Friday, March 14, 2014

Banning Books: Are They Helping or Hurting?

This bothers me. A lot.

I was on Facebook, and a blog post came up from John Green that caught my attention. Now, I'm not a complete, die-hard Green fan, but I have read two of this books (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) and they currently stand on my list of favorites, both in terms of fictional plot and characters, but also for the fact that they're books that really get me thinking about life and society and people.

So this blog post was about a group of parents in Colorado petitioning to "cleanse" the reading list of a literature class at their students' high school. I won't summarize, here's Green's words:
"Earlier today I received an email from a high school English teacher in Strausburg, Colorado who plans to teach an elective Young Adult literature course. A group of parents created a petition to "cleanse" the book list, claiming that the majority of the books on the curriculum, "are profane, pornographic, violent, criminal, crass, crude, vile, and will result in the irreparable erosion of my students' moral character.""
(read the entire post here:
In my opinion, this is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard, and it's also something I hear a lot of (I also tend to use more swear words when I'm talking about it in-person, too). And I'm not going to talk about just John Green; I want to talk about everything. I want to talk about the fact that Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher) and The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) were among the top ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2012, as reported by the American Library Association. Reasons for challenging these books include: "Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group" (Thirteen Reasons Why) and "Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit" (The Kite Runner).

I read both of these books when I was a 13 year-old freshman in high school. One was assigned by my English teacher, and the other was a book I bought myself at the book store. Like Green's books, they're both the kinds of novels that make me think about everything by the time I'm done with them, and that's a tribute that I really appreciate in books.

If my parents had seen me reading them and proceeded to take them away and tell me I wasn't allowed, do you know what I would have done? I would have gone to the bookstore, the library, a friend and read the book anyway. Now, trust me, I wasn't a rebellious teenager; the most rebellious thing I've ever done is get my cartilage pierced and get a tattoo, and both of those weren't until I was 18 years old and in college. But the fact is, the only person who can tell me not to read something is me.

Guess what? We all have the power to stop reading something if it makes us uncomfortable. Shocking, isn't it?

If I went to my parents and told them that the book I was reading for class made me uncomfortable, or that I didn't like it, do you know what they would have asked me? They would have asked me why. And then I would have to think about it. And isn't that the point?

It grinds my gears when I hear friends say, "I've never read that book because my parents wouldn't let me," or, "If we were caught reading that at my school we would have gotten into trouble." And I sometimes feel bad for them, because it wasn't them who were able to make the decision for themselves, it was somebody else. And it just reminds me of how many authority figures try to control what we think and what we learn.

Guess what? Teenagers drink and do drugs. Sex exists. There are a variety of four-letter words that aren't the nicest of things to say and there are more religions in the world than I could ever hope to memorize and not everybody is heterosexual. Instead of banning books to keep our young adults from being exposed to it, why shouldn't we let them decide for themselves, instead of letting society tell them: "This should make you uncomfortable."

Stay Crazy,


Thoughts or Questions? Let me know what you think!

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