Intellectual Freedom and Banned Books

Riley Granger

At the beginning of each school year, English teacher Diane Long’s entire curriculum for her Sophomore Honors English class sits in a stack on her desk. Beginning with “Lord of the Flies,” it also includes the Bible, “Brave New World” and “Of Mice and Men.”  Long is lucky to be able to teach these, because all of them contain controversial topics that have caused them to be banned from schools all over the country.

Banned books are nothing new. The issue of censorship comes up in schools and public libraries all over the United States, and because of this, the American Library Association (ALA) hosts Banned Book Week every year during October. Some of the most commonly challenged books today are: the Harry Potter series, Of Mice and Men, The Scarlet Letter, and many books by John Green such as Looking For Alaska.

Though we read many of these books here at Lakeridge, we’ve never had any censorship problems.

“I feel like our community appreciates diversity in literature and ideas,” says Long. She says that though her possibly controversial material has never been challenged, the district still has procedures for when parents are uncomfortable with what their child is reading, and the student can choose to read something else. This is a way to avoid having to ban books from the curriculum.

Common reasons for banning books are profanity, sexuality and topics that go against religious beliefs. When parents believe that their children are reading books that are inappropriate for their age, they can ask to have them removed from the curriculum or even the school library. But this brings up the question: should one concerned parent have control over what the whole school reads?

“Parents shouldn’t be able to dictate what professionals view as educational unless it is recreational reading chosen by the child,” says Lily Gleason, a junior at Lakeridge.

The ALA agrees. They believe in an idea called Intellectual Freedom, which means that everyone has the right to look for and find information without restriction.

“I think there should be a balance of ideas,” says Long. “If we introduce one philosophy, we should also introduce opposite ideas.”

To protest censorship, the ALA began celebrating Banned Book Week, which in 2015 started on Sept. 27 and went until Oct. 3. It raises community awareness for an issue that is often ignored by media.

As Lakeridge students, we have the freedom to read about ideas that are hidden from other parts of our country. We also have the freedom to form our own opinions about them. Sophomores entering Mrs. Long’s class may not understand now that they have the gift of unlimited knowledge, but when they leave the class, hopefully they can be proud of their intellectual freedom.