School Censorship is Detrimental to Education
Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Maya Angelou. What do these writers have in common? Sure, they are all great American authors, but there is something else. They are all "banned." Censored. Forbidden. Who has not read a book by at least one of these authors? All are great pieces of literature and should be crucial parts of the high school curriculum. School censorship of books is detrimental to the educational development of high school students.
In order to understand the problems with school censorship, one must know why it is done. One reason is bad language. A prime example of this type of censorship occurred in a California school when words like ëdamn' and ëhell' were blacked out of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Students were stunned by the irony of the situation. A book about censorship was being censored (Wright). Sexual activity is another common reason for censorship, along with assaults on family values and violence. Why is this happening when 90% of students surveyed do not believe that books should be censored because they contain offensive language or sexual situations (Survey)? Negative racial treatment of characters, setting, or theme also fuels censorship (Simmons).
Something else that must be mentioned in order to understand the evils of school censorship are facts censors ignore; the first being literary quality. When they chose to censor a book they do not take into account the educational value of the book. How can one say a book does not belong in schools if they do not know what lessons it teaches? The second key element ignored is the manner in which teachers lead students to interact with texts. They give no credit to the teachers that they could address an offensive issue, such as slavery, as purely objective. When a teacher teaches controversial issues they usually try to stick to the facts or in a subject like slavery show the evils of it. Teachers are not in schools to fill the minds of children with their own opinions or those of authors. They are there to teach students facts, and the books are instruments in which they do so. The final element ignored by censors is the context of the offensive elements. An example of this is foul language. When a censor looks at a book and sees foul language, they shy away. They do not even consider that this language was the norm during the period in which the story takes place and is thus essential (Simmons).
In today's society the most popular reasons for censorship are racial ones, even though 100% of students surveyed do not believe books should be censored because they contain racial situations (Survey). The prime argument against books containing racially tense situations is that racial slurs "are detrimental to the self esteem of students in minority groups" (Wright). This argument is ridiculous for two reasons. The first is that the slurs add...