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Book Censorship in Schools, November 12, 1995 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: November 12, 1995
"Book Censorship in Schools" [permalink]
    keywords: Huckleberry Finn, Huck, Mark Twain, censorship, school, books, reading
    soapbox #: 6
    written: November 12, 1995
    words: 845

"Book Censorship in Schools", an Essay

The article for this week was delayed a day, as I had to finish reading Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Good book, although it is a little... disturbing at times.

A few years ago or so, there was a large debate about the book Huckleberry Finn, as it used the word "nigger" and was in the school curriculum. Yes, this book was eventually banned from some school districts because it used the derogatory word. What kind of message does this send to the parents and the children in the affected school districts? What about the other books children read in school?

First of all, I can see how, in this day of political correctness and equal rights, derogatory words can be unacceptable in school. But what is Huckleberry Finn actually about? It's about a boy who has many experiences along the Mississippi River, in a time where racial prejudice *was* a main part of society. Mark Twain, the author, most likely didn't have any subliminal messages about black people, something anyone who's read the book or heard any of Twain's quotes would understand. His book depicted life exactly how it was in those times, a very difficult yet important goal of any author. Mark Twain's books about boys who travel along the river refer to Jim using a derogatory word, yes, but the main significance of it is that they finally realize that Jim has feelings and a family like any other person, and they throw away society's prejudices. Obviously, the people who gripe about the use of a derogatory term in the book have no clue what the book's about. Either that or they're engrossed in the disgusting political correctness which seeps into everything these days.

To make these matters worse, school boards have shown themselves to be quite inconsistent when it comes to banning books for America's students. And they wonder why our English skills aren't as good as they used to be. So far this year, I've read several books that could be considered inappropriate: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, for the rape scene near the beginning of the book; Invisible Man, a book full of racial prejudice and slang; Dante's Inferno, a book obviously influenced by Catholic ideas; and Catullus, a Roman neoteric poet well-known for the vulgar and sometimes attacking content hidden in his work. Last year we read Moby Dick, which is an obvious phallic reference to begin with. It also depicts Africans and Indians as savages, and they are treated so. The Scarlet Letter is about Hester Prynne, a woman who had a daughter by a reverend out of wedlock. And where are the parents and the school board when it comes to our reading *these* books?

The school boards obviously just banned Twain's book to get out of trouble, or else they would have evaluated the other books in the schools' English curriculums. As for parents, perhaps this was the only book they were familiar with and took up the incorrect side in arguing that it was racist.

One can't escape reading a book about sin, murder, or some other undesirable event. It naturally works its way into all forms of literature. These things happen because people were driven to do it, and the story of the eventual sin is a fascinating one, one that must be written down into words. Or perhaps the event never happened. Nonetheless the author will think of it and publish it. Besides, these things always happen in our society; we should be aware of it by now. Our innocent children? The same ones who see drugs, liquor, and guns every day?

The books listed above should also not be banned because they are works of art. These books have enthralled readers for many years because they were written so well. Such masterpieces should be appreciated and passed along to our children, so that they may cherish the books as well. By censoring the books, we only serve to weaken the muscle of thought in our children, something we can't afford to do with the quality of U.S. education slowly getting worse.

Because of this hypocrisy shown by school boards, I have little respect for them. Personally, I'd find a book like The Scarlet Letter more offensive than Huckleberry Finn, as it portrays religious figures in a negative way. This is unlike Huck Finn, which merely uses a racist term.

In my opinion, I find none of these books offensive, and I find no reason why they would be called offensive. In fact, I'm glad I read these books, as they not only taught me how it was like in those time periods, but they also showed me new styles of writing and expanded my ability to notice allegories, universal truths, and social failings.

And for all you people who refuse to read these books because you believe they're offensive, it's really your loss. At least I experienced the pleasure of reading them.



 
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