Banning books has been around for centuries. From differing political, religious, and cultural viewpoints and expression, the explanations for censorship are unlimited. In 1624, Englishman Thomas Morton arrived in Massachusetts. He soon found that he did not want to abide by the strict rules and conventional values that made up their new American society. So, he established his own colony and wrote about it. His New English Canaan, published in 1637, criticized and attacked Puritan customs so harshly that even the more progressive New English settlers disapproved of it, and they banned it, making it likely the first book to be banned in the United States. (readingpartners.org)
Throughout our literary history in the U.S., many, many books have been banned or challenged. This past week, a school board in Tennessee voted unanimously to ban Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from being taught in its classrooms because the book contains material that board members said was inappropriate for students.
Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus, said he was baffled by the decision. “This is disturbing imagery,” he said in an interview on Thursday, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day. “But you know what? It’s disturbing history.”
In schools, classroom literature is carefully vetted so that creative, engaging, and bright teachers of Language Arts, Library, and English classes can offer students diverse characters, perspectives, and experiences. Educators know best the literature their students can handle and discuss in an age appropriate and relevant way, often finding selections that reflect the time in history the students are studying. Kent School 8th Graders read The Diary of Anne Frank, and pre-COVID went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Banning books from school libraries and curricula is a form of indoctrination, disguised as guidance by people with closed minds. Our students deserve better.
As a college student, I had a poster in my dorm room which said: Question Authority. It is a mantra I have always lived by – not in a disruptive way, but in a curious way. Banning a book makes me want to read that book, if I have not already. I can think for myself and I don’t need someone telling me what is or is not appropriate reading. I hope bookstores around the country offer customers sections filled with banned books. You will find some of the best and most thought-provoking novels ever written there.
And, honestly, if your child has a smartphone with a data plan, so they can use TikTok and search the internet, you have a lot more to be worried about than books.