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  • Bob Arnold

Book bans are costing society

By Bob Arnold

Book bans are costing society
Kelly Eubanks

Politicization of books reflected in increasing bans on modern classics that once were common on reading lists of most high school students is creating a society of people who do not understand important social issues, do not tolerate differing viewpoints and opinions, cannot empathize with those in different social and economic circumstances and have not learned to enjoy reading because they are not acquainted with the best literature, two Co-Lin history scholars warned at an Institute for Learning in Retirement seminar.


Kelly Eubanks, an art student at Co-Lin who has a passion for history and is a member of the college’s Centurion Club, which encourages scholarly studies of historical issues, and Jill Childress, the faculty member who works with the organization, talked about the current of epidemic of book banning in the U.S. and its costs to the nation.


“A select group of people – namely, government officials – are making decisions about reading materials based on what makes them more comfortable and what they think people want their children to read,” Eubanks and Childress agreed. “It’s oppression and censorship, or thought control. Rather than serving parents and their children by banning books, parental choice is being effectively taken away.”


The reasons for banning books encompass their graphic language, exaggerated depiction of society to make a point, explicit descriptions of sexual acts, rape and violence; and accounts of racism and history that do not reflect favorably on the nation or a group of people or match the outlook, viewpoint and understanding of those who disagree with the authors of the banned books. In the process, Eubanks and Childress said, teaching moments are lost, discussions are limited, and reality succumbs to fantasy.


Among modern classics that have been increasingly banned in various areas of the country are To Kill a Mockingbird with its fictional commentary on racism in the South, Fahrenheit 451, a story about Constitutional rights and censorship, Color Purple about child abuse and how a young girl grows through it and recovers, The Diary of Anne Frank written by a young Jewish girl who hid with her family to avoid Nazi persecution in Germany, Maus, about the Holocaust in Germany with illustrations of nude women, and The Grapes of Wrath, which portrays the plight of migrant agricultural workers in California who fled economic hardship.


“For younger age groups, some of these books may not be appropriate to read, but certainly not for high school students and those going into or attending college,” Eubanks said.


“Teachers alone without the assistance of books are now expected to socialize their students to participate in society,” Childress said. She suggested “we are living in a dark age of arts and literature,” noting that three-quarters of the students in her classes as recently as ten years ago were exposed to most or all of these banned books, but only a handful of them today have been.


“Many of the books, which are my bookshelf at Co-Lin, would be grounds for my arrest and dismissal from teaching in some areas of the country,” Childress said. “Life is so much different without these books. In the current environment of book banning, would Mississippi have produced literary giants like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty or Richard Wright?”


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