Banning and burning books is age-old and a way to erase ideas that make us feel uncomfortable. Many banned books are upsetting because they deal with attacks on vulnerable people. And without these books, we give students a narrow and dishonest view of our world. When the innocents graduate, they enter the real world unprepared to face it.
The most banned books and stories reveal the form hate takes: Huck Finn, The Lottery, Bluest Eye, Color Purple, Maus, Lawn Boy, Kite Runner, Invisible Man. Of course, these books can be disturbing. And book banners want students to get a pink picture of the world. But most teachers know that life isn’t like that, so they choose books and lessons based on student readiness. Some state legislators and even many parents are not qualified to be the judges, but certainly should have a say.
Today entire categories of books are banned, books that portray our country’s moral failings or suggest that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and classism do not exist. In Ohio, Governor and Hudson Valley Schools led the way: Lawn Boy, for example, is a teenage novel about race, class, socioeconomic struggle, and sexual identity. Hudson Valley says it contains inappropriate, offensive and sexually perverse language.
California is different. There, education officials say education should provide a foundation for understanding human rights issues. It means paying attention to success and suffering. Without such important books, democracy dies.