The Rise In Book Banning Throughout the States

Walking through the second-floor hallway at FLHS, a bulletin board proudly displays posters of books banned across the United States. Each showcases a different book, such as Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe or The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, and explains why they are banned in some states. Books are not only educational but are an escape for many people. They allow readers to feel connected to the authors and to build their knowledge. Many students like ourselves can’t imagine not having the opportunity to read these books because a select few feel that they are inappropriate for young readers. 

Book Banning has become the most extensive form of censorship in the United States. Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that could be found in books, movies, and news that are considered obscene and socially or religiously unacceptable. The First Amendment allows citizens freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and the right to petition the government lawfully. However, censorship doesn’t infringe on the Constitution unless it is done by the government. Decisions made in public schools are controlled by state and local governments which means that the government has the power to determine what is appropriate for students, making it a gray area. 

I don’t see why books should be banned,” Alice Yi, a Francis Lewis High School junior, said. “Unless the book explicitly tries to convince the reader to do something awful such as murder or something among those lines, it is understandable. Outside of those expectations, books should be open to everyone as it’s an opportunity to teach someone something new or give a new perspective.”

However, this is a reality across the United States, as there has been a new resurgence of banning both classic and modern-day books for dealing with topics about race, being sexually explicit, portraying gender inequality, and including LGBTQ+ material. States like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas have made headlines by banning books such as 1984 by George Orwell, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

In Nashville, Tennessee, the Harry Potter series has been banned after a priest thought that the spells cast in the book were actual spells and curses.  Since 2021, this banning of “inappropriate” books has increased with 138 school districts in 32 states banning more than 2,500 books. Many are left wondering if this censorship is going too far and denying our first amendment rights of freedom of speech.

“When you think of America you think of the freedoms that people have, and banning books just goes against the freedoms that we pride ourselves on,” sophomore Amaris Olazabal said. 

We believe that the decision of what a student can read should not be decided by groups and strangers that have their own views and opinions and are trying to stop certain viewpoints from being read.

When asked about how she feels about the increase of book banning throughout the country, sophomore Sofia Suleymanov said,“[It] makes me feel upset, because this should not be allowed… [B]ooks were created to spread knowledge and awareness.”

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials could not ban books from school libraries just because they disagreed with or disliked the ideas in the book. In the Board of Education v. Pico case, the Supreme Court found that public schools can remove books if the book is “pervasively vulgar” or doesn’t fit into their curriculum. However, once again this leaves a gray area and it is open to interpretation over what is too vulgar or what should be allowed in the curriculum.

“I believe that unless it’s going to cause immediate violence or an unlawful uprising, no one should have the power to ban books with certain themes,” Olazabal said.  “Once people are given the ability to ban books, it is easy to cause a domino effect and then anyone may feel the right to ban a book for biased beliefs or no good reason.”

By banning books with specific themes, characters, and ideas that have been said to not correspond with the curriculum, students may not see themselves on any surface and it limits their exposure to various themes, views, thoughts, and ideas. It prevents teens from becoming critical thinkers and forming their views about the world and where they fit in society. This could damage a person’s self-esteem or confidence by not seeing characters similar to them. The question lingers in the air: what’s wrong with me? Books being read by students should be “both mirrors and windows” and reflect and depict various people in our society. They should be able to see themselves in the characters and be able to see how people different than them experience the world. 

The book banning was created due to the fact that many books contain explicit material children should not be exposed to,” Suleymanov said. “However, children and adults should have the advantage to discover the many different ideas and beliefs a book can offer.”

Some may argue that banning books is in a child’s best interest to protect them from difficult ideas and information that they feel is inappropriate for this age group. Consequently, banning books in school districts shields them from the reality of different cultures, societies, and topics. When teenagers only read books with censored information, they will never know the reality of racism, crime, gender inequality, and sexual orientation. With this book ban, students are only exposed to a specific perspective of life that a select group has chosen. Teenagers in the states that have book bans will never know these problems or be educated by the books that have been censored and banned. When interviewed by the New York Times, teenagers were asked to share their perspectives on book banning. The majority were opposed to book bans and felt that “it’s wrong to shield kids from reality,” “books are meant to challenge and educate,” and “limiting books students can read also limit the perspectives students need to access.”

To ban books about certain topics or messages will only make the audience more narrow-minded,” Yi said. “Every book I’ve read served its purpose of telling the reader a valuable message or giving a new perspective on a certain topic.”

Students deserve to grow up with knowledge about serious topics that some states are trying to erase from history.

“It gives someone the power to make someone oblivious towards one issue or have a certain perspective,” Yi said about the people who are trying to ban books. “For example, someone banned books about racism. Then it’ll allow younger generations to make the same mistakes as in the past and make them more oblivious to certain issues relating to racism. To ban books about certain topics or messages will only make the audience more narrow-minded.”

If children/teenagers grow up reading books that do not include them, they will view these censored topics as negative, wondering why they are not talked about and included. Using the excuse that something is “vulgar” in their eyes as a reason to censor books is not a valid reason to limit the exposure, connection, and feeling of self-importance that the reader deserves to have by reading these banned books.