Banned Book Week Draws Attention to Censorship

Recently Dimond High School celebrated Banned Books Week, but it’s not what it sounds like.

Banned Book Week is put on by the American Library Association to draw attention to the censorship and banning of books throughout communities in the United States.

Human beings have been expressing opposing opinions since the beginning of time.

The desire to change people’s opinions and ideas to match our own seems to be an immutable characteristic of human nature.

One way of limiting and shaping ideas to fit a perceived ideal is the censorship and banning of books.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that Congress cannot restrict speech or press for any person in the U.S., and the 14th Amendment extends that mandate for protection to the state level.

This ensures that the federal and state governments cannot ban or censor books or ideas; however, this still occurs on a local level.

Antara Brewer, a Language Arts teacher at DHS, says banning books sends the message that “we don’t really believe in freedom of speech.  We don’t trust people to make their own decisions about what to read.”

Suzanne Metcalfe, the librarian at DHS, said the message banning books sends is that “I know better than you what is appropriate for your child, student, self to read.”

According to the ALA, books are banned because of controversial issues, sexual content or explicit language.

Lem Wheeles, a History teacher at DHS, said, “Any kind of censorship raises questions because anytime you censor someone it says you’re afraid of what they have to say. It’s a dangerous thing if your nation believes in liberty.”

Similarly, Brewer said, “We are afraid to talk about what makes us uncomfortable.”

Brewer said, “Reading fiction has been proven to make us more empathetic and help us become better people and expose us to different parts of the world.  We have to be willing to talk about uncomfortable truths.  The human experience is not PG.  Our art should reflect that.”

Currently at DHS and in the Anchorage School District there are no books with bans on them, said Metcalfe.

There are multiple books on our curriculums that have been banned or censored in other communities.

To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath and The Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn are among those frequently taught in english classrooms at DHS.

Metcalfe attributes this to the general attitude throughout Anchorage of “it’s not for me but if it’s for you go for it.”

All three sources believe that while it is not okay to ban books, an individual can decide whether or not to read something and teachers should respect that and be willing to offer an alternative book or assignment.

Metcalfe is responsible for every book in the school library and says, “As a librarian it’s my job to have different opinions available and let you decide.”

The problem with censorship comes with the “assumption that everyone in your community agrees,” says Brewer.

Wheeles said, “People have to be able to participate but they forget if they want freedom of speech they have to afford it to people they don’t agree with.”