Jennifer Lyon

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022
Opinion: The Slippery Slope to Banning Books

**The following article is my opinion only. 

One of my most powerful and passionate beliefs is that we should NOT ban books. I understand and support everyone’s right to disagree with a subject matter, the point of view of a character, or a topic in the book. I support their right to be vocal about it. I may not like what they say but it’s their right to say it.

But I don’t support banning books.

We aren’t there yet, at least not in the most frightening version of governments banning books. But in my view, we’re on a slippery slope. Some schools, and other agencies, are removing books. Again, to be clear, this is not the same thing as governments banning books. So let’s not overstate it. I see people doing this and it’s not helpful. Stop being hysterical and calling a puppy a wolf, okay? But right now, I believe this is a slippery slope that could lead to banning books.

I read “To Kill A Mockingbird” when I was about 10, and it was my first experience with racism. Or more specifically, systemic racism that is woven in the very fabric of society’s beliefs and government institutions. At the time, I didn’t have the language or life experience to frame it in those words. But I could grasp hatred based on skin color, and I knew it was wrong.

That fictional story set in an all too real moment in our history helped me learn and grow. The impact of that one book had more to do with shaping my views on how we should treat all people than any protest or outcry since. It allowed me to see the destructive power of hatred through the child-character Scout’s eyes, and to understand that hatred must be fought against.

Right now, the book has been removed from some reading lists. Again that’s not banning, and it may just be shifting the reading curriculum with the times. Or it may not. I’m not sure yet. Are we are replacing that book with another well-written story that will teach some of the less savory parts of our history and expand our worlds along with our critical thinking skills? Or are we pretending it didn’t happen?

That’s why I view removing books from school libraries and reading lists as a concerning slippery slope. History has shown us how dangerous these actions can be. Banning books is a way to silence and control the population. Controlling books is controlling information. Now, I realize our world has changed, and we live on information superhighways. Unfortunately, many of our highways are built on misinformation, or not given proper context which is crucial for understanding difficult, and sometimes painful, topics.

But books have a special ability to give more in-depth context to ideas. That’s one of the things that makes fiction so compelling. We not only explore ideas, but the execution of those ideas in the lives of characters, along with the consequences. We experience it through the character’s emotional journey as they pursue their goals. We feel their joy of success and the agony of their mistakes or defeat. We root for them as they strive to repair or overcome mistakes, or fight against unjustness. We are invested enough cry real tears.

Books are powerful, and controlling which books are accessible is what dictators or other repressive regimes have done over and over. I sincerely hope we get off this slippery slope and stop yelling about books. Stop being afraid of them. Instead, read with our children. Look, parents, if you object to a book and don’t want your child to read it, I support you. It’s your right as the parent.

But it’s not your right to tell other parents what they can let their child read. I let my kids read most of the books they wished, but if I had concerns, I read it too. I was a much faster reader, and we talked about the book. I was actively shaping their impressions and reactions, and guiding them within the frame of our values.

Leave the decision on what to read to the individual adult, or the parents. Not the agencies or governments. We must never get to a place where we let fear and or hatred drive us into banning books.

6 comments to “Opinion: The Slippery Slope to Banning Books”

  1. B.E. Sanderson
    February 2nd, 2022 at 7:41 am · Link

    Yep. Are there books I’d rather people not read? Of course. Is it any of my business? Nope. Hell, there are books I read when I was young that I wish I hadn’t. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

    When it came time to monitor what Owl read, I did the best I could, but with her reading 10-15 books a week (big books, no pictures), I couldn’t keep up with everything she was reading. (And she was reading EVERYTHING.) The best I could do was tell her to be careful what she read because once something is in your head, you can never get it out. And I told her if there was ever anything she read that concerned her, she should come to me to talk about it.

    Maybe that’s the key – talking about what concerns you in any given book rather than banning it outright.

