By BRYCE ADDISON M. PINEDA
Books are considered to be the fountain of knowledge, but why are certain books banned from being discussed in school?
The art of literature serves as a way for students to expand their knowledge base through a different pair of lenses. In school, students are taught to read between the lines in order to appreciate the heart that is put behind the creation of a literary work rather than what is merely seen on the surface.
Although that is true, some school boards have made cases in order to bar these pieces of literature from being available in campus libraries and from being integrated into the curriculum. Some of these cases advocating against the inclusion of certain literary works have even reached the supreme court such as Minarcini v. Strongsville City wherein the plaintiff argued that literary works such as Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle possessed obscenities which were unsuitable for students to be reading.
It is clear that the issue of groups advocating for book censorship is one to be taken seriously, as it had already reached the level of the Supreme Court. To understand the situation better, one must first figure out the answer to the question: Why exactly are these works being put into question? Certain literary works should not be banned from school due to their content, as it writes off the meaning behind the book and bars introspective discussion about their contents. After all, are they not meant to serve as an academic tool for students to learn analysis and comprehension skills?
Just some of the most challenged books in the United States include Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. These literary works were put into question for a variety of reasons ranging from the inclusion of vulgar language to the depictions of sexual acts in certain scenes. Although they were challenged for these reasons, the obscenities in these books serve an important purpose—to add weight to the emotions expressed by the author in the text and to reflect the characters more effectively.
One of the biggest gripes which comes with banning specific books from schools is that it places the blame on the book instead of however the student internalizes its contents when a child picks up these bad influences.
Students should be free to discuss taboo topics in an academic and analytical manner. Through talking about the thought-provoking topics seen in literature, they can freely gain new knowledge and start introspective forums about what exactly they have read and how the book’s topics transcend fiction and reflect events which occur in the real world. Promoting this type of censorship in the material which students read through banning them simply highlights the topics considered to be taboo in them through the discouragement of discourse from being opened in the first place.
Opposers may argue that by allowing these books to be read in school, it exposes the children to immoral material that would influence them negatively, but the opposite effect can be achieved through proper education and enlightenment. By discussing these topics through an academic viewpoint, students will be able to see deeper meaning besides what is initially seen as shocking material. Letting students absorb these literary works whose themes are amplified by the use of strong language and graphic plot points will allow them to view these situations in a way which promotes inquisitive thinking and competence in literacy.
If students were to be shielded from these works in fear of tainting their morality, then they may not be able to appreciate the contents of the book and the purpose which they serve. Furthermore, this course of action does not allow for students to view these serious topics in a reflective manner, as they are merely led to incorrectly assume that the text is simply filled with obscenities with no substance or justification behind the choice of words used in them.
At its core, literature serves as a way to stimulate one’s mind through the presentation of topics which some may find polarizing, and that is completely natural; an effective piece of literature is meant to rouse emotion and discussion within individuals. Through the prohibition of certain titles from being taught in schools, it closes the door for these important conversations from being opened up among students.
Through letting the younger generation delve into these more adult-oriented topics in a class setting, it allows them to view and come to their own conclusions about the contents of these literary works in a mature way, paving a future wherein students can freely discuss more controversial topics in the pursuit of education without the cultural and social taboos permeating them.