Michelle Adams, Staff Writer
In February, legislation surfaced in Virginia that, if passed, would permit the banning of certain works of literature in the state’s grade schools. Parents would be allowed to opt their children out of reading books containing material that they do not approve of, particularly if the subject matter has “sexually explicit” content. Currently, the Virginia Senate has approved the bill, and it is en route back to the House, where it must again be approved, before ending up on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk.
This notion of prohibiting students from reading certain books has been a long-term issue. Key works like To Kill A Mockingbird, Beloved, The Great Gatsby, and even Fahrenheit 451 (a novel specifically focused around – and criticizing – the banning of books in society) have been taken out of schools for various reasons, spanning from racism and “community values” to language and sexual content. The issue is so prevalent that an organization has been fighting against it since 1982, with the implementation of “Banned Books Week,” a celebration of some of the most frequently censored works in American society, which takes place at the end of September.
While many argue that parents have a right to protect their children from possible dangers, preventing them from reading only hurts their young minds by limiting their access to new, progressive ideas and important global issues.
Consider Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero, a novel about an Egyptian woman who experiences heavy physical and sexual abuse, causing her to resort to prostitution and even murder. Beyond these mere plot aspects, the work sheds light on the real issue of misogyny that plagues northern Africa and the Middle East. Without books like these, American children would be hopelessly sheltered and unaware of the growing issues that plague people around the world, and sheltered from life in the world that exists outside of their small hometowns.
This is not to say that curricula should not be designed to fit the grade level and maturity of the students. To a young child, Thatcher’s Gone With The Wind is nothing more than a glorified depiction of slavery in the south. For high school students, the book provides an insight to the realism of the south in the Civil War era, a key supplement to both their literary and historical studies. Similarly, El Saadawi’s work would be traumatizing to a child too young to understand its motive, but to a more mature student, it is vital for their exposure to global problems.
Preventing children from experiencing the reality of these issues is preventing society’s progression forward toward a better world. Anything that hinders their ability to make change, including banning books, hurts the future of the country and the world, by blocking ideas and solutions from coming forward. The job of schooling is to expand the mind, and this cannot be done if we censor subjects deemed controversial.
It is important that millennials take the next step in the fight against literary censorship by refusing to stand for the unjust legislation that many states, like Virginia, are currently working toward. We cannot allow the government to prevent new ideas from growing in the minds of our nation’s children: we must take action by enlisting school boards, teachers, and entire communities in the fight for freedom of speech in grade schools.
So call your Congressman and start a movement: ban the banning of books, for the better of all global citizens!