teven Chobsky said, “Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.”
Banning books prevents the creation of thought about difficult matters, matters that should be thought about — especially by the young.
Highland Park school district recently banned seven books. Then, they reinstated all seven books that were banned. The books were “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Gareth Stein, “The Working Poor: Invisible in America” by David K. Shipler, “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison, “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.
The books were reportedly banned because of parent complaints of sex scenes, references to rape, abortion and abuse. Although these books do contain what the parents complained of, they are not the only books required for high school reading that contain sex scenes, references to rape, abuse and abortion.
My first example: Shakespeare. The only difference between Shakespeare and modern literature is that not everybody takes the time to dissect his written words or what they mean. If they did, those parents who wanted those books banned would — going off of content —want Shakespearean plays banned as well — and for the same reasons.
Dallasnews.com reported parent Aimee Simms saying the school should just teach classics as opposed to young adult books that “dumb down” literature.
My last column compared a young adult series to Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” and that young adult series certainly didn’t “dumb down” literature. Was it easier to read than Dickens? Yes, but almost everything is easier to read than Dickens if written in English and not Tolstoy.
I think it’s wonderful that schools are teaching modern literature as well as classic literature. To ignore one the new would be like looking at the recent bombings on Syria without looking into the past relationship with Syria and how they came to be bombed today. If you only read the classics, then you only get one half of the story — you don’t know what they led to.
I believe all literature is connected, like all history. Things happen because other things happen. Some books were written because of other books an author read, or maybe because of books someone else couldn’t read.
One of my favorite books I read in high school was “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. For those who don’t know, it’s about a government that burns books and a man who doesn’t want to comply. It does, of course, have deeper meanings and leads to further insights on government and politics and the individual, but it is a book about burning books — about not burning books.
My second example: “Swallowing Stones” by Joyce McDonald, which I read as a freshman in high school. In this book, a teenage boy “gives” his friend a girl to sleep with for his birthday. The sex scene was awkward, bumbling and embarrassing for both characters involved and the reader. However, it made everyone think. We had a class discussion about it, a discussion that led to morality and the gray areas in between.
Looking back, I think that is the amazing part. We were a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds discussing about why something was wrong, how it could have been worse, how it could have been better and doing it all with a reminder that we weren’t condemning anyone, we were discussing a book and the idea it carried. Maybe this discussion gave people second thoughts about their own lives or maybe it was just another day at school. Yet, school is there for the purpose of teaching, not tiptoeing around big issues and how they are perceived by different generations. Banning books doesn’t make those issues go away, but it does slip them under the spotlight.
So I’m not going to say stop banning books. I say, go ahead. Ban them, and watch as more people read them and more people start forming their own opinions about the book and its contents. Even if the book is gone, the idea will remain.
Anne Fox is a reporter for the Rockwall Herald-Banner and Royse City Herald-Banner. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @georgiaannefox.