A major goal many schools aim for is to provide young students with substantial knowledge of the amazingly diverse world they live in. Although this seems to be the case, more than 11,300 books have been challenged for controversial material since 1982; 311 books were challenged recently in 2014 (American Library Association). The fact that books are constantly being banned illustrates how in many schools, knowledge is being withheld from students.
Although some students may be sensitive to controversial material, banning books from their school libraries is damaging because it takes away their rights, limits their academic skills, and promotes erasure of “controversial” topics. People need knowledge outside the school curriculum to grow, and taking away the freedom to read denies them necessary experience. Every American citizen’s rights are stated in the United States Constitution, which was created to establish the framework of the American government system.
The First Amendment prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech [and] infringing on the freedom of the press. ” Therefore, the act of schools banning books goes against the right to express and publish information without censorship or restraint (Constitution Center). Free press and free speech are key contributors to a beneficial society. When students have open access to more ideas, they develop a better understanding about critical issues in their community and can use their new experiences to solve problems.
Free speech is also a “social good” because “those who are free are more fully developed as human beings (Silberman). ” With these concepts in mind, banning books does not protect students, but rather deprives them of human rights and important skills needed to grow. By taking away books from libraries, schools strip students of their educational experience. Books can be a huge source of learning, so by banning them, schools limit the amount of content that is provided in their classrooms.
Reading books also grants kids many other educational benefits. Dr. Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown concluded in their 2013 research for the Institute of Education that “The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree (Institute of Education).
Another conclusion they reached was that “those who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results in all three tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly. ” This research proves that reading is a significant part of a student’s academic growth, which can develop critical thinking skills and can prepare them for their future challenges. Taking away reading materials robs children of major educational opportunities, which opposes the opinion that banning books protects children from “harmful” subjects.
The normalization of banned books has led to the erasure of important factual information. Multiple historical misrepresentations showed up in textbooks around America; McGraw-Hill’s books stated that “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations (Yanan Wang). ” These books, meant to educate students, are erasing hugely significant facts about important events, which negatively affects their education.
By covering up “controversial” topics in real-life events, publishers such as McGraw-Hill cheat students out of an authentic academic experience while erasing and undermining the history and many struggles of minorities. It might seem as though banning books with controversial topics is an effective way to protect kids, since they might not be mature enough to read about certain subjects. However, what this argument overlooks is that those risky topics can be accessed almost anywhere thanks to other forms of media.
The internet, newspapers, and radio shows are all easily accessible and talk about contentious material. This view also fails to consider that readers are not bound to read every single controversial book. Students and their parents have a choice in whether or not content is appropriate for them, and the freedom to choose what they will be exposed to. Banning books is ineffective because “risky” material is everywhere, not just in schools, and it is robbing students of decision making skills and stopping them from learning what they are comfortable with.
In closing, censorship in a high school library is not a good idea. Although it seems to protect students, censoring material takes away their rights, halts their development, and erases history to make it uncontroversial. If book banning continues, students will not have an environment where they are encouraged to learn, and will grow up with a narrow perspective on the world.