racism, blasphemy or violence—themes considered inappropriate for children.

Kailey Hu Art

Even with its honest intentions to protect children from perverse content, the censorship of books is a double-edged sword, stifling open discussion around social issues. The American Library Association states the top books banned yearly in the U.S. often regard the LGBTQ+ community and racial injustice. For example, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee depicts two children living in Maycomb, Alab. during the Great Depression. Despite its observational remarks on systemic racism, Lee’s novel was removed from several classroom libraries for containing racial slurs.

Additionally, books have been banned for unconventional ideas about political ideologies. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” was censored for its unorthodox commentary on authoritarian dystopia, its criticism of media's numbing influence on society and how it paralyzes people into conformity. Marshall Education reports that reasons behind its removal were religious desecration and profanity, which ironically countered the very issue of censorship Bradbury’s novel intended to denounce. Although differing views may instigate ideological dispute, censoring them suffocates the dialectical conservations necessary for tolerance and transparency.

To counteract book censorship, the collective organization Banned Books Week was created in 1918. Toward scholastic liberation, it has hosted open discussions with authors of banned books and compiled data about controversial literature to inform children and adults alike, celebrating citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

Concerning children in public libraries, potentially offensive content may include concepts that are difficult to comprehend without proper guidance. By utilizing educational spaces, gradual exposure to contentious material may become important learning opportunities. Dr Seuss’s picture book “And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” depicting a young child strolling along a road, was banned for its stereotypical illustrations of peoples’ cultural identity. Rather than discard these works, it is crucial to assess how they impact society today; as The National Coalition Against Censorship states, literary heritage is important for recognizing people as flawed beings and, in turn, growing from previous errors. Teachers can review complicated literature and their thematic connections to the human condition with children.

“To Kill a Mockingbird does include racial slurs, but analyzing the text with the proper mindset institutes a negative connotation of derogatory language, discouraging people from saying it in the future,” Freshman Prateek Nedungadi said.

Along with guided literary discourse, removing outwardly false content is necessary for creating safe educational experiences. However, since most forbidden books are targeted for mentioning social matters, astute selection, not censorship, is key to banning resources containing justifiably negative impacts. According to School Librarian Leadership, public libraries who decide not to present misinformation on shelves is justified selection, while refusal to display books for controversy is censorship. Though the classification of explicit content is subjective, barring deceptive information is a commendable effort toward protecting children from harmful materials.

The push for banned literature has long prevented valuable discussions amongst readers. By properly analyzing the cultural importance of controversial texts, libraries can encourage innovative analysis without the use of censorship.


About the Contributors

Nicole Mui

staff writer

Nicole Mui is a sophomore at Leland High School and writer for The Charger Account. During their free time she enjoys reading, painting, and debating.

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