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Books have been banned in schools for as long as books have been included in school curriculums. Banning books refers to schools disallowing books, that they perceive to have inappropriate content, from being taught in classrooms. Although the reasons for banning books have evolved with society, books are still being banned in schools today. Books are banned for a variety of reasons, including offensive language, sexual content, violence, religion, and homosexuality (Crum). These reasons are often controversial and difficult to discuss in classrooms, so instead of incorporating these books into schools, books are banned. However, depending on the specific content of the book, these reasons could be up to interpretation of what is too obscene for students. It should not be up to schools to decide what books are and are not appropriate for students. When schools ban books, they are closing off students from controversial topics. It would be more beneficial for students to read these books within a classroom where they are allowed to develop their own opinions. Books should not be banned in schools because they shelter students from difficult ideas, which in turn can cause students to be close minded. Schools are also taking away a student’s opportunity to learn about the world around them or connect with the book’s subject matter. The negative impacts of banning books outweigh the positive impacts of actually banning them; the books that are banned, are often the books that teach students how to deal with complex situations in their own lives. Authors of banned books also could receive unfavorable treatment due to their books being banned. Books being banned misinterprets the author’s objective when writing books. Schools should not ban books from their curriculums because this goes against the first amendment, there are several negative impacts of banning books, and schools banning books misconstrues the author’s intent.
Banning books is in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (U.S. Const. amend I). To put this into current terminology, congress cannot prohibit people from reading, writing, or saying what they decide to. However, schools are given a certain amount of leeway when it comes to banning books. There have been many court cases relating to the relationship between students First Amendment rights and schools. These court cases are often brought to the student’s First Amendment rights being violated in some fashion. The article “5 Notable Banned-Book Cases for Banned Books Week” by Shanna Lisberg lists instances in which students felt that their First Amendment rights had been violated by their schools. In the case Board of Education v. Pico, the Island Trees School District had eliminated books based on their content being against religion. Then a student, Steven Pico, spoke out against the book’s removal along with a group of other students. The group, led by Pico, sued the school board stating that the banning of these books violated their First Amendment rights. This case was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court who said that the First Amendment allows students to read books of their choosing and that schools power to remove books has its limits (Lisberg). Although schools have limits to ban books, they are still allowed to do so. However, schools should not be excluded from the First Amendment since students are just as entitled to express their first amendment rights as anyone else. Schools banning books is in clear violation of students first amendment rights because it infringes on students right to read what they choose. Censorship would be included under the first amendment as well, since by definition it is in violation of the First Amendment. Censorship is defined as “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others.” (“What”). Banning books would also fall under the umbrella of censorship, therefore banning books would be in violation of the First Amendment as it is withholding information from the people, specifically students in this case. Whilst, censorship does not occur as often as it once did, banning books is still occurring today. As society has progressed over the years, so has the tolerance for inappropriate content. However, censorship still occurs in schools and the same books are still getting banned. Schools censoring books also takes away the students right to decide what they can and cannot read, doing so limits students ability to think for themselves and their maturation. Schools that ban books from their curriculums are robbing students of valid information that they should have access to. While the First Amendment disallows congress from interfering with people’s access to books, censorship is proof that this still occurs. Banning books is a prime example of censorship, a specific violation of the First Amendment. Censorship is more mild today than it has been in the past, however it still occurs through schools banning books. Schools should not ban books due to it being a form of censorship, which is prohibited under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. While there are legal reasons books should not be banned in schools, there also reasons that directly impact students.
There are several negative impacts of banning books on students. The negative effects of banning books are far greater than the positive effects, so while schools ban books for the benefit of the students, they can often be limiting the students instead. While books are banned to protect students from inappropriate content this could be causing them more harm in the long run. Banning books can exclude students and make them feel isolated. It can also disconnect students from the real world and discourage students from having their own opinions. What are these effects, and why are they limiting students rather than helping them? In the article “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children” by Paul Ringel, the negative effects of banning books are mentioned as well as the explanations as to why the effects are shielding young students. The source states that the books banned are usually the ones that students can connect most with, and by banning these books, schools are saying that some student’s life experiences are more valid than others (Ringel). This would be evident with a book banned due to references to sexuality, as students that are coming to terms with their sexuality would be sheltered from reading these books. Banning books in an example as such, could be incredibly detrimental to students and prevents students from reading books relatable to their situations. This can also lead to students feeling isolated and detached from their peers. If banning books is more harmful than rewarding, then schools should clearly not continue to ban books. Another negative impact on students would be that banning books limits student’s ability to learn about controversial ideas and how to respond to them. Books are banned due to contentious subjects, and when students read these they are introduced to these subjects in a contained environment which allows them to develop their opinions about them. Examples of banned books that teach students about debatable topics are mentioned in “10 Literary Classics That Have Been Banned” by Christopher Klein. One of the books mentioned would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which is banned due to racial discussions and profane language (Klein). To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic which informs students about racial issues and allows students to form their own thoughts about the storyline of the book. It is important for students to learn about history, and books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, provide an outlet for teachers to discuss a difficult period in history with their students. When schools ban books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, they are controlling how and when students are exposed to controversial topics. It would be more beneficial for students to learn about these topics within a classroom where the book’s content is explained to them and they are able to comprehend perspectives that may be different from their own. Discussing books like To Kill a Mockingbird, allows students to openly talk about controversial ideas with their peers. This generates a forum for students to develop their own opinions and why they think what they think about a subject. With all the benefits of reading banned books, and the negative impacts of not reading them, books should not be banned in schools.
