By RENEE WANG
ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
As American writer Julius Lester once said, “Without mystery and complexity, there is no wonder; there is no awe; there is no laughter.”
School censorship is commonly known as the suppression of sensitive or disturbing topics in education. For different countries, the information given to students differs depending on the government. Likewise, in the United States, school censorship revolves around the avoidance of social issues like racism or religion. In accordance with the First Amendment, censorship calls for educators to balance their lessons by following certain guidelines while teaching their students.
Although the initial purpose of censorship is to avoid subjects that can potentially harm the learning mindset of students, school restriction has shown to have a negative impact on how growing adolescents perceive the world.
In the beginning, censorship often targeted works of literature, usually “long acknowledged classics” like Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), many of these books are challenged due to their use of “rough language” and “grotesqueness.” Book bans like these were active around most of the 1990s, where social issues of controversial subjects were not widely accepted.
While it makes sense to avoid graphic books due to being incomprehensible to younger ages, adults seem more concerned with the idea that all students should not have access to explicit writing at their age. However, many need to realize that these classics emerged when these topics were often remarked casually by people of their time period like To Kill a Mockingbird which portrayed how society worked through character dialogue, displaying the standards of basic communication. If schools challenge works based on the “bad” aspects of a book, it restricts how students can learn about past discrimination and, in this case, the historical situation of the 1930s. Learning this information makes students compelled to research more in-depth in cases that they find intriguing. Oftentimes, “offensive” books are the ones that provoke the actions and motivations of many jobs, like lawyers and doctors, when students are aware of certain social issues still occurring today they are more likely to act upon it.
Based on how many notable books were challenged due to controversial implications, if school districts discarded them, students will have a hard time. Additionally, the key problem of school censorship is the limit it puts on both the teachers and students on how they teach and learn.
Based on the idea, the realistic portrayals in controversial works promote problems all around the world, which can lead to a better understanding of people, especially in a very diverse country like America.
On the other side of the spectrum, teachers are also negatively impacted by censorship restrictions. First of all, teachers currently are quite limited in resources and the freedom to discuss their ideas with students. It is a negative aspect of censorship as a teacher’s insight can be a motivation to students instead of a boring and pre-planned lesson. Overall, censorship is detrimental to both the educational value students receive and the purpose of teaching.
However, not everything bad about censorship stems from the school district. Today, schools have to enforce the rule due to parental demand, and whether it is for a religious or personal purpose, some parents just do not want their child to have access to information they find unfavorable.
For instance, school districts of Florida and Tennessee have received many demands for the removal of a single book, which escalated into the idea that the district needed to revise their entire reading program. Although the request is made with good intent, parents do not give enough credit to children and their judgment of realistic scenarios. And even if children are not aware of the issues occurring today, advocating for censorship is actually restricting student’s judgment and knowledge of the outside world. Schools as well should not follow the values of such individual views, as they are worsening the mindset of students by leaving them in the dark on important social issues.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that censorship policies have become more lenient. Recently, school districts are relinquishing many policies of censorship, where students are given more background and opinions on the discussed topic.
Ultimately, parents and schools need to learn that censorship can lead to a generation of narrowmindedness. On the other hand, students exposed to sensitive information are better able to grow in maturity and compassion.