Book banning, the overreaction of many.
Offensiveness. Morality. Two of the most controversial subjects in America, with different sides that can be taken on different topics. Each term can have citizens against each other in a battle to express and defend their beliefs. Some take a path of appeasement and try to please everyone in order to keep the peace. Yet others decide to take matters into their own hands, going out of their way to protect what they believe in and attacking anyone or anything that says differently. One popular method seen across the country is that of book banning and censorship. Those for censorship believe any book considered obscene should be banned by the government, in order to ‘help’ America’s youth. Fortunately, no challenges or book-bannings have been reported in Sioux Falls, or even in the surrounding areas. Therefore, as a way to keep the peace, the School Falls School District should keep their policy of not banning books because of the history behind it, the complications of libraries and book banning, the fact that taking away books violates American rights, and that different solutions are available to book banning.
First of all, the policy that does not ban books should be kept because of the history behind book banning and the difference in viewpoints it can create. The idea of banning books started in 1873, when the Comstock Law passed, stopping the sale of vulgar novels. Then, a little over one hundred years later, librarians saw an increase in the amount of books challenged. Amazed, the American Library Association, or ALA, started recording the number of challenges made each year and made a list of the books that got challenged most often. Now, how many times that people try to ban books can change from year to year. The ALA reported over 500 different tries in 2008, about a hundred more challenges than in 2007. One of the highest points for attempts at banning books happened in 1995, when the ALA reported over 750 different books as challenged. However, this amount of books took place only in the United States, a democratic country capable of free speech. Back in Soviet Russia, due to their national ‘religion’ of atheism, banning occurred with any book that mentioned actual religion. Even further back, in Nazi Germany, books written by Jewish authors obtained the label of corrupt and destructive. Books deemed unfit for society for these reasons got banned and even publicly burned. In 1933, as many as 25,000 books got burned, for the only reason that they happened to be written by people of certain religions. With this in mind, one cannot just know the history behind book banning, but one must understand the different viewpoints that result because of it. Required books can get clashing reactions from parents, who can have differing opinions over a book. One example of this was the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Reported by Andy Johns, the residents of a Georgia town had completely different views on the book, ranging from “perversion”, to “fabulous”, to “just disgusting”. In Richland, Wash., officials actually banned the books, yet overturned their ruling once they actually read the book. This can happen with many books, which are banned for their first impression on a parent. A book on rape, for example, has the possibility of offending some people, and yet being a great conversation starter about the problems of the world today for others.
Once one understands the history behind book banning, and the reactions it can create, one must understand that librarians have complications with book banning. In fact, at Southern Connecticut State University, a section of the course on how to be a librarian covers the banning of books. Jane McGuin, a professor at the university said that “We discuss the code of ethics that says we cannot be the ones to censor, that we have to collect books on all points of view." Librarians believe that their job is to collect books of varying viewpoints and then to let the people decide whether or not they want to read the books. Any book has the potential of giving someone information that they may need to know. Those who work at libraries believe that a library happens to be one of the only places where everyone gets represented on the shelves.
Coinciding with librarians’ feelings on censorship, book banning violates America rights, making it technically illegal. In 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled that books cannot be removed over objections to what the novels contain. Some people, like Joan Maycock, a director at the ALA, even think that “If there is one person who can benefit from a book, it is a crime to remove it”. Others just believe that the banning of books violates the First Amendment. Another opinion over the illegality of book banning is that because no one can define what obscene truly means. Historically, U.S. Courts have had great difficulty legally defining what obscenity should be. Courts tend to rule obscenity as being “offensive and lacks serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value”. However, obscenity has also been ruled as unable to define, because of the openness of the definition. Unless one physically asked another person, one has no way of knowing what is and is not vulgar and dirty to someone else.
Luckily, options are available that are not just outright censoring. Authors have their own option of taking matters into their own hands and rewriting classics, omitting the vulgarity and offense that people do not like. For example, Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain author, published a new version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, omitting 219 different uses of racial language. However, many critics of banning and censorship disliked this as they considered to be defiling an original artwork. Librarians also have solutions to outright banning that are both good and bad. In some areas, librarians can move challenged books into the adult section, requiring that parents check the books out for their kids. Unfortunately, in other place, librarians and instructors take matters into their own hands. Quite a few teachers will censor what they give their students, trying to avoid a conflict (Kallweit). Likewise, many books challenged in libraries are not banned, but are removed from circulation. One cannot actually find numbers on how many books are put in the back of the library; unable to be read, but not technically banned. However, one might say that the best solution comes from the superintendent of Dade County, Georgia, a Mr. Shawn Tobin. Tobin had the idea that, in the future, if a committee finds a book to contain content that could be offensive to someone, instructors need to provide a different book to the parents who may object to the original. This allows parents to have the choice over the books they would want their children to read.
In conclusion, one should see the reasons why the Sioux Falls School District should stick to their policy of not banning books. First, the policy should be upheld because of the history behind book banning and the reactions it can cause. Second, librarians are actually unable to ban and censor reading material. Along with this, banning books violates American rights. Finally, other, more productive solutions are available to book banning. America’s democracy is based on the idea that everyone can have information. If ideas are being called “dangerous”, then they need to be addressed with information and debate, not censorship. Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to choose the latter”