Educating students in ignorance

Let me tell you about something that really pisses me off.

I mean, REALLY pisses me off.

Banning books is a practice which happens more frequently than most people think. It happens in our town and right under our noses and no one seems to really give a damn.

Why should others be able to parent the world and tell people what they can and cannot read? I have two parents whom I love very much and the last time I checked, the Board of Education was not listed on my birth certificate.

This practice of book banning seems rather archaic, as we live in an age where information can be disseminated with a few clicks of the mouse. Yet, there are places that still burn books and keep them locked up in dark corners of the library. Why does it happen?

Ignorance. Let me revisit the point again, in case you missed it the first time.


“Ignorance: adj. ‘being unaware, unenlightened and/or uninformed.'”

My definition of the word includes people who use their limited knowledge to make decisions affecting people who have the power to make the same decisions for themselves. Either way, you get the point.


Now, dear reader, allow me to explain. That word is used 49 times in Mark Twain’s classic,

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and because of that has been banned more times than any other book. Although the word has negative connotations in present society, it was a commonplace title given to African-American slaves in the period that the book was set. In order to capture the essence of that time, Twain used the word how it would have been used then.

In other word, he was not a racist. Duh.

“Huck Finn” is not the only book to be banned from schools across the nation: classics such as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” was pulled from the shelf in a small town in Kansas because it “promoted anti-social ideals.”

In North Dakota, a custodian was instructed to burn 32 copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s contemporary “Slaughterhouse-Five,” because the board of education decided it was pornographic and obscene.

I was quite surprised, however, when I looked at the American Library Association’s list of the Top 100 Banned Books, 1990-1999, and found that my childhood favorite, Shel Silverstein’s “A Light In the Attic,” was included.

I’m more enraged than when I started writing this because some of these books are totally harmless. I read his books when I was in fifth grade, enjoyed them, and I’m still alive today to talk about it.

The high school that I attended was no exception, and since ignorance seems to be perpetual, this really didn’t come as a great shock to me. My senior year, I did some research after a teacher who shared my passion tipped me off.

In our school library, there was a locked cabinet containing books that were challenged by a morality coalition in the 1970s. A laborious search of board of education meeting minutes from that period proved what I had known all along: This group of “concerned parents” had compiled a list of books they considered to be inappropriate and strong-armed the board into locking them up. Twenty-some years later, I was being threatened with suspension lest I give up my crusade.

Imagine a world where governments are so afraid of the people gaining knowledge that they keep it from them (oh, wait, places like this do exist).

This premise is what keeps the practice of book banning alive and how schools and libraries keep knowledge to the same people they are supposed to be bestowing it upon. The ignorance of these people breeds dangerous intolerance and hatred in those who are denied the opportunity to read these books and experience other things than what is being brainwashed into them.

Some of the most enlightening books I have read appear on that list. I am a better person because I read “Bless Me Ultima,” “Of Mice and Men” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

Don’t tolerate ignorance or censorship of any kind. Just because an author’s viewpoint is unpopular, unorthodox, or nonconformist, doesn’t mean that the authors should be silenced. These books are considered dangerous because they fight the conventions that society uses to control its people and make them passive.

Make the choice not to be ignorant and not to become a casualty of this oppressive measure to keep people in their place: Read a banned book and flip your middle finger at those people who told you you couldn’t.