North Texas Daily

When is banning books the right answer? Never

When is banning books the right answer? Never

When is banning books the right answer? Never
September 23
00:24 2014

Never. Banning books is never the right answer.

To celebrate Banned Books Week, Highland Park High School in Dallas has “temporarily” banned seven books, hitting two recent New York Times Bestsellers and two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, including Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. Her Pulitzer was in no small part due to “Song of Solomon,” the book now banned at Highland Park.

According to dallasnews.com, the basic reason for this is all of these books have adult controversies and situations that parents don’t want their children exposed to. You know, their high school-aged children. The ones who are going to be adults in four or five years at most. Those kids. 

These controversies that the precious children just aren’t ready to be exposed to yet include dating, heartbreak and sex, things that have totally never happened at Highland Park High School.

Since Highland Park has clearly had a terrible misunderstanding about what Banned Books Week is all about, let’s spell it out clearly.

The annual national campaign was started in 1982 by library and First Amendment activist Judith King to honor books that people have tried to restrict access to in some way, normally by keeping them out of the hands of children.

These books include such era codifiers as “The Great Gatsby,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Stranger in a Strange Land,” books that provide the most honest modern window into what it was like to be alive at the time they were written, and “The Catcher in the Rye,” which is still the definitive book on the rage and listlessness of post-adolescence. There’s also a strong movement against books that honestly portray American slavery, such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Beloved,” another Morrison book.

The week is backed by pretty much every writers association in the U.S., and its annual presence can make it seem like censorship is over.

Obviously, this is not the case.

It’s a national embarrassment that this is something that still needs to be said, but here it is: banning books is never ever appropriate and it never ever works.

Art imitates life, and restricting access to pieces of art because they imitate it too accurately  is imbecilic. Doing so with high school books leaves children unprepared and without context for the real world. We already don’t talk to our kids about the complexities of romantic relationships.

As was true even before the national movement, banned books tend to see an immediate spike in readership after they are banned.

And that’s not even mentioning the whole Freedom of Expression thing.

The backlash for this move has been loud and uniform, and Highland Park will probably relent soon. Until then, it’s outright embarrassing to share a Metroplex with this high school.

Joshua Knopp is the news editor for the North Texas Daily. He can be reached at hillbutton@gmail.com.

Featured Image: The Willis Library copy of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Photo by Josh Knopp – News Editor

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