Recently, the Highland Park School District in Texas banned seven books from the district’s high school reading list due to several complaints from parents. Many parents objected to the seven books which included The Art of Racing in the Rain; The Working Poor: Invisible in America;Siddhartha; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; An Abundance of Katherines; The Glass Castle: A Memoir; and Song of Solomon because of inappropriate content, such as profanity, abortion, racism, alcoholism, and sexual references and scenes.
These parents’ complaints are understandable since they simply want to shelter their teenagers from this controversial material. Most parents wish to raise their children without influence of explicit material. However, constantly sheltering their teens from it harms the teens rather than helps them. Apart from these books, teenagers are exposed to controversial material, whether through the news, peers, or television, so banning these seven books in an attempt to protect kids’ innocence from explicit content is senseless. At some point in their lives, teens will be subjected to explicit material in some way, and exposing them to it in a high school classroom setting is more beneficial for their future.
Being exposed to a variety of topics is a major aspect of education. The discussions in English class are some of the most thought provoking. Discussions about literature are not only intended to teach students about literary elements of the novel, but they are also intended to help students gain knowledge and perspective on a broader spectrum of topics, including ones that are prevalent in today’s society. Profanity, abortion, racism, alcoholism, and sexual references may be awkward topics to discuss at first, but learning and discussing these issues in a class setting monitored by a responsible adult will help students in the future. Classroom exposure and discussion can teach students how to react in a mature manner when approached with these types of controversial issues. It will cause students to think in different ways and gain perspective on these topics and, thus, help them grow and develop their rational skills and character.
As a Highland Park English teacher stated, “Our motto is to prepare the child for the path, not prepare the path for the child.” Banning these seven books contradicts their motto. Removal of these books from the reading list due to controversial content is not only senseless, but also unfair to the students because it takes away the opportunity for them to learn and develop from exposure and discussion.
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