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Bethany Wood

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Ms. Gardner
English 10, Period 0
11 May 2015
Book Banning: The Loss of Freedom
U.S. schools have banned more than 20 books and faced more than 50 other challenges
this year, says Natalie DiBlasio, a breaking news reporter for US Today. This is a prominent
example of censorship in the United States of America. What is censorship? It is when there are
passages or content in a piece literature, a movie, or other that is suppressed. Book banning
especially is a leading issue in the world today due to the changing times and changing people
who desire to avoid offending others, if at all possible. For example, Mark Twains The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has undergone much discussion of whether it should be banned
for the use of the n-word. Another example is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for its
morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content (Robinson). As many struggle to decide if
book banning is just, it revives the issue of every person in the world having to shape their lives.
Book banning affects people throughout the world as every individual desires to find their place;
to belong and not be discriminated against. The first amendment says that Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedoms of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Therefore, books should
not be banned in public schools because it limits the knowledge of society, defies the authors

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purpose of the writing the work, and goes against what the government has promised the people
of the United States of America.
While there are many reasons to support the elimination of book banning in public
schools, it is understandable that people believe that it is the schools responsibility to protect
their students from inappropriate or offensive material. It is believed that book banning is not
occurring when a school simply removes a book from its selection (DiBlasio), but when they do
not allow a student to access information regarding the work as well as not being allowed to read
it. Lee Burress, winner of the Intellectual Freedom Award given by the Wisconsin Council of
Teachers of English, discloses a past belief following post-World War II: reading potentially
pornographic pocket books or comic books would lead to delinquency. Overall, it is believed that
because of possible negative effects that will change the coming times, school board members
and concerned parents wish to censor or eliminate possible dangers in students futures. While it
is understandable that parents, teachers, and school staff may be disturbed, book banning can
result in an even more demented society. It is not just in schools, but in literature for the public as
well. Writer for USA TODAY Martha T. Moore explains that Mark Twains classic The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is going to be edited because it will allow readers to fully grasp
the content of the work without the offensive language. This should not be permitted as it takes
away from the full impact of Twains work and the issues he is dealing with. Any who do not
wish to read his novel because of the language he uses should simply not read it. Similarly,
parents not wishing their child to read certain material are allowed to censor their childs reading,
but they should not dictate what others may read (Penner). That, with every value and belief
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people have held, comes with its own danger. But no matter what is currently happening, the
quote by George Santayana says that Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to
repeat it (Moncur), and it has been shown true many times. For instance when Napoleon tried to
invade Russia and failed, then Adolf Hitler attempted the same feat and failed more than 100
years later. Although not invading Russia, there are many lessons to be learned from past
experiences that cannot and should not be suppressed by society and students being made
ignorant.
Unmistakably, there is content in books that make them difficult to read; for example, in
John Greens The Fault in Our Stars, impending death is constantly faced as two teenagers try to
find their place in the world before they leave it. The reminder of death is never easy to face, but
it is a natural part of life that cannot be ignored forever. Howbeit, it has been shown that
restricted knowledge results in a public unable to make logical, appropriate choices; therefore, it
is unreasonable to limit the knowledge of present students. Another example of facing the real
world is found in the comparison of the heroic lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird and the corrupt
lawyer in The Magician. This comparison illustrates the different, realistic pictures of society and
contrast integrity and the lack of integrity in professional life (Burress). Scarlett BeauHara, a
writer for Beaufort Books, claims that limited opportunities to read material that challenges our
understandings of a particular notion, place, group of people, or lifestyle is one the
consequences of book banning. To counter the idea that censored knowledge may affect a
student or individual negatively, there was a study put on by psychologist Christopher J.
Ferguson that compared the relationships between challenged books and negative impacts on
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people who read or did not read them. The results were fascinating: there was no connection
between reading frequently challenged books and committing crimes (BeauHara).
The results of the study reached the other end of possibilities: the benefits of an individual
reading banned books. The results said that if a teen in this study were more likely to read
banned books, then the teen was also more likely to vote, go out of their way to help others,
and/or volunteer (BeauHara). From the comparison of different characters in novels and
Fergusons study, it can be understood that the positive benefits of reading banned books often
outweigh the negative effects. In the end, book banning does not affect students negatively in the
long run, but increase their comprehension of the world and positively influence their later
choices.
Moreover, books were written for a purpose, and the author had an audience and effect
they wished to create while writing their book. The target audience, whether it is young children
or teens, is often reached through Gatekeepers, or those that present the novels to students
(Grey). These include parents, grandparents, librarians, teachers, and many more. Because the
author must please the Gatekeepers to reach the original audience, authors find it very difficult to
achieve their full intended purpose in the attempt to appease those that wish to censor the work.
As Keith Grey, an author whose books have been frequently challenged, says,
If any one of these people takes the slightest offense, if the book cannot
successfully navigate these gatekeepers, then somewhere along the way a gate
closes shut. That book shall not pass! And my idea reader may never discover that
book I wrote with them in mind even exist.
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This results in a deficiency of the idea or connection desired by the author. One prominent
example of an authors purpose being mistaken is Mark Twains The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn. Twains Huckleberry Finn addresses one of Americas deepest problems, the conflict of
race, and the mere fact that the word n----- appears over 200 times throughout the novel is
certainly a cause for concern (Spicer). Mackenzie Spicer, a student at James Madison
University, continues to explain why the n-word is used: to depict the time period and
vernacular of a scene in the old South along the Mississippi River before the Civil War. She also
pointed out that the word is crude and discriminatory, and was not meant to insult, but bring
awareness to the people of his time and the future. With another interesting point relating to
censorship, Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, explains that trying to make a
comfortable world for students is very disturbing, for at this time, technology and the Internet
can be filtered to the extreme so that the public only hears what they want to hear and does not
accept anything to the contrary. Undoubtedly, an authors purpose is to educate readers on topics
of interest that may result in a new understanding of fundamental issues or teach them how their
lives will be affected by subjects mentioned in their books. As a result, censoring certain points,
language, or content from an author can only harm a student if the book is banned schoolwide by
not allowing that student to fully comprehend the lessons the author wishes to impart.
The suppressing of an authors freedom of speech is unconstitutional, as well as harmful
to the audience. Primarily, book banning is unconstitutional and rejects the protection installed
by the founding fathers to give the future generations the freedom to express and receive ideas to
shape their lives. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in Board of Education, Island Trees School
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District v. Pico (1982), Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves
simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books . . . Therefore, the ability for a
school library to remove a book is limited in that if it is removed, an inquiry must be made as to
the motivation and intention of the party calling for its removal (Mullally). Claire Mullally, a
writer for the First Amendment Center, continues, saying that If the partys intention is to deny
students access to ideas with which the party dislikes, it is a violation of the First Amendment.
Despite all discrepancies, internet censorship, whether intended or accidental, violates users
fundamental right to intellectual freedom as set forth in the Library Bill of Rights (Intellectual
Freedom). Based on these proofs, book banning goes against the First Amendment; although
there can be slight exceptions, this key point exhibits the inability for schools to restrict students
acquiring of knowledge, giving students the opportunity to place roots in their own beliefs and
shape the world that will be handed down to them. Therefore, the act of banning books is
violating not only the students rights as a citizen of the United States, but also the rights of every
current and upcoming generation. Thus, banning books is unconstitutional and does not aid
society in any way, but harms it by not allowing it to experience reality and learn from the past.
The culmination of this controversial issue is that book banning confines society by the
lack of awareness, disregards the authors purpose and design, and denies freedom of speech,
expression, and the ability to receive information. Banning books eliminates the ability for an
individual and an entire culture to determine a just cause from an unjust cause, a good person or
an evil person; in essence, right or wrong. This is achieved by all having the opportunity to
explore many different sources and viewpoints and create an educated thesis and theory of how
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life should be lived. The values of unlimited access to information is incredible, and there are
places throughout the world that do not have this privilege; this is inhumane as it eliminates the
chances every human should have to create themselves. Without free, equally spread knowledge,
there will be no opportunity to stop other salient issues in both the United States and the world.