When schools ban books, they are misconstruing the author’s intent. Schools banning books broadcasts a negative perspective on to the authors of these banned books. However , authors do not write books to harm students, but to inform them. Since the subjects of banned books are often controversial, authors seek to educate students on these subjects through books. When schools ban these books, they are taking the books out of context and creating an issue where there does not need to be. Contentious subjects are often difficult to discuss, and authors are giving students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with these topics and form their own opinions. Schools interpret this as authors trying to corrupt the unassuming minds of youngsters. What do authors think about their books being banned? The source “Quotes from 16 Famous Authors about Their Banned Books” by David Canfield, offers authors of banned books an outlet to share their thoughts on their books. The author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling responds to the idea that her books promote Satanism. Rowling says that she knows her books convey a noble story and objects to the idea that her books contain satanic references (Canfield). The Harry Potter series are some of the most frequently banned books, however the books themselves are seemingly innocent. Whilst Rowling’s books should not be banned to begin with due to the Harry Potter series being harmless for students, schools can interpret anything from books if they look hard enough, although it may not represent the author’s intent. Any book could be considered inappropriate for students in any given context, it just depends how hard schools want to look for a reason to ban a book. Authors write books with the intent to teach students right from wrong or to educate them on past events, so they are not doomed to repeat them. In the article “11 Quotes From Authors On Censorship and Banned Books” by Simon and Schuster, the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, responds to his book being banned. Wilde states that “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame” (Simon & Schuster). Books that are banned reflect difficult ideas that schools are not comfortable with, however these books present reality. Instead of banning these books, schools should promote them as they teach students about the reality of the world. Authors writing about controversial subjects do not do so because it is easy, writing about the subjects they do often presents a greater level of difficulty. Schools should not ban books because authors write about contentious themes to assist students, and when schools ban books they are putting out the idea that authors wrote these books to corrupt students.
The opposition would state that banning books serves as a way to protect children. The purpose of banning books is not necessarily to withhold information, but to filter the subject matter being delivered to students through books. This would make sense as banned books are banned due to controversial topics, and these topics often make people uncomfortable. When people are uncomfortable with certain subject matter, they generally choose to ignore it, as this would be the case for banned books. However, banned books are often the books that have the most to offer to students because they encourage students to have their own opinions and also how to handle difficult subjects. An example of a banned book would be To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, mentioned in “Banned & Challenged Classics” from the American Library Association. To Kill a Mockingbird was banned several times due to its racial themes and offensive language (“Banned”). While topics such as race or profanity could be considered as unsuitable for students, they also help students learn about these topics and how to grasp them. To Kill a Mockingbird contains a valuable insight into United States history, that shows students what life was like for African Americans in 1960’s, when the book is set. While To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most frequently banned books, it encourages students to think differently than they normally would. Banning books can also harm students more than it can benefit them. If a student were to be transgender, and they saw books that include transgender characters were banned, how would this impact their psyche? In the article “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children” by Paul Ringel, the impact of banning books on students is discussed, “keeping books about certain types of children or experiences out of libraries or putting them on separate shelves perpetuates a troubling vision of a sheltered American childhood that in fact has rarely existed.” (Ringel). When schools ban books, they are excluding life experiences and in doing so present the idea of what a student is supposed to be. To summarize, when schools ban books they are eliminating a student’s’ opportunity to connect with a character in a similar situation as them. Banning books does not protect students, but shields them from the world as it is.
Banning books in schools is still an ongoing issue. Books should not be banned because they encourage students to be tolerant of others and they also offer students a different perspective. As previously mentioned books can be subject to banning for several reasons, however it should not be up to students to determine what is appropriate for students. Banning books is also a form of censorship which is in violation of the First Amendment. Although schools are given slack when it comes to the application of the First Amendment, this should not be the case. Schools should not be excluded from the first amendment and should not be able to ban books. Banning books does more harm than good for students as well. Books allow students to connect with characters going through similar circumstances, but when schools ban books they are robbing the students of this opportunity. Banning books also relates the idea to students that some people’s life experiences are more valid than others, this is unacceptable and should not be presented to anyone, especially impressionable students. Schools banning books also presents the idea to students that if they do not like something, they can just ignore it. This is not a positive lesson to teach students, as schools need to teach students to be accepting of others ideas. Books with controversial issues educate students about difficult concepts in a way that is easy to understand, and with this understanding students are able to apply this to other aspects of their lives as well. Banning books misinterprets what the author may have been trying to get across, and in doing so can give the authors a poor reputation. Overall banning books hinders students development since they are not able to read books containing subject matter that may be considered inappropriate for their age group. Reading books that discuss controversial issues is significant because it allows students to form opinions and also learn how to healthily debate these issues with their peers. Banned books expose students to ideas they may not have heard much about and topics they may not have had any opinions on. Books are a great way to motivate students to have their own beliefs while also teaching students to respect others beliefs, especially if they are different from their own. Books also have far more to offer students if they are easily accessible within their schools rather than being banned. The negatives of banning books are far greater than the positives and schools should not ban books due to their content.
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