Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

September 25-October 2 are the dates of this year's Banned Books Week sponsored by the American Library Association. This week is meant to bring awareness to the many books that are challenged throughout the world. Most of the time, these challenges involve parents wanting certain books removed from school libraries. In 2009 there were 460 attempts to have a book withdrawn from a US classroom or library. While our neighbors across the pond don't seem to have this problem, it has become very common here in the US. Most of the time, the reasons given for the desire to ban a book are centered around a child's well-being. The parent wishes to shield their child from sexually explicit, racially charged, or extremely violent content. This is understandable and in many ways commendable, but it is not exactly possible. Here are some of my thoughts on banned books:

  • Ultimately, it all comes down to free speech. We, as Americans and humans, have the right to read (or write) whatever we wish, and we have the right to NOT read whatever we wish. If you don't agree with the content found in the book, put it down. I have stopped reading numerous books because I found the content distasteful.
  • Your idea offensive and my idea of offensive are not always the same. While I'm not surprised to see certain books on the list of often banned books (The Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, or anything by D. H. Lawrence), there were others that caught me off guard and left me scratching my head in wonder (To Kill a Mockingbird? Gone With the Wind? The Lord of the Rings?). I would hate for someone to come up to me and tell me that I can't read a certain book because they find it offensive.
  • You are the parent. If you are concerned about what your children are reading, monitor it, talk to them about it, or discuss it with their teachers. There may be a way to work out your differences of opinion on what should and should not be read in the classroom...
  • ...or maybe not. If you can't work any of that out with the school, you can always do what my parents decided to do. Homeschool. By sending your kids to public school, you are giving up some of your basic parental rights (schools can't cater to each parent's beliefs and standards), so if you want all of those rights back, you may have no other choice but to take your child's education into your own hands.
Ultimately, banning books does nothing to solve a problem. If anything it makes the problem worse. If people cannot read, learn, and decide for themselves, then a nation is sure to fall under tyranny (Nazis or Communism, anyone?). How about you? What are your thoughts on banned books? Is there ever a circumstnace when a book should be banned?

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