“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1952. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1940. What all of these books have in common is not just the fact that they have all won prestigious awards or that they are all on the AP book list, but that they are all on the banned book list, according to bannedbooksweek. org.
Books can get banned for any number of reasons, including the use of profanity, sexual content and even seemingly arbitrary reasons such as the use of magic. In the school district, if a parent has a complaint with a book, “the [school] Board will not permit any individual or group to exercise censorship over instructional materials, but recognizes that at times a reevaluation of certain material may be desirable,” according to Olentangy Local School District Board Policies.
“The question becomes: When can a parent decide what is best for someone else’s child?” library media specialist Robyn Starcher said. When a parent attempts to get a book banned, they are also taking the book away from other students whose parents may not have an issue with the book.
While it may be understandable why a parent would want to get a book with obscene sexual content banned, most banned books are commonly read by students in the school every year. Ellison’s “Invisible Man” has been banned in many schools due to its mature content. However, that is exactly why it is important for students to read the book.
While the book is not innocent in any way, it exposes students to controversial topics such as rape and is expertly written to convey the struggle of an African American man coming to terms with nationalism and his own identity. It is a truly complex book that students can learn a great deal from, but when it is censored because one parent feels that it is too mature, the rest of the students at that school are bereft of that learning experience.
Although parents may only ban a book for use of profanity, in the past the title “banned” has been a thinly-veiled act of discrimination. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was banned during the Civil War because it depicted slavery, which was considered abolitionist propaganda. More recently, five out of 10 of the most banned books of 2016 were banned because they had LGBT characters, among other reasons, according to ala.org.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was banned only a month ago at a school in Biloxi, MS for its use of racist language and profanity, according to The Washington Post. According to history.com, one of the earliest challenges to the book occurred because the book was considered “immoral” by several school districts.
Whether happening in the past or the present, books are banned all the time for the same reasons. However, the reasons that the books are banned are often the same reasons that the books should be read.
By censoring books, concerned parents and schools effectively prevent future generations from being exposed to “mature content”, which prepares them for life in the real world. Books like “Invisible Man” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are vital in teaching students about American culture and how far America has come since they were published in the 50s and 60s. It is a poor excuse to censor books that contain sexual content and profanity when students will, if not already, be exposed to both in the future and will need to have the life lessons that are so cleverly conveyed in the books.
Banning books is a superfluous act resulting from decades of discrimination and unnecessary protection of innocence. The books are critical in teaching future generations how to understand rather than to segregate people who are different from them. In today’s society, it is ludicrous for parents to rob their children of an opportunity to understand all aspects of today’s world.