Quiet book banning. Why?

In the past few years, it has come to my attention (and probably yours), that many United States school boards are still banning books. I’m not talking about books that contain explicit sexual content; in fact, some of those books are actually being offered to students as part of an agenda and curriculum, but that’s an entirely different topic.

I was an elementary school and high school student the 1960s and 1970s. I grew up in a time during which many books were banned, including Lolita, Where the Wild Things Are, The Tarzan series, Catcher in the Rye,The Scarlet Letter, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, to name just a few.

Clearly, there is no rhyme or reason as to why these and other books were banned. Different decades offer up various excuses, but few are valid. In fact in my opinion, there is only one reason for adults to act as gatekeepers for young readers. Any sexually explicit content is often too nuanced, complicated, and therefore, worrying for young minds to process, and I am still of the mind that it is the sole job of parents to initiate such conversations with their children. In no circumstance is it the government’s responsibility to introduce sexuality of any kind to children. Have you seen who’s running things in the government? I wouldn’t put those people in charge of watering my houseplants, much less introduce the deep and complex topic of sexuality to my child.

So, those particular books and topics aside, let’s examine the practice of banning books in general. Legal precedent as to how the First Amendment should be considered remains vague in this area, which I find startling. If the First Amendment wasn’t written for just such matters, why was it written at all?

Politics of the day typically leads to the banning of various books. Classics such as George Orwell’s 1984 was banned for obvious reasons; Orwell clearly had an accurate bead on the downward spiral of absolute power, deception, and manipulation by (you guessed it) those in charge. 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was on the endangered books list for a while, because the powers that be thought it inappropriate to give human attributes to animals, if even in fiction.

In 1947, the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon was banned from the New York Public Library, simply because the head librarian hated the book.

Fahrenehit 451 is still challenged today because it contains “vulgar language and content.” I’m just going to leave that right there. Have you been inside a school media center lately? Watched a kid play Grand Theft Auto?

And my goodness, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree was banned because “the tree was too compliant, and the boy is demanding and selfish,” so the book was deemed as being sexist. Welcome to real life and real life issues.

I believe, and not simply because I am an author, that when any governing entity decides to ban reading a book just because those in power disagree with the book’s message, we should all push back. At the same time, I believe that sexually explicit books, including those that attempt to normalize sexual choices that should be absolutely left solely to adults, do not belong in elementary schools, or in any schools for that matter. Libraries abound. Book stores are still around. Amazon is wide open day and night, and parents who want to serve up such content to their children can access it anytime, anywhere. The internet is available to everyone. 

I will state it again. The government – or any elected governing body – is not equipped in any capacity to tell people what they can and cannot read. They are not even capable of governing themselves.

I have made it my personal policy, for years, to buy any book as soon as I learn that it is banned, or even being considered being banned. I will continue to do so until the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is stricken (and who am I kidding? I’ll still do it). 

No one has the right to tell adults what our minds can consume and consider. When someone assumes they do have that right, always ask yourself, “Why? What are they afraid we’ll learn?”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *