In the United States and many other countries around the world, the
practice of banning books still continues at the national and
sub-national level. The majority of the banning takes place in the
school system. In 2004 alone, over 500 books were challenged because of
their content. The argument supporting book banning is the same as it is
for other forms of censorship; by banning certain books from schools,
they are protecting students from exposure to indecent and controversial
material. The argument against banning books is that students and
parents should have the right to decide whether a book contains indecent
or controversial material, and whether or not they want to read it.
The issues that are most often considered controversial include
language, politics, religion, or sexuality. For these reasons, many
books that are now considered classics have been banned in the past.
Students will likely recognize some of the banned books from their
English classes. In fact, at school, we have read many of these once
banned books, including The Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men,
Lord of the Flies, Ordinary People, Separate Peace, The Handmaid's Tale,
and To Kill A Mockingbird.
The debated issue involved with banning books is if censorship, in order
to protect students, should be allowed. Many that have read the above
books can agree that most, if not all, do contain offensive material.
However, the reason why many works of literature contain offensive
material is to provoke thought in the audience. In a high school
classroom, the offensive content of some works of literature definitely
provokes thought and is often the topic of countless discussions.
However, there are some instances where the offensive nature of the
literature has a negative effect, especially in the case of younger
students. It all comes down to a single question then, should certain
books be off-limits, or should everyone have the right to decide what
they want to read?