What should be restricted from children has always been a debate among parents, but it has also become a debate within school communities.
This ongoing debate over restriction led to a discussion about what children should and should not be allowed to read. In public schools, books are being banned for controversial content. It is not a school’s place to limit what a child has access to read. It should be their job to give children the options and access to different kinds of content within the learning environment.
Recently in parts of the United States, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Eastern Washingtonian Sherman Alexie was banned in schools for being supposedly profane, including racial labels and anti-Christian rhetoric, according to many parents who complained about it despite it being an award-winning novel.
If a parent does not like the content of a book, then they can tell their children not to read it. None of the things listed above are the focus of the novel. They are just tools used by the narrator to relay the views of a Native American teenager.
Looking at other books that are on the list of banned books around the nation, it seems to follow a pattern. Points of view that don’t match up with a set of community values are deemed inappropriate. All are books that offer a different story and different perspective of the world.
One popular example of a book that is banned in many different places across the country is Harper Lee’s award winning “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” The profanity in the novel is mild at best, the direct violence is minimal and the views are not religious. The whole point of that book was to show racial injustices that happened in America in a time where racial issues were common and unaddressed. The book is banned in some places because parents complained about the racial slurs within the book.
Sheltering children from history in schools will not protect them. It is a work of fiction and if parents were so concerned about the slurs, then they should talk to their children about it.
Children who are curious and want to expand their world should not be limited because of others. Taking away the ability to see other perspectives shown through novels limits how a child can expand their own identity, knowledge and vocabulary.
Most of the banned books deal with social issues and ways these characters deal with them. They give some children hope, and not all children can relate to the classic white male perspective. Some children need to know that there is someone like them willing to help, or that being a different ethnicity doesn’t define their worth.
Banning any book because it doesn’t agree with one’s religion or ideals is wrong. Even if someone cannot relate and doesn’t seek it out, there will always be someone who needs that connection to the world. Removing any book just removes ways children can do that safely.
Banning books doesn’t help children — it hinders them in finding their own normalcy, and wherever they go looking for it in the real world, it will be a much harder road.
Don’t just hope that that road has no dead end. Allow the promotion of seeking different perspectives so that children can see other paths. A child somewhere will need it.
Mary Emert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org