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Recently, parents spoke out against controversial books in their children’s classrooms. Whether for or against the integration of books that offer different perspectives on historical struggles of people groups, all sides are passionate over what is considered necessary for education.
With elections taking place around the U.S., politicians jumped on the opportunity to gain support from voters. Some of these politicians requested a ban on several books—an action that began to generate dispute.
PANDERING TO THE VOTERS
Following the ban on critical race theory in Texas, Republican Rep. Matt Krause issued a letter to several large school districts in Texas requesting an investigation of 850 books. According to the Los Angeles Times, his reason for initiating the investigation was due to inappropiate content that caused students to feel inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their sex or race.
INFRINGEMENT OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
Krause and those who call for a ban on books owned by school libraries border on infringing on first amendment rights. Although limiting content may seem reasonable to protect students, they must remember the author’s freedom to write and the authority of schools to integrate that literature for educational purposes.
In 1975, a school board from Island Trees School District on Long Island, New York made their own list of “objectionable” books. The board failed to remove books on this list by authors like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Langston Hughes because the judge determined that just as much as the First Amendment gave authors the right to express their ideas, there was an implied right to receive them as well.
Without a respect for constitutional rights, parents and politicians will not make progress in using their freedom to help shape the education that their children receive. The educational quality and factual accuracy of a book should be the determining factor of its influence, not one’s disagreement with ideas expressed in a book.
BALANCING FREEDOM WITH MATURITY
On Nov. 27, Supt. Matt Hill removed five books from the Burbank school district core reading list including “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The five books removed from the curriculum remain available to students in the library for individual or group use.
Although removing the books from school curriculum evades awkward or challenging in-class conversations, opportunities to educate students about how to understand the book’s concepts correctly also do not take place. Students face real world issues in an educational and safe environment.
Education is changing and taking a new direction. With the introduction of critical race theory, book banning is back in the news as opponents of CRT combat the efforts people make to redefine what the “classics” are.
While those who advocate for book bans act on political and personal incentive, it is difficult to change the mind of a school board, committee or court. Similarly, those who push for books that some tag as “pornographic” or “inappropriate” need to practice good judgment in establishing boundaries for students of various ages.
Books that students spend their money and time reading in school must be of the highest quality. The education of the coming generations is crucial alongside their well-being, both of which are determined by their quality of education.