I grew up in a family that read everything they could get their hands on from the bookmobile and the bookstore when there was extra money. We were encouraged to read and think about the things we read. Our parents didn’t always understand our point of view, and sometimes disagreed loudly about it, especially during our teen-aged years, but they allowed us to express our opinions and remind us about making the right choices during our lifetimes.

I also respected and understood the value of my teachers and what they chose to read to us as students from elementary through high school. They were not in favor of censorship, and trust me, I lived in a very conservative environment where they wanted to ban books like The Fountainhead and Catcher in the Rye (mild sexual content compared to today). Many of our teachers and librarians had an understanding about teaching the appropriate age books – right things at the right time.

And yet, today we strive to have “Blissful Ignorance.” Do people understand the concept that the truth will sometimes hurt, and therefore they choose blissful ignorance? Is this really a better choice? Have the parents who are protesting these books even read the books they are opposing? Have the politicians read the entire book that they are opposing? Did their families ever create an open mind in them, one of lifelong learning? Or do they want everyone to just “tow the party line?”

Research has demonstrated repeatedly the negative effects of banning and even censorship of books. According to the American Library Association, they note that for teachers, book banning means shaky, ever-changing curriculum, fear for personal choices, and the tragedy of self-censorship. They also state that for students, book banning means a denial of First Amendment rights, a narrow world view, and psychological deficits. For the classroom, book banning means discourse is hindered.

Why is Freedom of Speech so important for us, especially when it comes to banning books? Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful. John Stuart Mill is famous for his quote regarding liberty of speech and the written word:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind….But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

If you are interested in reading more about censorship, feel free to look up these links to the American Library Association’s website:  https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/aboutbannedbooks OR https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks

A post in Common Sense media states that people tend to ban books for religious or political reasons: An idea, a scene, or a character in the book offends their religion, sense of morality, or political view. Some people feel they need to protect children from the cursing, morally offensive behavior, or racially insensitive language in a book. They think a book’s content is too violent or too sexual. We all want to protect our children from harm, but how is this helpful? Reading a challenged book is a learning experience and can help your kids define their own values and opinions of its content. Further information on this subject can be found at: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/why-your-kid-should-read-banned-books

Regarding the moral issue, I would like to pose this question:  Do you, as a parent, think you are helping your children by showing up at school libraries, waving dildos in the air and shouting expletives about anal sex? More than likely, it just embarrasses the child and those around him/her and they become scarred for life. I think the better question for these parents and politicians is this:  Why are you so afraid of knowledge of uncomfortable subjects? Why are you so afraid that your child really needs to gather all off the facts about a subject? They are smarter and savvier than you think they are.

We, as adults, have our parents and our grandparents’ voices in our head. We can break the cycle and allow our children to have the tools they will need in life to be free thinkers. We can provide for all the physical and safety needs, but we should let the teachers create the atmosphere where children are free to think and understand the facts and grow up to become rational human beings. They should be free to go with what is logical and sane instead of hosting a slew of ghosts in their heads.

I will never believe in censorship, or fanatical religious beliefs. I do believe that parents have a voice in what they personally teach their very young children at home. However, parents shouldn’t show up in a school and have such ridiculous behavior that it interrupts the education process. When you berate educators, it makes them question why they do what they do for such little pay. Educators want to be there to open the eyes of young children to a world larger than you or even your parents. They want to help. I have only had a few teachers that I felt shouldn’t have gone in the field and didn’t like teaching. However, most of my education process was defined by amazing teachers who worked hard and tried to help us understand the world at a level we could embrace. Each year, each book, builds on the next and as a result, we come out with open minds and a quest for knowledge that drives us to move onto the next level. By analyzing books and breaking them out into micro-bits of information, we create a thought process that allows for informed conclusions that are rational and logical. You can determine whether your child is old enough to hear some of this information when they are younger. However, children are smarter than you think and will eventually figure out that you have prejudices that you will not acknowledge. They will form their own ideas and resent your attempts to smother them.

You as a parent to your child cannot chose to ban books for all other children and teachers in the classroom. Listening to your testimonies at publicized meetings on the nightly news does not encourage me that you have a better understanding of the subjects the teachers are trying to convey to all children. It furthers my belief in your willful ignorance. It makes me wonder how embarrassed your children feel about your actions. Your children want to believe in you, but your actions spur on those who disagree with you into wanting these books to be included in the classrooms regardless of content.

Public Education is for the many, not the few, and you don’t have the right to impose your belief systems on other people or their children who may think differently from you.

Finally, writers please think about what you write and its ensuing effects on the audience. Yes, knowledge of a subject is powerful and what you have lived is important. But is it important to air your views to children at a very vulnerable and early age? Please think about your impact on the world. Sometimes you are hurting others more when you write something explicit. Sometimes it needs to be said to air your anguish and hurt. However, writers can tone down the explicitly sexual and gore content down for the youngest minds. We can get the picture across without the gore. For example, extreme sexual content and gore in horror movies stay in an adult’s brain forever. I can only imagine what it does to children. Think about the impact something intense had on your young mind, and what you felt before you demand they include your book in the curriculum.

I know this is hard concept to grasp, but let’s take a moment to think about our choices.  We cannot change our parents’ way of thinking or what they thought was the right thing to do, but we can change how we approach educating our children. We must rethink our personal bias and indoctrination and listen to what the teacher is trying to accomplish. We can only recommend curriculum for his/her classroom. We cannot as a group decide what is right for every child in their classroom. That is not our job as a parent. Public education is just that: PUBLIC. Our job as parents is to raise our child to the best of our ability, open their eyes to the world, and let them grow up and into their own opinions. They may sometimes disagree with us, and they may sometimes hate us, but they will choose what is the right thing to do if given a choice and we teach them the basics of love and acceptance at home. We must let them grow and form their own opinions as they get older and begin to separate from us. They may not choose our current belief system and path and we as parents must learn to be okay with that. All people must come together for the truth and what is right. We must stop being angry and actively listen to each other and not automatically dismiss someone who isn’t on the same page. It is time to disregard negativity and let children learn in a free world and develop their own opinions and mindsets even if we don’t agree with them. Let’s all grow together. Happy Spring Everyone!

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