Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Another Banned Books Week has come and gone. Banned Books Week encourages people to read “banned” books–books that have been challenged and/or removed from libraries and schools. The American Library Association has lists of the top 10 most challenged books of the past several years, as well as the top 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990-1999 and 2000-2009.
As an avid reader and CC2K’s Book Editor, this is a topic that is near and dear to me. I’ve written about it before, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Truth is, I have changed my mind on the whole book banning thing. Book banning is not bad. On the contrary: I think we should ban more books!
Think about it. Books can cause people to think about things and do things that they might not otherwise do. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense famously sparked the revolutionary spirit in the American colonies, and according to legend, upon meeting Harriett Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln called her the “little lady who started the big war.” Wars are bad, ergo books are dangerous. Maybe some books are even evil. And children, most of all, are very impressionable, and it is society’s responsibility to protect them from concepts and ideas that might harm them.
The Harry Potter books were listed as the most frequently challenged from 2000-2009. Other famous works on the list include several titles by Judy Blume and Lois Lowery, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, Bridge to Terabitha by Katherine Patterson, The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, and, of course, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. (And really, what list of banned books would be complete without this one?)
But it’s not enough. Sure, these might be the obvious choices (Death? Sex? Racism? Clearly children are not equipped to deal with these things!), but there are many other books that should immediately be removed from schools, libraries, and potentially even bookstores often frequented by children. A few for consideration:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess
Nefarious ideas/actions it promotes: Stealing
The Grinch steals Christmas from the Whos in Whoville. Does he get sent to jail? No! Instead, he goes and sings with the Whos–who, strangely, don’t seem to care that a green guy whose heart is three sizes too small has absconded with their Christmas. What’s the moral? That’s it’s okay to steal at Christmastime? That people won’t be upset if their stuff is taken?
That’s just WRONG!
I’d be pissed if my Christmas presents were taken. So would most people. Spirit of Christmas my ass! What the Grinch did is not okay, and we should not teach our children otherwise.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Nefarious ideas/actions it promotes: Incest
Jane Austen has been accepted as a “tame” romance writer by most of society. Sure, her novels don’t contain graphic sexuality like many more modern romances, but what they do have is WORSE. Fanny Price MARRIES HER COUSIN. Her COUSIN! Maybe that was acceptable back in Jane’s time, but now? Not so much. Inbreeding is bad. Austen doesn’t show this, but their children probably turned out to be mutants with three heads. Do we want to encourage our children to take this dangerous, destructive path? Absolutely not!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Nefarious ideas/actions it promotes: Adultery, and abuse of the mentally ill
Readers of Jane Eyre often see Edward Rochester as a dashing, romantic hero–and therein lies the problem. Rochester is already married when he woos Jane, and he has locked his mentally ill wife into an attic. What kind of a person would do this, and do we really want impressionable teenage girls idolizing such a person as a romantic hero? Isn’t it bad enough that 75% of the teenage girls out there are already in love with a “vegetarian vampire?”
Hiroshima by John Hersey
Nefarious ideas/actions it promotes: War, atomic bombings, and really icky injuries
John Hersey’s portrait of four survivors of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima is harrowing, brutal, violent–and thus definitely needs to be banned. Obviously, it’s important to teach our children about history, but we also have a responsibility to make that history more palatable for them. Americans and Japanese as friends and trade partners–good. Radiation poisoning that makes people’s hair fall out and skin turn black–not good. Americans are the GOOD GUYS, remember? And killing thousands of Japanese citizens for the sake of a war doesn’t exactly look heroic.
And these are just a few examples–there are many, many more. (Don’t even get me started on the Bible.) We, the concerned members of society, have a responsibility to our children, an obligation not to let them see and hear about things we don’t want them to know. Clearly, we cannot trust their parents to make those decisions, to consider what is and is not appropriate for their own children. Indeed, it is society’s job to police our children’s morals. And clearly, children are not–and never will be–equipped to deal with complicated or morally ambiguous ideas. Nor should they have to! It’s not as if they’ll become adults someday.
So let’s ban more books. Hell, let’s ban all the books! After all, it’s for the children.
Author: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
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