Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Stop banning books

Banning influential literature is bound to have adverse effects on students

Laurie Halse Anderson once said, “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” Across America, we’re seeing a new wave of literary censorship reminiscent of the 1970s. Due to a myriad of reasons, governments and schools are once again attempting to police what people are allowed to read. These institutions cite reasons such as sexual explicitness or Critical Race Theory, but don’t fully understand what they’re trying to prevent students from reading about.

I went to high school in Georgia, and within the past year, the literary censorship in schools has reached unprecedented levels. My mom is an English teacher in the county where I used to attend school. Last week, she called me in a panic. Due to new restrictions on what she’s allowed to teach, the curriculum she’s used for the past 25 years must be completely discarded and recreated from scratch. Per the new rules, no teacher is allowed to teach any book that may be deemed sexually explicit. While this may sound like it makes sense, it ensures that classes are not allowed to read books such as “The Giver” by Louis Lowry, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley and so on.

The rule does not simply ban books that are unreasonably explicit; it bans books that mention anything in a sexual manner. This rule frankly seems misinformed and underdeveloped as unless a teacher is handing out books by Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski, most high schoolers are confronted daily with far more sexual content then they would find in these books.

The censorship, however, does not stop at sexual explicitness. These new rules also ban any book that could be deemed as CRT. The people deciding whether books fit into this category, however, don’t always know what they’re talking about. Keeping in mind that CRT is an extremely complex topic that most don’t learn about until graduate school, I would say it’s safe to assume that many middle and high schoolers don’t encounter it. However, many people have gotten the term mixed up with a far simpler one: “United States history.”

I won’t go into the nuances of of the exact definition of CRT or what it entails, but I will say that teaching kids about slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement absolutely does not fall under the realm of CRT. Because this has become such a hot-button issue, and most people still have no idea what it means, there is a push to ban books that people believe teach this theory in schools. There are, however, no books in high schools that would teach such a complex topic. So, these people who are trying to keep kids from learning what they believe is CRT are actually attempting to keep them from learning about the history of this country.

I believe it’s difficult to explain the scope of what this could mean without giving examples of the books that would be banned. If schools really enforce these rules, teachers would no longer be able to have their students read books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and many others. This rule cites not only CRT, but also a set of ideals known as the 1619 Project. This project aims to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contribution of Black Americans at the very center of the national narrative.”

The effects of such rules are being seen today, and a school district in Tennessee has already banned the book “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. Maus is a graphic novel depicting the horrors that occurred in concentration camps. The school district banned the book because they thought it was too violent for high school students to read, apparently forgetting that they were teaching about one of the most violent times in modern world history. Additionally, in Tennessee, a pastor held a local book burning with his congregation. They gathered in the middle of town, lit a fire and threw in books that they considered “demonic.” This included books such as Harry Potter and Twilight.

Today, we are aware that history is cyclical, but many people go out of their way to avoid acknowledging it. The pictures of the Tennessee book burning are reminiscent of those portraying book burnings in Nazi Germany. Banning literature that expresses marginalized perspectives and oppressed beliefs is always the first move of a fascist regime. The world has seen the myriad of consequences that stem from banning literature, and this country is running full speed right into another catastrophe.

Zach Leach can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @ZachLeach12.

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    LoganFeb 22, 2022 at 7:07 pm

    Gave me shivers