Censorship at the High School Level
Censorship in the American high school system continues to be an issue. High school student should be able to read great modern novels and famous literature in their school curriculum because this is where they are supposed to learn, be inspired and create their own opinions. Curiosity is inevitable in students. Censorship is supposedly used to “protect” these students from reading inappropriate material. But, when this innate curiosity in the students is ignored, no good will come of it. These students will lose out on being educated on the realities of the world. The desire in parents to have control over what their children are reading and why they shouldn’t be so controlling, the hunger in teachers to encourage their students to read and come up with their own thoughts and ideas, and the controversial topics in banned books that envelope students, teachers, and parents are all important aspects in the subject of censorship. This topics will help to conclude that censorship in young adults is not a good thing and that it holds them back from intellectual and emotional growth.
Parents love their children and feel the need to protect them from negativity and bad influences. But, in order to allow these students to understand the world around them the need literature. Literature dive into the issues, struggles, joys, and truths of the world. To learn about these things is to grow closer in the comprehension of how to live and adapt to the societal nature they will experience. In, “School Censorship and the Null Curriculum”, Stephen Tedesco states that despite the possibility of parental anger, he believes that, “banning literature such as, Harry Potter,” will eliminate the opportunity for students to experience pop culture to its complete degree (Tedesco 59). Harry Potter has become an extremely successful book and movie series that not only teachers of heroes and good vs. evil, but friendship and courage. It is an inspiration story that, although not perfect, is worth exposing to high school students who want to be inspired. Pop culture is in a constant circle of conversation. Everyone has something to say about what goes on in our culture. Tedesco makes a bold point by expressing his belief that anger parents should not stop students from learning more about every day news in pop culture. Another point, which was taken from “Censorship in Three Metaphors”, declares that although parents, “have the right to demand that their child not read a particular book”, they do not possess the authority to say, “that an entire classroom, school or district should not read a particular book...” (Boyd and Bailey 655). This perfectly asserts the fact that parents have a say in what their children are exposed to, but not a say in what a whole group of high school students are allowed to read. In order for students to grow in intellect and knowledge of literature, parents must open their own minds to the idea of allowing all suggested literature, no matter the controversial content, to be available to students in a safe, open-minded school setting.
The desire for high school students to be engaged and active learners is what makes a great teacher “great”. Students need to be challenged and encouraged to read controversial books so that they can, once again, learn about the world around them and form logical and informed judgements for themselves. These abilities are necessary for students to grow and shape into intelligent adults. “School Censorship and the Null Curriculum”, quotes another source in an attempt to state that belief that students don’t comprehend the significance of becoming an active and determined citizen because they are exposed to the process in which we learn not to question, but to follow along (Tedesco 58). This statement clarifies the social behavior encouraged in these students to comply with what is told to them and what is expected of them. This behavior isn’t healthy and can decrease the opportunity for a student to learn. Teachers need to encourage a sense of individuality so that the window to learn is as large as it possibly can be. Teachers must help enable students to think for themselves, and literature is a great way to aid this activity through its thought provoking content. Speaking of teachers and their ability to help and encourage intellectual discovery in their students, this next excerpt discusses the authority teachers have over their curriculum and the messages it can teach. In “The Representation of Violence in Young Adult Literature”, V. M Simandan expresses the belief that teachers hold true power in the life of young students. She does this with her thought that declares that teachers are capable of using young adult literature to go over ethical likelihoods. It is also said that introducing stories from different kinds of people can help students turn out to be caring citizens (237). This emphasizes that exposing literature to students at the high school level can result in positive learning and character building. It also states that learning from different authors with different experiences will help students grow in their emotional and social journey, not just their intellectual journey. Teachers must take this opportunity to use the content of the literature to discuss moral life choices and damaging consequences of negative decision making. It is extremely possible that students are capable of reading controversial texts and becoming better people, in all aspects of life, for it. Robert C Hanna from Gaston Day School in Gastonia, North Carolina talks about how he assigns a paper about censorship to his upperclassman in the reading, “Researching Censorship”. He encourage them to find a novel that has been forbidden from the curriculum in the past decade and challenge themselves to find out why the book is under scrutiny and in their opinion, if it should be banned from schools (89). This assignment perfectly exemplifies the desire for teachers to encourage students to research and educate themselves in controversial literature, and in censorship itself. The teachers that inspire growth will help to create the imaginative and intelligent students of our generation and the generations to come.
