There is Value in Teaching Banned Books in Schools

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Several things that are banned make sense. Lasers banned from airports: reasonable. Firearms banned from sporting events:  logical. But books banned from schools? That seems counter-intuitive.  Isn’t the whole purpose of school to help students learn?  And isn’t one of the key sources of learning books?  Banning books from schools is taking away a valuable tool teachers use to help students learn essential lessons.

According to the American Library Association, books are banned/challenged to protect children from “difficult ideas and information.”  But is it protection that children really need?  How do kids learn to think for themselves and deal with tough things if they are not ever exposed to them?  Yes, it is our job to protect kids from things that are truly dangerous, but I’m not convinced difficult ideas are truly “dangerous.”  Further, giving kids the chance to read these books offers many benefits.

Several of these banned/challenged books encourages students to question things that have happened in history that they never will experience, causes them to think critically about difficult events, and allows them to have tough conversations in a safe environment. For example, according the American Library Association’s list of Top 10 challenged books, Harper Lee’s ­To Kill A Mockingbird was number 7 in 2017. This is shocking to me because the main purpose of the book was to raise questions about racism in the courts, and at the time this novel was written, African-Americans weren’t being treated fairly.  Yes, this is difficult to read about but it allows students to get a glimpse of a world they haven’t experienced and think critical about the difficult issue of racism.  Another classic that is challenged is The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This book is challenged because it dehumanizes humanity. This book causes students to stop and think about what would happen if there were no rules or civilization in the world.   In addition, these books have served as a basis for some intense challenging conversations that have helped me explore what I really think and be able to hear ideas different than my own.

Therefore, there are several life lessons that can be gained from reading banned/challenged books. They help us experience history and the unjust acts that were happening at that time,  these books allow us to question things in life that we normally would not think about, and teach us how to have difficult conversations in a safe place.  Aren’t all of these skills that we want from our education? If reading books that may have difficult content results in creating students who can think critically and have conversations about hard things, isn’t it worth fighting to keep these books in our schools?  We can’t be protected forever.  Once we’re out in the real world, it’s not going to be all cupcakes and butterflies, so it’s better for us to learn now where we can explore these ideas in a safe environment.

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