OPINION: Books kill zero children each year, but lets ban them

Author’s Note: I must fully disclose that this article is an opinion article backed up with facts from accredited news organizations or valid web sources. The opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not reflect that of any organization or business I have previously worked for, currently work for or will work for in the future. This article is not meant to belittle any political groups or influential people in power.

The content in this article is sensitive. Reader discretion is advised.

School’s out, which means we won’t see school mass shooting statistics for a few months.

Was that too harsh, Supreme Court? 

What I meant to say was you can’t ban books because what else are children supposed to protect themselves from when bullets are flying in their direction?

I mean – we have a duty to protect our children from harm, right?

Book banning is becoming an upward trend. In the 2022-23 school year, PEN America reported an escalation of book bans and censorship centered around topics of race, history, sexual orientation and gender.

The website reads, “PEN America recorded more book bans during the fall 2022 semester than in each of the prior two semesters. This school year also saw the effects of new state laws that censor ideas and materials in public schools, an extension of the book-banning movement initiated in 2021 by local citizens and advocacy groups.”

Sure, a kindergartener does not need to be taught and confused about sex or pedophilia. However, limiting books that offer little-to-no harm to a student with a decent level of comprehension becomes more of an infringement on their right to education and information and less about “protecting” the children.

PEN America released its index of banned books from this past school year and the years prior. Some of these books include Gender Queer: A Memoir and Sold.

The book that sparked my interest to write this opinion piece is when I saw Rupi Kaur among the list of banned poetry books for her debut work, milk & honey, a collection of work that contains sensitive – but relatable – material. 

PEN America found the top subject matter that was banned, which should not surprise you given the reason for book bans. The most popular banned subject matter was physical abuse and violence at 44%. Valid? Sure. The wars you learn about in history class I’m sure don’t count as violence. 

One of the next highest percentages of subject matter that was banned was 38% of the books from this past school year being health and wellbeing-related. How can a student learn about proper physical and mental health as well as bodily changes without reading about it? They can’t watch it on TikTok because that’s about to get banned. 

The U.S. currently ranks 27th in the world for its investments in education and health care, last overall in healthcare and first overall in teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. If the country is limiting information and education about these topics, just imagine what that will do to the generations coming up.

Next is race and racism at 30% and LGBTQ-related content at 26%. This just doesn’t make sense to me. A gay person is going to be gay whether they read or not. You’re going to inevitably learn about race and racism whether you want to or not. 

I can assure you, if your teen is reading about sex and drugs, that is the least of your worries. High schoolers I grew up with did way much more and way worse. They probably could have benefitted from better sex and substance abuse education.

But also, let’s be real here. High schoolers hate reading as is. A 2017 poll from the National Education Association (NEA) found that reading peaked during a student’s middle years. On how many students read more than 10 books a year, the NEA found that 56% of grade school students, 70% of middle school students and 49% of high school students do. Taking away the options a student has to read is not effective in the slightest. In fact, it might even be counterproductive as the student will find it less worthwhile to pick up a book if they feel like it might be banned.

In 2023, these numbers for the banned books talked about in the article only increased. Gender Queer: A Memoir saw 15 more bans across school districts, making 56 total bans. Something as small as milk & honey now has a total of 13 bans across school districts. 

At its very core, book banning is against the First Amendment. You know that thing you’re using to argue justification for an everyday fellow to carry an assault weapon? Yeah, there’s an amendment before the one you memorized. When banning books, you’re depriving a student of access to education and information. This goes against freedom of the press and freedom of speech of the one publishing the book as well as freedom of the press violation for the student who’s been limited the information. 

Also, did you know it violates another universal document? Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) embodies fundamental rights to be universally protected. 

While it’s still legal, I read through the UDHR and found that book burning violates three articles in the document: Articles 19, 26 and 27.

Article 19 states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” I think it speaks for itself here, but book bans silence authors’ voices, going against their freedom of opinion and expression.

Article 26 expresses the right to education, a free or easily accessible tool for all ages. Education should also “be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Again, self-sufficient evidence that book banning is prohibiting education about those different than us.

Article 27 states “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” The second part I think is very important when talking about how this is violated by book banning. “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

When you take away books with race and sexuality subject matter, you’re not “erasing the issue.” What you’re doing is teaching the students that you as a government are scared of the generation’s power. Considering generations now are growing up or have grown up with technology, they are gaining information about the world at a faster rate than previous generations have the good, the bad and a lot of ugly.

You have to ban those books so you can make room for the guns you want to put in the classrooms, just say that.

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