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I Read Banned Books

Most people think of book banning as happening in the Victorian Age or in remote places like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Today, we are enlightened, and nobody would ever dream of banning books, "right?" Readers in 21st-century America value free speech and access to information more than ever. Indeed, books used to be more censored. However, there are still challenges to freedom of speech and censorship that many people don't even know about.


Books Are Freedom


Books have been challenged and banned for offensive language, sexual content, violence, promoting Satanism and witchcraft, encouraging drug use, terrifying young readers, and insulting minorities. Unfortunately, these challenges remain common today because many fear what they don't understand.


Regarding freedom of speech, some countries are more enlightened than the United States. For example, the United Nations has declared access to information a fundamental human right, yet we're still grappling with censorship issues in America. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but there are all kinds of exceptions and loopholes, and sometimes, we're not even aware that someone is trying to censor us.

The Practice of Banning Books in the U.S. is not something from our distant past. It happens today in schools and libraries. States, such as Florida, claim Banning Books is an effort to protect our civil liberties, but banning books is a hypocritical attempt to suppress our freedom of speech.


Why Are Books Banned?


There are many reasons given as to why books are challenged and banned. Many reasons are false, but people can and do make false claims. Some books are challenged because someone finds the content offensive. The problem is that one person's offensive material is another person's fact or source of knowledge. It's subjective, so there's no objective way to determine whether it should be banned.


https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-library-books-banned-schools-rcna12986
Records requests uncovered dozens of attempts to remove library books from schools, nearly all related to titles dealing with racism, gender or sexuality. Photo Credit: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-library-books-banned-schools-rcna12986

Some books are challenged because they are too old or outdated. However, there is value in reading old literature, and texts, even with obsolete ideas. The old saying is, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." The history we ignore is not what is written in these banned books but the dangers of restricting them.


Some of the books are banned in Brevard Public Schools. Photo Credit: ClickOrlando.com

Finally, some books are challenged because they are considered dangerous. Many books deal with heavy topics like drugs, sex, and suicide. However, these are real-life issues that teenagers and adults deal with. Excluding them from the curriculum denies teens the support they need for growth and development.

It is good to note this fact. The Supreme Court has recognized that the government may prohibit speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. This ruling is a rational and majority-agreed-upon premise.

What Types of Books Are Being Banned?


Challenges and bans usually are done anonymously. For example, if a parent disagrees with the content of a book, they can ask the school or library staff to remove it from their collection, or they may demand a change in the curriculum.

If a teacher or other staff member refuses, they could be disciplined or terminated. Here in Ohio, we are facing this problem now with Republican J.D. Vance, who is running for the Senate in Ohio. His recent quote, "The Professors are the Enemy," about the "manufactured Critical Race Theory crisis." specifically targets teachers and educators.

Photo Credit: https://bannedbooksweek.org/
Photo Credit: https://bannedbooksweek.org/

There is a direct link between the types of books subject to being banned and our schools. The bans are no longer limited to literature and children's stories. For example, the state of Florida recently rejected 54 math books. That is 41% of the 132 mathematics books submitted for review. Unfortunately, the Florida department chose not to divulge the names of these books. As a result, they prevent Floridians and the media from assessing the state's decision to ban them. In addition, the DeSantis administration referred to the books as "indoctrinating" material, which was why the math books were rejected.


Indoctrinating someone is to teach them a partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle. By removing books from the schools, the Florida governor is attempting to indoctrinate the children of Florida. Not by only teaching one point of view or principle but by removing sources to limit access to free information.


Maga Republicans are not anti-indoctrination; in fact, Maga Republicans are seeking a world in which they control entirely the indoctrinating.


Banning Books Still a Problem


Banning books and the consequences have been examined in several dystopian novels that provide shocking examples of future authoritarian societies. Examples, such as Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, explore a culture where books are banned, banished, or incinerated. Both of these books depict a society that accepts the banning of books and the consequences of banning books. Both of these books have, themselves, been excluded. The Republican battle cry, "Education Not Indoctrination," is an Orwellian misdirection of the pot calling the kettle black.

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A member of the S.A. throws confiscated books into the bonfire during the public burning of "un-German" books on the Opernplatz in Berlin, May 10, 1933. — U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

On May 10, 1933, over 40,000 people gathered in Berlin. At the urging of the Nazi propaganda machine, the government burned more than 25,000 books in a public display. These books had the unfortunate label of being labeled as "un-German ." Soon afterward, book burnings took place across Germany in various university towns. The purpose of the book burnings was to cleanse and purify the German spirit. Any literature that spoke of "racial impurity" or "dissent" must be burned.

Book Burning in Berlin, May 10, 1933
Book Burning in Berlin, May 10, 1933 Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_book_burnings

Banning books is a form of control. Control of what we read is an attempt to control how we think. Banning educational books is not only an effort to control how we learn and feel. It is to control our actions. Controlling how people think and act is, at its heart, fascism.


Final Words: Be Careful What You Ban!


Students who need access to the books they want or need will look elsewhere. Potentially somewhere less safe than their school or library. Of course, all books are not appropriate for all ages. We must trust our parents, teachers, and librarians to make those choices, not politicians. "No government and public school is an extension of government, has ever banned books, and banned information from its public, and been remembered in history as the good guys." (unknown Granbury High School student)


Banning books is very dangerous. If we give any group the right to restrict books, we risk letting a minority group's beliefs silence the majority. On the other hand, if a group gets its way and books are removed from the curriculum or a library, it doesn't just affect the people who read them. It affects everyone. Banning books leads to burning books. Banning books put us on a slippery road, headed toward a Fascist society.


Celebrate your freedom to read whatever you want.

Banned Book Week is going on right now, September 18m - 24, 2022.


Cheers,

Hop Head Jon

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