Ban That Book!

I understand and sympathize with book banners. And I take serious issue with the statement I saw on Twitter today, where someone claimed, “No, sometimes kids need to read something outside of what their parents might chose [sic].”

Wrong.

That’s MY kid and when ANY collective or hive mind decides that the values that I use to raise my children are not in line with their wisdom and then by extension tries to usurp my place as parent, I get very very… VERY angry. No matter how well educated or how many people agree with the hive/collective mind– I am the parent and the buck stops with me.

Go ahead and take that to some logical extensions. “But what if your values involve a grown man marrying and having sex with multiple 12-14 year old girls, or even boys?” or “But what if those values include subjugating women so deeply that they can’t get an education, have no identity outside their marriage, can’t own property, can’t even be seen by the public, and have pretty much no choice about their destiny?”

See what I did there? That’s a different issue that I’m not going to get into today, but I get your point.

When a value causes actual harm to the child– harm that is near-universally recognized– that’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. But calling not having access to a certain book a potential ‘harm’ to a kid, on the level of rape or subjugation or other physically and mentally and emotionally damaging activities, is not only asinine but does a huge disservice to the hundreds, nay, thousands, of good books out there.

Kids do not HAVE to read a book about rape, or about incest, or about intolerance, or about violence, or about teen drinking or drug-use/addiction, or about horrible middle schools, in order to learn that those things exist and they suck. Truth is, it’s MY job as a parent to prepare my kids to live in a world where crappy things occur. It’s MY job to teach my kids how to cope with those things.

So if you are arguing against banning books by trying to say you know better than the parents, or that your values are inherently more right than the parents’, then you’re doing it wrong. And if you are saying that not all parents are doing it right, what do you mean by ‘right’? And if you say some kids are horribly neglected, you’re right. But should our priority be getting them a challenging and powerful book or should it be, instead, getting that child a support system that can help him/her have the things in life that will keep him/her healthy and safe?

Argue against banning because it is stupid, a poor reflection on the banner, and frankly immoral.

Banning books is stupid because it’s not going to work. Honestly, I hope that my books get challenged or banned– for whatever reason. (No, I’m not writing with the intention of having my books banned or challenged. But if my stuff is on the level of Laurie Halse Anderson’s stellar work or Katherine Patterson’s, or Judy Blume’s, I’ll die happy.) A banned or challenged book is a book with more press, publicity, and a greater chance of engendering curiosity.

Curiosity like that means more sales and readers. Also, take this experience from my youth. I was probably 15 or 16 and one of the teachers in the cult’s tiny private school, called Faith School, in Dallas noticed I was reading Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series. If you’ve read any of these books, you know why this teacher/member of the cult, told me she thought I shouldn’t read them. She went so far as to ban me from reading them.

I ignored her ban and grew more determined to read all of them. To tell you the truth, I was a teenage boy surrounded by discordant and totally schizo moral philosophies. I was totally unperturbed by questions of appropriateness and morality and I freaking loved those books. I learned a lot!

It is stupid, wrong-headed, and futile to ban books. If your child is aware that a book is banned, they are going to wonder why. So maybe a parent should, instead of challenging or banning a book, do their job and bloody well COMMUNICATE with their child.

If you try to ban books, that’s a crappy reflection on you as a parent and person. You are basically saying you don’t trust yourself to teach your kid(s) and you don’t trust your kid(s) to listen to you. You are also putting your chips on a system that is controlled by people you probably don’t even know very well, rather than on your family. Good job, parent. Way to show where the buck stops for you. And it’s just straight up daft because you are trumpeting your ineffectiveness as a parent and a member of society.

Instead of trying to ban a book, maybe read that book. No, really, read the thing. Demonstrate that you can exercise the brain you were blessed with and really try to get at what it is about this book you think you don’t like. I guaran-freaking-tee that if people would read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, they would quit trying to ban it. If they will just stop and think, at least. That book is a triumph. It will be required reading for my kids as they grow up enough to be able to understand the material.

Finally, trying to ban books is, in my opinion a nasty combination of immorality and hypocrisy. Let’s see if I can express this clearly. It is immoral because our freedom to choose our destiny and what we do with our lives is fundamental to our existence. Sure, it’s just a book, but that’s where it starts. And where does it stop? Banning books is a form of setting oneself up as a moral authority, or in other words, as the arbiter of morality. That would be God. Not you. Leave moral determinations to Him and choice to people. Trying to ban books feels like hypocrisy to me because you are trying to use your freedom to choose in order to restrain the ability of another person to make his or her own choices.

Just back off, stop, and think. Let people make their choices. If you worry about your child being assigned a book to read by their teacher– a book that you don’t think they should read– be AWARE of what your child’s teacher is planning for the year. Take up any concerns you have with the teacher. Be an adult, be a parent. School is not a day care, my friends. You are a HUGE part of your child’s schooling.

No, really, you are, whether you realize it or not. If you are completely divorced from your kids schooling, uninterested and unengaged.. guess how your kid’s probably going to feel about school.

I hope I stated my feelings on this issue clearly. If you have any points you want to argue, or make, or confirm, please do so in the comments section below. If you want me to clarify, let me know, also in the comments section.

Also, have you ever been told you COULD NOT READ a certain book? How did you react?

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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