    My major concern for some of the books being taught in our schools is the craptastic sense of life they offer. Offer something heroic and hopeful instead. Big Red versus Old Yeller, for instance. Awesome dog saves the day and survives his injuries versus dog that gets rabies and has to be killed by the people who love him. Blech. Life’s rough, sure, but there’s time enough to learn that later. :steps off the soapbox:

    Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking post, Jenn. Have a great day. :hugs:

  2. Silver James
    February 2nd, 2022 at 8:50 am · Link

    There’s so much I want to say but I won’t. Basically, I agree with you. Banning books–and BOTH sides advocate it–is wrong. Cancel culture is wrong. Pushing agendas in the educational system is wrong. Rewriting history is wrong. As a history major, I have VERY strong feelings about that. I’m watching it happen every day and I despair for future generations. Books like TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD and HUCKLEBERRY FINN are important books, historically.

    I’ll add that books must be age appropriate as far as subject matter goes and any material that is intended to put barriers up between children is wrong.

    On that note, I’ll stop. There’s so much more I want to say but your blog is not the appropriate forum. As B.E. said, thank you for the interesting and thoughtful post.

  3. Viki S.
    February 2nd, 2022 at 4:13 pm · Link

    I am so SICK of cancel culture and the banning and suppressing of books (free speech in general). Though it is of my opinion that any graphic sexual books be moved into a different location in school libraries and the parents give permission for the kid to read them.

    I also have books that I find disgusting but I would NEVER stop one from reading them. You learn from what you read. As you stated, what you read/learn shapes you.

    Like you, I read everything the boys had to read right along with them so we could discuss the book together. This was very important when middle (brilliant kid) in the accelerated program was studying the holocaust while in 6th grade with HS seniors. Some of those books were really difficult.

    As both B. E. and Silver said – great though provoking post.

    Have a great afternoon.

  4. Jenn
    February 2nd, 2022 at 4:50 pm · Link

    B.E., true, but you know reading a bad book is like working at a crappy job–we learn what we don’t like and it motives us not to do it again :-)

    Fast readers are a challenge. When they read series, I read a couple books from that series as a sample and it helped me know the characters enough to follow when they talked about it. But yea, she was reading a LOT of books!

    You were clearly an invested parent and would talk to your kid. I love that.

    I’m all for heroes too. Although we read some rather dark stories, so I guess it’s about balance. Life has consequences and books can really illustrate that. But I do understand your point and it’s valid. We want to give our kids examples of who we want them to grow into.

    I love hearing rational opinions and thoughts on topics I care about and am happy to hear yours!

  5. Jenn
    February 2nd, 2022 at 5:08 pm · Link

    Silver, I was trying not to wade into actual politics, but I will agree 1000% Both sides are doing it. I am going to stop on that subject before I fall off my ladder trying to get on my big soapbox, LOL.

    I despair too. It’s not that they have to read the same books I read, it’s that I want them to challenge their critical thinking enough to understand a different time and place, and learn some history that has shaped our country. It’s all important. Non fiction is good for facts, but fiction can show us what it meant to actually live under those facts–both the good and the bad. I hope that makes sense.

    Age appropriate is reasonable. And in entirely different from banning a book, or it is in my mind :-)

    I hear you on pushing agendas, but it’s harder to do in a society that can read widely. I really believe that. I also believe invested parents (and grandparents) usually have more ultimate influence than schools, but that’s another blog.

    I see you’re as passionate as I am, LOL. But that makes me happy that we all care so much.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jenn
    February 2nd, 2022 at 5:20 pm · Link

    Viki, definitely moving things to age appropriate sections is school libraries makes sense to me. I always think parents have the right to decide for their child.

    While in general I agree with you, “cancel culture” is one of those phrases I’ve seen used in hysteria when it doesn’t apply. But it’s also read and a bad precedent. And it really shows one of the dark corners of a vindictive social media (to be fair, the power of social media is used for good too).

    Your son was lucky to have you help him through learning about WWII. I still remember I was a Freshman in high school when I realized the full impact of the atrocities in those camps. And my dad fought in that war. You helping your son is crucial.

    If all parents were as invested as you, B.E. and Silver, we wouldn’t have as many worries. I’d be far less concerned about the slippery slope I see us on. And you all give me hope :-)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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