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Is Banning Books Constitutional? Essay

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The Catcher in the Rye. The Scarlet Letter. Huckleberry Finn. Harry Potter. The Diary of Anne Frank. Animal Farm. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Da Vinci Code. The Grapes of Wrath. These literary classics have been vital to the education of many, especially children and adolescents (Banned Books). These great novels both teach important values and educate children about world affairs and classic themes. Unfortunately, each of these novels has been banned at one point in time. In a country where freedom is so adamantly advocated, it is a wonder that an issue like censorship would even come up, that such a controversy would sink its claws into the minds of states’ boards of education across the nation. Censorship is a needless restriction placed on developing minds that need the morals and values that banned books can give. Many of these classic stories have been banned because of sexual references, racial slurs, religious intolerance, or supposed witchcraft promotion.

Although some may consider these books controversial or inappropriate, many English classes have required their students to read these books (About banned). It should be believed that even controversial books could ultimately boost, not deter, our educational wealth. Book banning should be opposed for three main reasons: education should be open to everyone, citizens should have access to the press, and, lastly, parents should monitor what their own children read and not what other children can obtain. For these reasons, I conclude that the government should play no role in what books any age group can obtain. At first glance, the debate over banning books appears unimportant. Nevertheless, this debate has divided our nation into those who favor censoring books to protect their impressionable adolescents, and those who argue that education should be open for everybody without interference from the government in restricting the publishing and accessing of these books.

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The author, Micah Issitt, argues that censoring books violates the First Amendment, stating, “Citizens must be free to seek out any media, regardless of content, that they deem appropriate for entertainment, information, or education.” (Kelly) All citizens should have the choice to read whatever they want, but should not have the right to dictate what others may read. If a person considers a book inappropriate or offensive, then he or she does not have to read it, but to someone else, that same book may be exactly what he or she needs to move beyond ignorance and into the world of the informed and educated. By being exposed to new ideas and information through reading and various styles of expression, young adults have the opportunity to learn tolerance, acceptance and respect for others. He or she learns to form his or her own opinion and learns how to understand the world a little more.

In a country such as the United States, it is the right of the people to respectfully share their views through the spoken or written. It is also the right of the people to listen and acknowledge such views. It is not only immoral to oppose certain books and prevent children and young adults from reading them, but it can be construed as unconstitutional. If anyone had the right to challenge “inappropriate” books, it would be the parents of the “susceptible” children being protected. Parents are the only adults responsible for what kinds of book their children digest. Only they can know what may be suitable and what their children can handle. “Even though not every book will be right for every reader, the ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely are core American values,” states Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Protecting one of our most fundamental rights- the freedom to read- means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves, what they and their families read.”

So, how is it that boards of education are the ones making decisions on books? Which ones should be censored? What right do they have to do so? The boards are not the ones who should be held accountable for what books children and adolescents absorb; this is primarily the responsibility of parents. Many conservative groups make the argument that the books that have been banned have material that is inappropriate, immoral or contradicting the beliefs they have ingrained in their children and/or their society. Book-banning cases usually concern the protection of children and their innocence, but all that is happening is sheltering parents trying to avoid an awkward confrontation with their child about uncomfortable matters. It is not only selfish, but also harmful to the overall education of their children.

The touchy subjects of banned books contain issues that are part of everyday life, and for a group to attempt to censor this subject from younger society is almost absurd; these issues are not monstrous and the censorship of them not only shows prejudice but lack of respect. Others would say that it is the government’s duty to regulate these books. It is the exact opposite of the government’s role- the private lives of U.S. citizens and the books they read should be regulated and controlled at his or her own digression. (Banned books) Topics that seem socially outlawed in public have been banned because their immoral content may have a negative affect on younger children. In these books, authors do not promote or encourage bad behaviors; they prepare their readers for some of the real world’s challenges.

Even though these books center around scary topics, they are educating children on real-life matters that they will be exposed to once they venture into the world themselves. With the knowledge that some of these books have to offer, children can learn how not to act and what can be the consequences if they do misbehave. Banning books not only hinders a child’s educational development but also leaves them unaware of the true state of the world. This learning experience could be a turn-around with the help of a parent and pass a positive affect on to the child. Books do not simply impart general information; they heavily influence a child, the future generation.

Without regular access to books, both adults and children could not form sound opinions, only narrow-minded ones. Both advocates and opposers of book banning agree, “Books are powerful instruments.” (Kelly) Any person should remain free to select his or her reading material. This personal issue of selecting reading material has no relation to the government. On the contrary, government and school board action interferes with the individual education, a primary American value. Ultimately, children can learn personal responsibility in determining which books to regard and which to discard. In the future, these children will become well-educated adults who can benefit the American society.

“Banned Books and Censorship–A Closer Look at Book Banning.” BooksAtoZ. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jul 2012. .

Kelly, Melissa. “Censorship and Book Banning in America.” About.com. New York Times, n.d. Web. 15 Jul 2012. .

“About Banned & Challenged Books.” American Library Association. ALA, n.d. Web. 15 Jul 2012. .

“Banned and Challenged Classics.” American Library Association. ALA, n.d. Web. 19 Jul 2012. .

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