Stop Trying to Ban Books

Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian, but I’ve always had this general feel that there’s a consensus that book burning is a bad thing. At least, I’ve never heard anyone speak favorably of it, and whenever it’s come up in a conversation, it’s been used as an example of What Not To Do. This is likely because it’s fairly intrinsically tied to efforts by the Nazis, and most people still believe Nazis were Not Good.

However, it appears more and more people seem to believe banning books is not only not that bad, but actually pretty good. I’ve been following a number of these efforts across the country, and this article in The Guardian does a good job summing them up. In short, it seems some conservative groups backed by big dollars are taking a methodical approach to trying to get rid of books they’ve decided aren’t appropriate for children or young adults. They’re encouraging parents to take this to school boards across the nation, and many parents are answering the call.

I’d like to think most of these parents aren’t doing it because they have a thing against books, knowledge, and ideas. Rather, they’re doing it because they’ve bought into the scare tactics of these conservative groups, and have decided they need to get rid of these books so they can Protect the Children. (This at the same time hordes of children across the country have smartphones (or friends with smartphones) and thus have access to this little thing called “The Internet,” where they can learn and see and watch just about anything in the world they’d like to.

I assume the difference for these parents (in their minds at least) is that while the internet might be full of all sorts of things they disagree with, they don’t think their children are actively being guided to those things. Having books about sexuality or race in a school library, on the other hand, is setting their children up to have these ideas forced upon them. When I look at the lists of “inappropriate books” these groups have come up with, I start to see red.

The thing about banning books is that it’s a two-edged sword, even if you (for some strange bizarre reason) think it’s a good idea. What if other politically motivated groups got together to do their best to remove all books about Christianity from school libraries, because of separation of church and state? Or books about the founding fathers, because they were slave holders? I guarantee you that anything you think is important and sacrosanct, there’s someone out there who thinks it’s terrible.

I don’t want to ban any books, and neither should you. Efforts like this should send a chill down anyone’s back, if they value freedom and diversity of thought. I really (really) don’t want libraries to become the next political battlefield, with citizens getting into trench warfare around ideologies they think a library is or isn’t promoting. If you’re concerned about what your children might be reading, talk to your children. But the best way to get them to read something is often to tell them they can’t read it.


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1 thought on “Stop Trying to Ban Books”

  1. I am not the book banning type at all. However, I have seen in my grandchildren the influence of the books they read and how the proliferation of these books influences the overall culture in which they (and we) live (interesting that the word “prolife” is in the word proliferation! What’s that about?!). I’m old enough to remember that some of the subject matter which is as common as dirt now (did I just make an unintended pun there? I think I did.) was definitely off limits when I was an adolescent. What we had access to gave us a cultural framework and we were influenced by it, directly or indirectly, for better or for worse. I think we need to be mindful that what our kids and grandkids consume, whether it be in books or movies or TV or the internet, is going to set the standards for what they consider to be normal, and that what is considered normal creates a culture which naturally infuses everything they think and do and say. Do you honestly think that no work of art or literature should be limited? I think some things should be withheld from young, developing minds, because some descriptions found in print and visual media create an unhealthy interest in things which are intrinsically harmful. The problem, of course, is Who Gets To Decide? Banning or restricting content is a dangerous business, but unfettered publication of anything and everything under the sun contains its own dangers too.

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