Editorial: Belligerent book banning

Our generation has paved the way for discussing and educating ourselves on traditionally taboo subjects. However, this progress has been jeopardized by a slew of recent bills that prohibit school libraries in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and many other states from keeping books that focus on sexual identity, gender identity and sexual activity. 

We unequivocally condemn this effort to deprive students of the right to educate themselves on topics that are important to physical and emotional development. This censorship creates an environment where students aren’t able to access important educational resources, and we cannot support this infringement of our rights. 

This issue became prevalent in headlines earlier this year when books became politicized by many parents in southern and western states. Parents protested the presence of books in libraries, as they claimed that the content of these books was too mature for their children. 

If a student is struggling with their gender or sexual identity, books can affirm their identity and provide them with information that they may not receive elsewhere. It is disgraceful to deprive children and adolescents of material that can help them understand their identity, especially when many queer youth are uncomfortable asking a parent or another adult for advice. Books can imbue queer youth with the radical understanding that they are allowed to exist, which is the bare minimum.

In addition, books about race are facing pushback. Legislators in favor of book banning argue that students should not be subject to learning about harsh subjects such as racial oppression at a young age. However, the exact opposite is true. 

It is important for schools to facilitate tough discussions and make room for them. Books can help to normalize diversity, which can make students feel more comfortable contributing to these conversations. If these books are not included in libraries, students struggling with certain aspects of their identity will feel even more isolated.

Parents have also raised concerns about sexual activity in books and believe that students shouldn’t be exposed to such mature topics at a young age. We believe that it is important at a middle and high school level to learn about these mature topics in a controlled manner, which can be done in a school setting. Promoting safe habits for children of all ages will set them up for later in life when they encounter such situations. 

Students develop core ideas when they are young. By shielding them from the difficulties of the world, they will be misinformed and have false perceptions of society. Instead, we should focus on educating students in an appropriate and accurate manner so they can develop informed opinions and values. 

Legislators’ attempts to censor books in a school environment limits authors’ First Amendment rights. As a school newspaper, we highly value free speech and our ability to broach complex topics. If it is now acceptable to ban a book from schools simply because someone doesn’t agree with its content, this begs the question of where censorship will stop. Book banning is a slippery slope when it comes to First Amendment violations. Students should have the right to learn about and discuss topics that are important to us, even if they are controversial.