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Banned Books


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Lora J. Mackel
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 21, 1999
Talk about this story

It seems that the people in North Carolina have an endless list of things to be upset about. If not the torrents of rains, it is the thousands of dead live stock. If not the likely spread of pestilence, they are holding a meeting to ban the Harry Potter books from their public schools. Thankfully, the books were not banned. This still does not change the fact that some parents in North Carolina would rather turn out children without the ability to think for themselves, than offer their children the kind of skills needed to survive in the real world.

Exactly what is the problem with the best selling Harry Potter trilogy for these parents? They object to the "elements of evil," in the books.

I suppose these parents cannot look past the fact that the main character in the book is a sorcerer, to see the elements of good, within the books as well. I guess it's beyond the grasp of these folks that a good story requires an antagonist and a protagonist. This book banning is not the first of it kind, but is one in what seem like a never ending line of book bannings.

Lists of books banned in the past read like a who's who of literature.

"Huckleberry Finn," "A Wrinkle in Time," "Slaughter House Five," and "Catcher in the Rye" have all been banned. Even "James and the Giant Peach," for goodness sake has been banned. How can you not like the story of a boy living in a peach? All were banned for one reason or another, but I would argue that each has a redeeming value. What people, and most often what parents forget, is that "elements of evil" exist. A child can be guided and shielded only up to a certain point before they come smack dab into conflict with these forces. If a child is taught to think things through and look at situations in new ways, it is more likely that they will survive these encounters. If a child is not taught that there is a value system in opposition to their own, they will never have the tools to fight the philosophical battles that are an everyday part of adult life.

Furthermore, imagination is a critical part of success later in life.

If a child is never allowed to push the boundaries of their own world, how can they ever learn to solve problems? The Harry Potter books build upon children's inherent ability to wonder, to see a reality different from their own. Sorcery in these books is not a means by which to lead children into a life of Satan worship, but is rather a way to expand on the possibilities of reality in an imaginary realm.

Books are one of the last ways today's children are given a chance to think and explore for themselves. Television parents today's children: telling them exactly what to do, instead of giving them a chance to react and think for themselves. Children have "Barney," they have "Sesame Street," and they have "Teletubbies."These shows are easy for them to watch, because they involve no thought, and the characters do all the hard work for them. Banning books is sending that same message to children, that they should just ignore and restrict what makes them uncomfortable, instead of critiquing and exploring what upsets them and why.

Parenting is all about setting up boundaries. Ideally these boundaries would help children, instead of hindering them. Banning books, for ridiculous reasons, does not help today's youth in the least bit.

Now, more than ever, the skills that books help to foster in young people, are needed to help navigate this increasingly complex world. Parents can be protective of children, and still allow them to develop the critical thinking skills that books provide to them. This might involve a bit more parental energy; but discussion and guidance are beneficial to all children in the end.

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