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Don’t tread on me: Banned Book Week sparks first ammendment debate

10/18/2010 – 12:34

Makayla Silva

Managing Editor

The archaic notion of censorship is apparently, not as dead and gone as we might like to think. With over 1,000 challenged books since 1982, Banned Book Week is the only celebration of the freedom to read.

Banned Books, for the most part, seem to be challenged with good intentions. Intentions of protecting small children from “difficult ideas and information,” according to the American Library Association.

Difficult ideas include but are not limited to homosexuality, religious views and nudity, the ALA says.

It seems to me that nudity does not only appear on the pages of “The Great Gatsby” and “The Catcher in the Rye” in 2010.

If we are going to ban books from the bookshelves of libraries and classrooms across the country, then we should consider banning controversial items from children.

In fact, in the interest of protecting our children from the horrors of the big bad world, we, as a nation, should place a bin at the entrance of all schools. Students should then take their inappropriate items, like crosses, Nintendo DSes and “Twilight” paraphernalia and discard of them upon entering their school’s premises.

Do children not have first amendment rights? Was this country not founded on religious tolerance and individuality?

According to the Supreme Court, children do have rights.

In the case of Erznoznik v. Jacksonville, the Supreme Court stated that speech “cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them. In most circumstances, the values protected by the First Amendment are no less applicable when the government seeks to control the flow of information to minors.”

And it’s not just wee-little children. Books are being challenged for young adults as well.

In 2009, Lauren Myracle’s “Internet Girls” series “TTYL,” “TTFN” and “L8R, G8R,”, “The Perks of Being A
Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky and “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler were among the literature “unsuited” for young adult readers.

For a country that has made substantial progress in race, ethnic and religious acceptance, in comparison to other countries of course, it seems like we are stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to reading.

Best-selling author Stephenie Meyer has been happily sitting on her Edward Cullen and Jacob Black throne since 2005. Meyer’s four “Twilight” books spent over 235 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list for Children’s Series Books.

Well, Meyer’s series has joined JK Rowling on the less desired list. ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books.

In 2003, the District Court in Cedarville Arkansas overturned the school board’s vote to restrict students’ access to the “Harry Potter” books because they believed the books promoted disobedience and disrespect for authority and dealt with witchcraft. The District Court stated that the restrictions violated students’ First Amendment right to read and receive information. Additionally, the court noted that the board could not abridge students’ First Amendment right to read a book on the basis of an undifferentiated fear of
disturbance or because the board disagreed with the ideas contained in the book.

Both the “Twighlight” and “Harry Potter” series have been protested for their religious viewpoints.

Are church and state a new happily formed couple? Did I miss the breaking news coverage? Or is religion
still an untouchable subject within public school systems across the country?

It seems hypocritical to ban a book for its religious viewpoints and still keep other religious traditions alive.

In the spirit of old-fashioned censorship, let’s bleep out any mention of Santa Claus and his beloved Christmas holiday and make the kids go to school on Rosh Hashanah. The heck with all religious

And on the note of hypocrisy, The Great Illustrated Classics series has published adapted versions of American classics for children, including an illustration about every three to four pages. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum and “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens appear in the series as well as the list of the 100 most challenged and/or banned books.

So, we publish these stories with pretty pictures and break down the language for children of all ages to understand, and then ban the books from their sight?

Last year alone, the ALA received 460 reports about efforts to remove books from the shelves of schools or libraries for being inappropriate, with only 81 instances of actual removal. Copies of “Brave New World,” “The Kite Runner,” “Black Hawk Down” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” were among books removed. I will also point out that over half of the complaints regarding inappropriate content were submitted by Pennsylvania and Texas.

That is not to say that book challenges are exclusive to the Keystone and Lonestar states. In 2009, Brian McDonald’s “In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood,” which revisits the Cheshire home invasion of Dr. William Petit, has been removed from the shelves until the men accused of the crime have been tried.

While this reason does seem to hold some ground for temporarily removing, angry parents across the country have tried to ban books for all sorts of really bizarre reasons. Happy Banned Book Week. I suggest you cozy up with your copy of “A Light in the Attic,” by Shel Silverstein, wearing your rosary beads in front of your poster of Taylor Lautner in happy disobedience.

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