Allyson Floridia ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The censorship of books in schools has long been a topic of controversy. Many people believe that books such as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson should not be available for students to check out of their school library. Others believe students have the right to read whatever they please. This decision whether or not to ban a book is a difficult one, and its judgment makers face an enormous amount of pressure to make the “correct” choice. But what is the “correct” choice? Which books should be permitted for reading and which shouldn’t? Who has the right to make this verdict?
A leading argument for the censorship of books states that these books are not appropriate for students, especially teens and young adults. They contain grisly violence, racial discrimination, and sexual activities, among other sensitive subjects, which are not suitable at their age. If read, students may get the wrong impression. They might come to the conclusion that bullying, racial discrimination, and violence in and out of a relationship is okay. Parents fear that, after reading books with this content, their child will then emulate the behavior.
Another concern is that teens and young adults are not mature enough to fully comprehend these subjects. Rape, violence, and death are all complicated topics. It may be difficult for students at a young age, who don’t have a lot of worldly experience, to understand what these actions and the consequences of these actions mean. In this way, parents are trying to protect their child from some of the harsh realities of life. And while children deserve to grow up with a positive attitude and a straight moral code, other people believe that keeping these books from students is not the appropriate way to try and achieve this.
If students never read novels like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Beatrice Sparks’ Go Ask Alice—three books which have received numerous requests for censorship—then they may enter the adult world ill-prepared. By reading about discrimination, racism, and drug use, teens and young adults can enter the adult world with eyes open. It’s less probable that they will behave in such a way, and they may even help someone who is facing these problems. For those who believe that teens aren’t mature enough to read these books, this is underestimating them.
In today’s society, people are exposed to controversial issues from an early age. The news, movies, television, and video games constantly expose teens to violent activity. Through this exposure, they begin to learn what is right and wrong. And who’s to say media outlets shouldn’t be banned because of their inappropriate content, particularly since it’s much more visual?
Another subject in literature that has become extremely controversial, especially with the recent hype over E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, is violence in a relationship. Many parents have challenged books containing domestic abuse, including Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, in which the main character was raped, for similar reasons as other novels: they are inappropriate, they want to protect their children. However, censoring these books may not be the best course of action.
If novels where main characters are abused in a relationship are swept under the rug, teens who are in a situation where their significant other is emotionally and/or physically abusing them may not feel as though they can speak up. Instead, they’ll hide and sweep their abuse under the rug, much like the novel was. They might even justify the abuse in their heads, coming to the conclusion that they deserved it. Having the opportunity to read novels where domestic abuse is dealt with may help teens in these situations. They’ll realize that abuse is not okay and they can go to an adult or someone they trust for help.
With so many books containing sensitive subjects that parents believe should be banned, school officials must make the careful decision whether or not to keep the book. Many factors are discussed when doing this, including the aforementioned ones, and the matter of intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. Should the book be taken out of the school library, students should know that they can still read the novel if they want to. After discussing it with their parents, they can purchase or borrow it from another source.
The censorship of books is and will probably always be a source of controversy. Everyone has a different opinion as to what is appropriate. And ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide if they want to read the novel or not and if they are mature enough to. Below are the ten most frequently challenged works of 2013 according to the American Library Association.
1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence