Attention-Getter: Now I’m sure that many of you have read or heard of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. And I’m sure that many of you are either devout followers of these vampire novels, or you know somebody who is. Now, try to imagine how all these fans of Edward, Jacob, and Bella were to be told by the California Board of Education that due to the mature themes and sexual content of the books, they would be banned from schools, grade twelve and below?
Establishment of credibility: I think it is important to oppose book banning because just as many things can be learned from books as from life experiences or lessons. Although some novels may have a vague moral or underlying theme, there is always something to be learned by the reader. And in some instances, one single book can bring about a positive change for a single person.
Thesis Statement: Every book has a main point or some form of contribution to society and should not be banned or censored because groups of people do not agree with what is being written.
Preview: Firstly I will be telling you the status of banned literature in the US, followed by the various works banned within our country. Next, I will tell you of the different solutions that have been proposed to oppose restricting books. Lastly, I will give a brief perspective of the possible future we could have with the individual thoughts, ideas, and broader forms of creativity that can be reached with the exclusion of censorship within our country.
Problem: According to the American Library Association, American libraries have been faced with 3,736 challenges due to the content of books with more being challenged every year. (ALA, 2009)
Many of the book challenges have centered on the sexual content or themes of the books.
There are 1,225 challenges towards “sexually explicit” material, 720 challenges towards material believe to be “unsuited to age group”, and 269 challenges towards “homosexual” themed books.
1,176 (approximately 31%) came from classrooms; 34% (or 909) originated in public libraries; less than 75 challenges took place in college classes. About 51% of these complaints were launched by parents and 6% by school administration.
Books like Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple, Of Mice and Men, and many other classics have been banned from high schools across the country. (ALA, 2009)
The most recent challenge for The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, was back in 2001 in Glynn County, Georgia for its use of profanity.
In 2002, Parents against Bad Books (PABB) challenged Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in Fairfax County, Virginia libraries because they “contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture”.
John Steinbeck’s short story Of Mice and Men was challenged in Normal, Illinois Community High Schools back in 2003 for containing, “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent tradition values”.
In a TIMES Magazine article, a librarian by the name of Sharon Coatney talks about her past experience with censorship while she worked at a small rural high school. (Coatney, 2000)
Coatney says that censorship or banning isn’t a new concept for any library, all of which have certain policies that have to be adhered to while selecting books for their collection.
During her time at the high school, the school’s ‘library’ was, essentially, a metal cage in the back of a room where the books were locked up for ‘security reasons’.
Part of her job as a librarian required Coatney to keep all viewpoints in balance and knowing what to do when an individual parent requests that a book from their ‘library’ be banned.
The removal of books didn’t take place often, but when it did it was because the book didn’t meet the criteria of the library policies instituted by the administration.
In the article, Coatney voices her regret that the students at the high school had little to no access to their books.
Transition Statement: Within the United States, organizations have been created to try and find solutions to the frequent challenges, censorship and banning of various novels and children’s books.
Solution: Because book banning has occurred for more than a century, people have formulated ways to combat the unfair bans.
In the Intellectual Freedom Manual, compiled by the American Library Association, propositions towards stopping censorship have been taken into account and listed. (ALA, 2006)
“It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.”
In other words, those who maintain a creative train of thought are considered ‘rebels’ for wanting to explore something that is against the norm of society. By stomping down on the ‘non-conformist’ attitudes and beliefs that we are given at the beginning of our lives would, in turn, destroy the democratic system, which is the embodiment of freedom of choice through voting.
In Esther Lombardi’s About.com article on “How to Save a Book from Banning”, she lists several ways for people to stop and prevent books from being banned in their local area. (Lombardi, 2009)
Find the list of the top most challenged books within the past decade and start reading them.
Learn why these books were deemed ‘dangerous’ or ‘inappropriate’ by school officials and parents.
Question their reasoning by understanding what the novels are about and what the underlying themes are.
Report local library, bookstore, or school challenges to the American Library Association.
Hundreds of challenges are reported to the ALA, and “more than a book a day faces removal from free and open public access in U.S. schools and libraries”. (Morales, 2007)
Volunteer or work in a local library or school.
By getting involved, you are more than likely able to voice your opinions concerning banned books or book challenges.
kidsSpeak! is just one of the many organizations that have sprouted up across the country, whose goal is to overturn the banning of several books and provide solutions to book banning for kids and teenagers. (What Can I Do?)
kidsSpeak! suggests that kids read about what censorship is in order to know what it is they are protesting against.
In addition to learning what censorship is and the role it has played in US history, researching other organizations that are against censorship is highly recommended.
Students are encouraged to bring their grievances to their school officials by using their First Amendment rights to organize and voice their view points with those who agree with them.
Transition Statement: Now that I have finished discussing the status of certain novels in the US, and the solutions that have been suggested by different people and organizations, I will be telling you the benefits of going against book challenges and censorship.
Visualization: There are many things to be gained from opposing book bans and challenges, all of which benefit us individually and as a group.
Reading classic literature or any sort of book that has been shunned by our parents or school administrators can help ‘broaden our horizons’ as readers, students, and people.
As strange as it may seem, life lessons learned by characters in a novel can be applied towards your own life, and for the better.
Being part of the younger generation also entitles us to question the teachings and beliefs of those who came before us.
No one should have to be told what to think, believe, or wonder about. Our First Amendment rights give us the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.
Through voicing our thoughts on what we want to read, learn, and know about ourselves and the world around us, we can become worldlier than what the older generations give us credit for.
Summary: Today I have talked to you about the goings on of book censoring in the United States, some of the famous books that have been challenged or pulled out of school curriculums, the solutions proposed by different organizations, and the possible outcomes and benefits that are to be gained from resisting book bans.
Referbacktotheintroduction: As I stated before, every book has a main point or some form of contribution to society and should not be banned or censored because groups of people do not agree with what is being written.
Callforaction: Every one of you should do your part in enlightening those who are apparently ignorant to what could possibly be a piece of life-changing literature for you and feel that we cannot possibly handle concepts like sex, drugs, or vulgar language, despite the fact that most of us have already been exposed to such topics through other forms of media, like movies, television shows, or the internet.
Senseofclosure: If books continue to be restricted from us because of their content, then the people who are deciding what is good for us and what isn’t are no better than the Nazis, who took it upon themselves to burn and censor any books that did not hold the same opinions as they do.