The topics that cause novels to be censored or banned from schools include controversial issues in teen life, such as sex. Sexual scenes in novels tend to cause a stir with a lot of people. Revealing sex to the youth of the world can be construed as a negative thing, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to educate students and make them aware of sex. One way being to form a group at a local library to inform, which is what Mary Jo Heller and Aarene Storms did. They discuss it in the article, “Sex in the Library”, which is an program where librarians take it upon themselves to educate teenagers, parents, teachers and others about sex in young adult literature through their workshop entitled, “Sex in the Library”. (Heller and Storms 22) This topic has become such a controversial topic that programs, such as this, are starting to be formed in order to educate young adult students about the topic of sex in the books they are reading, rather than telling them not to read them at all. Jen Denzin also talks about the topic of sex in literature in her work called, “Boundaries of Contemporary Literature: The Role of Censorship and Choice”. She states that students are “drawn to sexual content” and that when a new piece of literature involving sex comes into the media, students will want to read it. She compares this to preteens wanting to read Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Denzin) Just like Judy Blume novels, young adult novels that include sexual activity or only refer to sexual instances can be seen as too mature for its intended audience. The passage also helps to show that as teenagers grow older, they will be naturally curious and interested in sex. With this all being said, it must be remembered that sex occurs in between high school students all over the world. It is important for them to stay informed and knowledgeable about the facts of the actual physical act, but also be aware of the emotional toll it can take on a young person. This aspect is often seen in books targeted for the young adult readers.
Another serious aspect of censorship is the discussion of violence in literature. The fear includes children and young adults finding inspiration to attack a classmate or a bully with physical violence due to the violent presence of people in the media, television, and books. In some instances, a novel may touch upon serious issues, such as rape, which includes the violent and sexual aspects being discussed, in hopes of informing and persuading teenagers to be aware that this horrible act is happening to people. In “Monstrous Acts: Problematizing Violence”, the novel, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson is discussed. The book is about a young girl who is raped by an older boy at a party. After this happens, she goes to the phone and calls the police. This act results in the party being busted and everyone, including her friends, shunning her for getting people arrested. The author of “Monstrous Acts: Problematizing Violence” states that, “The structural-cultural level of violence is evident in the way Melinda internalizes guilt, even though she is the victim of crime” (Franzak, Noll 669). Throughout the book, she is able to gain the courage and strength through the help of people who truly listen to her, and tells the story of what happens to her. This book, although it does contain serious issues of sexual violence, is intended for the youth of America. It is used to keep them aware of the signs that one of your peers may have gone through something dramatic, and it instills the fact that no matter how young you are or how victimized you feel, everyone has a voice. Divulging this kind of negativity and evil that comes with violence will allow them to ask themselves the more thoughtful and serious questions of life. To further explain the sense that reading about violence will cause high school students to think more about life and what it entails, “The Representation of Violence in Young Adult Literature”, says that when teenagers read about issues of violence, they are more likely to, “reflect on the events rather than just simply react” (Simandan 244). This goes along with fictional literature, as well as real issues facing the world today. Young adults will not be sheltered from the horrors of life, such as the Columbine massacre or the September 11th attacks. Learning about these events help young people to experience empathy and understand the hate and violence that is sadly, but constantly present in the world. With this being the case, these students should read young adult literature containing violence in order to be able to reflect and discuss the negativities that violence involves. Violence is a continuous part of life. Young adults need to be able to read about this issue so that they can grow in knowledge and awareness. These traits will help students with their
In conclusion, censorship is a controversial issue that faces parents, teachers, and children and will continue to do so. Parents will continue to try and censor what their children are being exposed to, yet they must begin to see the good in the controversial topics in helping their children grow in intelligence. Teachers will always try and encourage their students to learn and form their outlook on great literature and serious social topics. This will help to provoke educated and thoughtful ideas and opinions in a controlled, teacher-student, discussion friendly environment. Also, the problems discussed in literature, such as sex and violence, will forever be written about by authors who want to inform and enlighten the youth of the country. Therefore, students can continue to read the books that are under debate for being censored or banned. Through their controversial nature, they can make a difference in high school students lives.
B. Boyd, Fenice, and Nancy M. Bailey. Censorship in Three Metaphors. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 52.8 (2009): page 655
C. Hanna, Robert. Researching Censorship. English Journal. 82.4 (1993): page 89
Denzin, Jen. Boundaries for Contemporary Literature: The Role of Censorship and Choice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 57.1 (2013)
Franzak, Judith, and Elizabeth Noll. Monstrous Acts: Problematizing Violence in Young Adult Literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 49.8 (2006): page 669
Heller, Mary Jo, Aarene Storms. Sex in the Library: A Guide to Sexual Content in Teen Literature. E L Kurdyla Publishing LLC. 2013.
Simandan, V. M. The Representation of Violence in Young Adult Literature. Journal Plus Education. 7.1 (2011): page 237-244
Tedesco, Stephen. School Censorship and the Null Curriculum. 18.4 (2009): page 58-59