Editorial: Banned books lead to closed minds

Sofia Rose, Editor In Chief

In a world where much of our information comes from the Internet, books remain an important resource for many. The more information we can acquire from varied sources, both print and online, the better we are equipped to discuss the issues that dominate our political sphere today. Often times, books can provide information that isn’t accessible online, or present a different opinion than one that a person reads online. When we ban books, it limits the types of knowledge our children are exposed to. We are saying that certain words are acceptable and that other ones are not, and that is a toxic mentality for a child or a teen to carry into adulthood, especially when knowledge on a wide range of topics is so critical for navigating the information age that we live in. At Linden Hill Elementary School, there were complaints about The Diary of a Wimpy Kid from a family who “hated the stick drawing of the boy at the urinal [and] the boys folding moms undies,” according to Debbie Marinelli, the Library Media Specialist at Linden Hill Elementary. The challenger requested that a committee read every book in the library for inappropriate content. While complaints like these might seem extreme, they are more common than one might think. For instance, when Cape Henlopen High School removed The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth from it’s summer reading list in 2014, controversy arose. The book, which has won multiple awards, is about a young lesbian growing up as an orphan in the Midwest in the 1990s. School board members voted to remove it after complaints from parents about the book’s vulgar language. After the school board was criticized by the Delaware Library Association for the choice, the entire summer reading list was eliminated. In Danforth’s letter to the Cape Henlopen School Board (published on the Huffpost blog), she wrote that she was “very disappointed” her book was removed from the reading list. “Students in your district deserve much better from their leaders,” Danforth said in her piece. Although book banning is not as extreme as book burning, they both stem from close-minded principles, and have no place in modern society. It’s indeed ironic that we live in an information age, yet at every step of the way, someone is controlling which information is okay and which is bad. Mrs. Supplee, Dickinson librarian, says parents can request that their children don’t check out certain materials from the library, if they feel the need. It should not be a decision that is mandated by school, church, or government. Once a child reaches adolescence, they are more able to choose which materials are appropriate for their own reading. Often times, books that are being banned are simultaneously praised as wonderful works of literature: Harry Potter has been on the list of most challenged books frequently since its release in 1997 for occult/Satanism and anti-family themes; Catcher in the Rye has been banned for vulgar language; To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned for racially charged and sexual themes. Consistently, books that are banned have treasures within them. The American Library Association curates a list of the most banned books every year, and in 2016, the most banned books dealt with LGBT themes, mainly. According to Ms. Supplee, the Red Clay School Board takes requests for removal of books very seriously, but they also are hesitant to ban a book if not absolutely necessary. They want to protect the rights of children, especially high schoolers, to access any information they choose, in order to better themselves and their under- standing of the world around them. This free exchange of information is essential for us, the next generation, to better learn about the world around us. Once we learn everything we can, with the help of books from many different perspectives on many different topics, we can help make our world a better place.