OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
We’ve reached a new communistic low in America. Burbank public school district in California has banned a number of classic novels. The list includes,
–Of Mice And Men,
–To Kill a Mockingbird,
–The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
–Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Four parents alleged that the books are racist and have the potential to harm the public-school district’s 400 or so black American students. One of the parents shared stories of her 15-year-old daughter being subjected to racial slurs that the offending students claimed they had learned in the books, including being called the n-word and being told by a white student that she must pay him weekly because “my family used to own your family.”
The girl’s mother explained,
“My daughter was literally traumatized. These books are problematic … you feel helpless because you can’t even protect your child from the hurt that she’s going through.”
Shortly thereafter, the National Coalition Against Censorship reasoned that the books are instead anti-racist stories, and wrote a letter to the district urging that the books be kept in the curriculum during a pending review of the district’s curriculum.
“[W]e believe that the books … have a great pedagogical value and should be retained in the curriculum.”
Pen America, another free-speech organization, is petitioning for the inclusion of the books, saying,
“Each of the books in question deal with difficult subject matter from our country’s complicated and painful history, including systemic racism. In a year when we have seen a national movement against systemic racial injustice, it is crucial to bring these subjects into the classroom with care and sensitivity, which teachers are well-equipped to do. Blocking engagement with these important books is also avoiding the important role that schools can and should play in providing context for why these books inspire and challenge us still today. We understand that this ban may have been proposed with good intentions. But banning books is not the answer. Informed guidance from trained educators would allow students to learn about their world and themselves from these books’ challenging stories and ideas in a supported space.”
NEW: PEN America calls upon the Burbank Unified School district to lift the temporary ban on several books dealing with the subject of race in America and allow these books to be taught in Burbank classrooms. Sign our petition today: https://t.co/RQKsZynnu6.
— PEN America (@PENamerica) October 14, 2020
Burbank High School sophomore Sungjoo Yoon started a petition against what he calls a “ban on antiracist books,” which has more than 2,600 signatures. Additionally, about 80 students have made personal statements to the district offices arguing against the book ban, explaining what an eyeopening experience it was to read these books and understand the reality of racism. Students explained that it was their first real understanding of the repulsiveness of racism and opened their eyes to a tragic reality.
None of the five banned novels expressly support segregation or bigotry, but rather have all been flagged for offensive language. But one of the biggest problems that I believe America faces today is not learning from history. These books don’t teach racism and bigotry, but they do teach important lessons about the reality of racism and the impact that it has on those who experience it. It allows for discussion of feelings. It opens the door for discussion that kids may not feel comfortable having outside of an educational environment. It allows for questions and explanations of subjects that are so often considered taboo. In that way, children can learn from the tragic mistakes of our past and shape a better future.
Banning the books outright may not be the answer, because that means students may never have the opportunity to learn from these stories and experiences, which increases our chances of making similar mistakes.
Hard subjects should be discussed, not censored.
Hard conversations should be encouraged, not forbidden.
My mom often says, “A smart person learns from their mistakes, but a smarter person learns from the mistakes of others.” Let us learn together from our history rather than erasing it entirely.