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Works Cited
Beau'Hara, Scarlett. "The Consequences of Censorship." Beaufort Books. TitleTown
Publishing, 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.

Bruni, Frank. "The Wilds of Education." New York Times. 28 Sep. 2014: SR.3. SIRS
Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Burress, Lee. Battle of the Books: Literary Censorship in the Public Schools, 1950-1985.
N.p.: Scarecrow, 1989. 1989. Web. 01 May 2015.
DiBlasio, Natalie. "Schools Once Again Face Bind Over Censorship vs. Book Lists."
USA TODAY. 19 Aug. 2011: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Grey, Keith. British Council Literature. Literature Matters, 2012. Web. 01 May 2015.
"Intellectual Freedom." Intellectual Freedom. American Library Association, 2013. Web.
01 May 2015.
Moncur, Michael. "Quotations by Author." George Santayana Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 01
May 2015.
Moore, Martha T. "'Huck Finn' Navigating Choppy Waters Again." USA TODAY. 06 Jan.
2011: A.3. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Mullally, Claire. "First Amendment Center." First Amendment Center. N.p., 13 Sept.
2002. Web. 01 May 2015.
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Penner, Diana. "Decision on Reinstating Banned Book May Come Today." Indianapolis
Star (Indianapolis, IN). 30 Apr. 2010: A.21. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Rich, Jake. "Can Book Censorship Save Our Children and Their Innocence?." University
Wire. 07 Oct. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Robinson, Joanna. "The Fault in Our Stars Has Been Banned in Schools." Vanity Fair
Hollywood. N.p., 28 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.
Spicer, Mackenzie. "Censoring Huck Finn." E-Vision: A Journal of First-Year Writing.
N.p., 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 May 2015.