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The Controversy Around Banning Books Essay, Research Paper

The subject of censorship is a very controversial one, especially the banning of books. Many people believe they must protect themselves and others from the “evils” of many classic books and works of art because they can be deemed “indecent” in one way or another. Many believe that this is absurd and censorship in its current form is a violation of our First Amendment right to free speech. Personally, I align myself with the latter, however I do feel there are occasions where censorship is justifiable. The censorship of books is a division of censorship that, apart from Internet censorship, receives the most publicity. Banning books is the most popular form of such censorship. Many banned books are literary classics, such as The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, which was listed as the number 6 most challenged or banned book in a list compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1997. This book has been banned from school libraries all over the country because of the main character’s teenage angst, which many feel is too graphic for teenagers, and its profanity. Profanity, whether it be frequent or a rare occurrence, is a characteristic of many literary classics, as is the use of racial epithets.In the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (ranking number 2 on the list), an epithet is use many times over to describe the people of color in the book. Now since the book was published in 1885 and such language was common at the time, I do not believe that banning such a book is necessary. An excuse commonly used by advocates of banning books that use graphic language or racial epithets is that they do not want children exposed to it. It is my belief that since by the time the child is required to read such literature in school, they are at an age where they can distinguish between things that should and should not be said and it is the job of the parents to educate the child that just because they say it in a book does not mean he or she should.Another subject common to banned and censored books is sexuality. An excellent example of a book in question containing sexual content is The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, which ranked number 5 on the ACLU’s list. Now considering the fact that this frequently banned book is written for young adults of middle and high school age, I’m sure the author included this content, and the often graphic language associated with such content, because it made the book more realistic and possibly because it made the novel more appealing to the age bracket. Fiction is not the only genre faced with banning and censorship. Educational books such as the sex education text It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsmanare under attack because they discuss sex-related topics. All I have to say about this is sexuality is a fact of life, not some forbidden subject. Adolescents need to know this information so they don’t go off an ruin their life by having a baby while they are in their teens or catching a disease because they didn’t have the information to protect them. Sometimes books are banned or censored for unusual and often ridiculous reasons. An example of such is the banning of Little Red Riding Hood in two California school districts in 1989. In the story, Little Red Riding Hood is bringing a cake and a bottle of wine to her grandmother’s house. The districts claimed they were concerned because of the use of alcohol in the story. Even the popular children’s’ book series Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine, has been challenged across the country by parents and school officials. They say that the book is “too scary for kids.” I am curious as to why they say this, because I remember reading the books in elementary school, and to my peers and I, they were comedic rather than scary. By the time a child can read these books, I feel, they are old enough to know that it is just a story and the Goosebumps books are all about getting kids into the fun of reading.As I have said before, there are certainly occasions where censorship is justified. For example, the Kenneth Starr report on President Clinton’s affairs with Monica Lewinsky and the attempts to cover it up is certainly not for kids. Due to its graphic sexual content, I would not be surprised if it was censored extensively or even removed from the Internet sites it is currently on. I do believe when censorship is used, it must be used with common sense. Instead of banning classic literary works and educational from school libraries and classrooms, classes could possibly discuss why the authors use such language and content in their books. Why ban a good book because it has a few profanities? If censorship must be used to control inappropriate content, it should be used to prevent children from gaining access to materials such as pornography on the Internet rather than the sex-ed book in the school library.


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