Banning influential literature is bound to have negative effects on students
February 22, 2022
Laurie Halse Anderson once said, “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Across America, we are witnessing a new wave of literary censorship reminiscent of the 1970s. For myriad reasons, governments and schools are once again trying to control what people are allowed to read. These institutions cite reasons such as sexual explicitation or critical race theory, but do not fully understand what they are trying to keep students from reading.
I went to high school in Georgia, and over the past year, literary censorship in schools has reached unprecedented levels. My mother is an English teacher in the county where I used to go to school. Last week, she called me in a panic. Due to new restrictions on what she is allowed to teach, the curriculum she has used for the past 25 years must be completely scrapped and recreated from scratch. Under the new rules, no teacher is allowed to teach a book that could be considered sexually explicit. Although this may seem logical, it ensures that classes are not allowed to read books such as “The Giver” by Louis Lowry, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, etc .
The rule doesn’t just ban books that are unreasonably explicit; it bans books that mention anything in a sexual way. This rule seems frankly ill-informed and underdeveloped, because unless a teacher distributes books by Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski, most high school students are confronted daily with much more sexual content than they would find in those books.
Censorship, however, does not stop at sexual explicitation. These new rules also prohibit any book that could be considered CRT. However, the people who decide whether books fall into this category don’t always know what they’re talking about. Bearing in mind that CRT is an extremely complex subject that most don’t learn until graduation, I’d say it’s safe to assume that many middle and high school students don’t encounter it. However, many people have confused the term with a much simpler term: “the history of the United States”.
I won’t go into the nuances of the exact definition of CRT or what it entails, but I will say that teaching children about slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement is absolutely beyond the realm of the CRT. Because it has become such a hot issue and most people still have no idea what it means, there is pressure to ban books that people believe teach this theory in schools. There is, however, no book in high schools that would teach such a complex subject. So these people who are trying to prevent children from learning what they believe to be CRT are actually trying to prevent them from learning the history of this country.
I think it’s hard to explain the scope of what that might mean without giving examples of books that would be banned. If schools really enforced these rules, teachers would no longer be able to have their students read books such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”, Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and many more. ‘others. This rule cites not only the CRT, but also a set of ideals known as the 1619 Project. even of the national narrative”.
The effects of these rules are being felt today, and one school district in Tennessee has already banned the book “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. Maus is a graphic novel illustrating the horrors that happened in the concentration camps. The school district banned the book because they thought it was too violent for high school students to read, apparently forgetting that they were teaching about one of the most violent periods in modern world history. Additionally, in Tennessee, a pastor hosted a local book burning with his congregation. They gathered in the middle of the city, lit a fire and threw away books they considered “demonic”. This included books such as Harry Potter and Twilight.
Today, we are aware that history is cyclical, but many people do their best to avoid recognizing it. The images of the Tennessee burning are reminiscent of those depicting burnings in Nazi Germany. Banning literature that expresses marginalized perspectives and oppressed beliefs is always the first move of a fascist regime. The world has seen the myriad consequences that flow from the banning of literature, and this country is racing towards another disaster.
Zach Leach can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @ZachLeach12.