To Ban or Not to Ban should Never be the Question

By Annalise Bossert ’21

“Inappropriate language!”

“Against my beliefs!”

“Too radical!”

These cries against literature have occurred practically since the works themselves were born. People will always be offended and find certain books distasteful, but some go further and call for the books to be banned. While in some areas books can be banned from the area entirely, freedom of speech in the United States prohibits that. However, this has not stopped parents specifically from getting certain books banned from schools.

The latest example of book-banning in schools was the highly controversial Alabama ban on To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic novel by Harper Lee that concentrates heavily on racial injustice. Some have said that the derogatory language makes people uncomfortable.

This complaint is one of the most commonly heard against controversial books; however, this protest results in a society that becomes blind to its own faults. Ignoring tough subjects doesn’t make them go away, it only worsens the problem.

Take, for example, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is not meant to be an idealized version of the deep South in the 1930s; it is meant to be brutally honest and depict the rift between whites and blacks at the time. It is supposed to make people uncomfortable, because that is not how humans should be treated. Recognizing injustice is a good way to stop it from ever happening again. Forgetting it, however, condemns society to repeat itself.

Books are also frequently banned for much more banal reasons, like cursing or more thematic elements like adultery and promiscuity. Parents often argue against reading these books in classrooms, calling them inappropriate for their children to be exposed to.

While this makes sense for elementary and perhaps even middle school students, at some point children are going to grow up. If parents keep them innocent and ignorant of all the “bad” around them (and, oftentimes, the Internet is much more of a culprit than literature), when they go off on their own they will have absolutely no idea how to handle themselves. Literature, however, provides lessons to be learned, laying a firmer foundation for students to develop their own moral compass.

Finally, allowing a book ban, even at a school level, is unconstitutional and members of the community do not have to buy the book or read it; banning books, however, even from those who wish to read them, goes directly against the principles the founders of our country advocated for. Our freedoms are what make us separate, and no authority should be allowed to make certain books illegal.

Our first amendment right is freedom of speech, and no one should be able to change that. No matter how uncomfortable books make someone feel, or how “inappropriate” they are, the solution is clear: if you don’t like a certain book, don’t read it, but don’t stop someone else from reading it.