Banned books prevent freedom of knowledge


Editorial staff

One of the best ways to learn new things and spread new ideas is through the written word. From the medium of a sonnet about a pretty girl or an essay on ancient civilization and everything in between; books, poems, and essays all aid in disseminating information. In some cases, the truths revealed through writing is unfavorable to some, but in order to maintain freedom and to appreciate knowledge, books cannot be banned.

Highland Park ISD has felt extensive pressure from the strikingly homogeneous community to ban seven books that they find unfavorable. The books that are on the guillotine are The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and The Working Poor: A Study of the Invisible in America by David K Shipler.

A deeper look into the lessons in each book are far more reflective of the Highland Park community than of the content of the books themselves. A major theme in many of the books include disenfranchisement and poverty, (Diary of Part Time Indian, The Glass Castle, The Working Poor: A Study of the Invisible in America, The Song of Solomon). Another major theme of many of the books is sex, more specifically, how teens interact with sex (The Song of Solomon again, An Abundance of Katherines, The Glass Castle). Although it is understandable that parents may want to shield their children from such tender subjects, totally banning students from books with questionable content is actually counteractive to healthy development.

Banning books that accurately depict poverty and disenfranchisement is shortsighted, as a narrative regarding poverty can be a wonderful tool to illustrate the struggle of those that are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Banning books because of sexual content is also naive, as such a move often has adverse reactions. Books that represent healthy exploration of sex among teens can spark an opportunity for a forum with friends and parents about sex and its risks. Additionally, for the many students whose parents refuse to foster a discussion about safe sex, books can provide fantastic examples about what is and is not healthy and the emotional effects of sex. For example, in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, there’s a careful examination of meaningless sex and the loss of virginity, which could provide a new insight because it’s from the angle of another teen experiencing these issues.

Regardless of the content, banning a book doesn’t help teach students new things. Rather, it turns normal struggles into taboo topics and shields students from a possible wealth of knowledge. Books that the Highland Park school district is trying to ban should be the very books that are worked into curriculum so students are obligated to discuss and analyze them, which will aid understanding.

Though they may be controversial, poverty, injustice, and sex are all things that children will inevitably encounter, and reading books about these subjects will help to give the students the tools to understand and handle the situations in a mature manner.