Book banning contradicts intellectual freedom

Ava Brenden, Opinions Editor

According to PEN America, there have been 1477 books banned within the 2022-23 school year so far. In recent years, book banning has seen an unsettling upwards trend, and schools across the nation are joining this movement. 

Books have been challenged and banned for a variety of reasons, most of which include profanity, sexual content, and vulgar language, among other things. Despite this assertion, 41 percent of banned books include LGBTQ+ characters, 40 percent a primary or secondary minority character, and 21 percent were explicitly about racism. These trends indicate one thing specifically: marginalized groups are being targeted by these bans, and it’s clear that this is harmful to all students and young adults. 

The first and most obvious problem with banning books is the oppression of free speech. Attending a public high school in America guarantees your right to a secular and state-funded education, but banning books according to an ulterior agenda directly violates this right. While parents maintain the right to censor the content that their children consume, they do not have the privilege of revoking materials from school and public libraries, as all students are allowed access to books that may be against certain moral principles. 

Additionally, these traditional traits often minimize or entirely eliminate diverse characters from their content, such as LGBTQ+ and minority characters. This is problematic for—again—obvious reasons. By purposefully excluding groups of people, we are effectively isolating and denormalizing lived experiences of people in our communities. While most groups who ban books don’t explicitly express a desire to ban books that are written about these characters, they often intentionally or unintentionally target them, resulting in further stigmatizing and ostracization. 

As high school students transition into college life and adulthood, the freedom to read what they want will no longer be limited. This right is not being protected at numerous schools across our nation. Just down the street, at Canby High School, the school went ahead and banned 36 titles from its library, some of which are featured on this page. The fact that high schoolers are being forbidden to read “Crank,” about a teenager getting addicted to methamphetamine, or “Homegoing,” about the generational trauma caused by slavery, says a lot about what Canby values in their education system. It is not diversity. It is not about honesty. It is about presenting a specific narrative for their children to ingest while disregarding anything that challenges their belief system. That is the crux of why our country is faced with sweeping bans of books. 

We need to reject this movement of censorship in all types of media. There is no reason to be silencing voices who are telling stories that are essential for young readers today. Without the freedom to speak, to write, to say something and not be silenced, we are not the free society we claim to be.