Ban Books, Ban Thought

November 11, 2009 at 12:10 am 1 comment

Close a book, close your mind.

I thought banning books was something that happened in the past, or maybe in the Bible Belt. Sure, I knew that His Dark Materials had been banned in  elementary schools for its anti-religious content, that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned because of Huck’s use of a now-rascist word, and that The Catcher in the Rye has been banned for its sheer volume of profanity, references to homosexuality, and Holden’s hiring a prostitute.

But I certainly never expected to read in my local newspaper that the parents of the William S. Hart Union High School District are pushing to ban The Glass Castle and The Bean Trees, on the grounds that these books contain inappropriate sexual content and profanity.

Restricting books with sexual content in elementary school or possibly middle school makes some degree of sense. But in high school, students have already had (or should have had) at least one year of sexual education. Many of them are actually having sex, so the argument that books with sexual content should be banned is more than a little ridiculous.

One point the parents have raised is that it’s not just sexual experiences, but sexual violence portrayed in the books in question. Putting aside the fact that I cannot recall a single scene of sexual violence in The Bean Trees other than an implication that one character was a victim of such in the past, high school students range from 14 to 18 years of age. That’s old enough to be watching the news, reading the papers; they should know that sexual abuse exists. And anyway, school is meant to educate children, not shelter them.

Even if that argument doesn’t convince you, say we remove all books with sexual content from school shelves. What would be left, exactly? And even if some books remained, surely some parent somewhere would demand that all books with violence be removed and all books that challenge traditional values be burned. That pretty much covers every great work of literature, so I’m not sure what teachers are meant to teach.

But this is one of those issues where everyone has a different opinion. What do you all think about book-banning? Is it okay to an extent? In any case? Please feel free to weigh in below!


Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: , , .

Letters from London by Julian Barnes Happy Birthday, LT!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Book Burning « Literary Transgressions  |  May 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

    […] (These events, of course, infuriate me for a whole other slew of reasons, some of which KT has wonderfully touched on in the past.) Rather, I find myself disgusted with any kind of book burning, particularly when rare and old […]


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