Book bannings aren’t about the books

It’s about the control


Landen Munns

This graphic novel about the Holocaust often shows up on banned books lists.

Landen Munns, Co-Editor In Chief

For centuries, people have had the overwhelming desire to “remove” what they don’t like from society. Roman emperor Caligula banning the reading of The Odyssey by Homer all the way back in 35, the removal of several of Shakespeare’s plays in the 1700s, the banning of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (which outlined the theory of evolution) in the 1860s are just a few famous examples of literature that were banned or destroyed throughout history. The past few years, our country has had a dramatic increase in book bannings.

Recently, laws have been passed in states that give state politicians the say over what materials are in libraries and schools. They have the ability to withhold funding until certain titles are removed and can punish anyone who refuses. Texas Representative Matt Krause recommended over 850 pieces of literature to be removed statewide which was eventually followed through on.

Since the beginning of the year, 175 educational gag order bills have been introduced or prefiled in 40 states to censor teachers. These officials accuse teachers and librarians of pedophilia for having books about LGBTQ+ themes. In Wyoming, prosecutors brought charges against library staff for refusing to remove such books, but the charges were later dropped.

Conservatives have decided that censorship is the most effective way to get people to conform to their ideas. After all, if you have no opposing viewpoint or facts, you must believe what they tell you. 

This push of authoritarianism is similar to what happens in the dystopian book 1984 by George Orwell, which, conveniently, is one of the most challenged and banned books. Instead of simply not reading a book one person might disagree with, they decide it should not be available to anyone because it does not conform to their views. If any of these people bothered to actually read a history book, it is obvious why book banning should not have a place in society. In May 1933, teams of Nazis burned every book of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft Library in Berlin.

History is sadly beginning to repeat itself. One example of a banned book was the book Maus by Art Spiegelman, which is a graphic novel about the Holocaust. This is very ironic because during the Holocaust, the Nazis banned and destroyed around 15 million books. 

The majority of books that are being banned or challenged all have similar themes. They are by LGBTQ+ or POC authors or deal with the themes of equality, racism, discrimination, or ironically, censorship. 41% of banned books last year featured LGBTQ themes and 40% featured a POC main character such as “The Story of Ruby Bridges” and “George.”

Between July 2021 and the end of March 2022, an astounding 1,586 book bannings took place in 86 school districts in 26 states affecting over 6 millions students, according to a comprehensive PEN America study. The censorship is coming so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep track. Conservative states like Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida were, not surprisingly, the top three states. 

“In all my years as both an English educator and librarian, I have never felt that there was a valid reason for removing books from a school,” said Silverado Librarian Robin McNabb. “These books are often removed because they make someone feel uncomfortable or they are not in agreement with a person’s personal, social or political viewpoints. People often want to protect others and that is why they attempt to ban a book. However, I feel a blanket judgment such as banning a book is not the proper response.” 

Most of the groups behind this are ones such as the conservative group No Left Turn. Founded in 2020 to ban books about racial inequality from the classroom by Elana Fishbein (who believes “antifa children” are going to assault her kids for being white), No Left Turn rocketed to prominence in the anti-education right wing after Fishbein was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

The parents fueling this movement have anything but their children’s best interests at heart. It should come as no surprise that “grassroots” campaigns like No Left Turn are in reality linked to influential conservative donors and PACs. 

It’s important to have diverse ideas represented in curriculums and school libraries so children are able to develop their own perspectives, as well as understand different experiences and be exposed to different cultures. These stories and many others teach us important lessons about humanity. 

“I believe book bannings will negatively impact students,” McNabb said. “Books should provide different different points of view, accurately portray contributions made to our society by persons from diverse backgrounds and should be culturally and historically responsive and reflective of individual students needs, linguistic backgrounds, interests, socioeconomics, maturity and academic level, as well as encourage growth in literary knowledge, aesthetic appreciation , and ethical standards. To put it simply, books should be mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors for students.”

This should concern us all. Teachers and librarians respect the rights of parents and students to dictate which books they or their children read. Nobody should have the right to decide what other people’s children should read. We value the freedom to learn, and we should not and will not stand for the silencing of young learners. Hopefully with more awareness and public support, we can put the homophobic, racist, conservative censorship to an end.