Sunday, September 21, 2014

Banned Book Week!

Did you know it is Banned Book Week? Yeah, I didn’t know it existed either. When I went online to learn more, I stumbled across this fascinating website and learned that Captain Underpants was the most challenged book of 2013. Shh! We don’t want anyone to talk or think about underwear even though we all wear them Seriously though, I continued to read and discovered that some of my favorite books and all-time classics had been banned from libraries and schools across America. Books like Farenheit451 and To Kill A Mockingbird. Even Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone in the world should read whatever they want and there should be no censorship but I also don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sometime, we’re so eager to hide from what makes us uncomfortable that we turn a blind eye to what we really need to learn. Yes, Of Mice and Men uses the N-word, not mention a litany of other swear words and we should never ever use such slanderous language in society today. However, if we censored that magnificent story of differences and even racism, we might forget our hard-won lessons of the past. That is one of the best parts of reading; we can into the arena with Katniss, and face fears we never thought imaginable. Or with Atticus Finch, we can walk the streets of a small southern town and feel the outrage for the social injustices of the day or experience any number of other wonderful or terrifying emotions. We can step on their stories, learn from their mistakes to climb higher and be better. Maybe instead banning every book we don’t like or worse, everything we don’t agree with, we can read them with our children and our students (when they are mature enough) and talk about what we’re learning and feeling. And then of course, there is always self-censorship which I am big on. Not everything on the shelves is a gem. Not all written word will elevate our thinking or make our lives better. Some is dark and degrading and has the power to destroy, but I fear if we take away people’s right to choose what they want to read we will become like the people in Farenheit451. They were so dumbed down, so uninspired by the neutrality of it all and if we follow their path we will lose the best part of our humanity, our differences. Our glorious, sometimes infuriating differences. What do you thing about banning books? Is it ever a good idea?

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