Do Schools Have the Right to Ban Books?

Andrea Lenser/Staff Writer

Photo Credit: from the following website

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/books-behind-bars/

Harry Potter. Lord of the Rings. Gone with the Wind. The Catcher in the Rye. The Lord of the Flies. The Grapes of Wrath. To Kill a Mockingbird. These titles, among a plethora of others, have a prevailing characteristic: censorship. 

It is difficult to believe that in today’s day and age it is possible to be denied access to a book, but sadly this is a widespread trend. Book censorship first appeared in the early to mid-20th century and is still an issue in today’s society. The most common reasons for a book to be banned include obscene language and imagery, defamatory statements about certain groups of people, and expressing strong opinions over sensitive topics. 

The Grapes of Wrath is an example of a novel that is often a target for banning because of its profanity and vulgar terminology. A parent of a student at Cummings High School in Burlington, North Carolina said, “My son is being raised in a Christian home and this book takes the Lord’s name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it.” (www.ala.org)

Any mature adult can confirm that profane and vulgar vocabulary is common in today’s culture and that a book isn’t the only place to experience words like that being used. It is understandable for parents to want to shelter their children from mature words that are prevalent in books like The Grapes of Wrath, but it is absurd to ban a book for that reason when students can be exposed to those words elsewhere. 

Similarly, To Kill a Mockingbird was challenged at the middle school in Brentwood, Tennessee because the racial slurs included in the novel bolster “racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy.” (www.ala.org)

 The novel may seem as if it is supporting racism and white supremacy, but what must be understood is that this novel is set in the past. To Kill a Mockingbird is simply telling a coming-of-age story that talks about past issues of racism that are still relevant today. In order to correct modern issues, people need to study and understand how the issue was handled in the past so that history does not repeat itself. This book has the potential to guide society to end racial discrimination and shouldn’t be shunned because of the truth it yields. 

The Lord of the Rings, along with other works by J.R.R. Tolkien, were burned outside Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico in 2001 for being “satanic.” Books with similar themes, such as the Harry Potter series, have also been banned for promoting witchcraft. 

While these books involve magical elements and witchcraft, they aren’t meant to encourage children to involve themselves in real-life sorcery. The books are pieces of fiction that were written strictly for the purpose of entertaining and don’t have any ulterior motives. These popular novels have themes that revolve around good defeating evil and standing up to corrupt individuals or groups. They are meant to be interpreted as entertaining books that teach children good morals and themes, and not as guides for children to learn sorcery or persuade them to become satan-worshipers. 

As a general consensus, older students and adults alike should not be deprived of the privilege of reading a certain book if they choose to do so. Parents can decide which books they deem appropriate for their children and should not control or criticize the decision of other parents to allow or deny their children the right to read a certain book. When those children grow up, they can decide for themselves if they would like to indulge in the books they were formerly banned from reading. 

What is most important is to be educated on the contents of a book. Parents and students should research about the books and read other’s reviews before judging whether or not a book would be appropriate. The age-old saying rings true evermore: never judge a book by its cover.