The Question is Book Banning

    Today’s topic is in response to a voter’s question regarding my stance on book banning. It’s always difficult to answer these kinds of questions as quick sound bites on a stage somewhere, so this blog is the perfect place to address topics like this.

    The first thing we need to do is to define the term “book banning” so that we all know we’re talking about the same thing. Here’s the definition from Britannica that I’m going to use: “the practice of prohibiting or restricting the reading of certain books by the general public or by members of a local community or religious group. Books can be banned by means of their removal from publicly accessible locations (e.g, libraries), by their destruction (including the burning of printed books), or by making their authorship or distribution a punishable act.

    My short answer is no, I’m not a book banner nor do I condone banning books of any kind. Adults should be free to read and write whatever they choose.  The operative word here is “adults” however, so the longer answer has more to do with what is age-appropriate reading material for children. While I think that it is unfair to our children to pretend that the seamy side of our culture and our history do not exist --- issues of racism, child exploitation, etc., --- I do think that books which tread in these waters need to be carefully evaluated, balancing the value of the overall work against language and visuals that are concerning. For example, a book whose main purpose for being is to promote racial stereotypes or sexualization of children is not a good choice for a school library. Alternatively, a book that discusses child prostitution in an unglamorous way may be appropriate for high school students.

    As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m a strong advocate of objective reality. I want to know all sides of a topic --- the good, bad, the ugly, all of it --- in order to come to my own conclusions. I don’t think I’m alone on that stance. History wouldn’t make any sense without all the highly objectionable times, and deep, meaningful plot lines in literature would fail to be convincing without showing what disagreeable forces the characters were facing. We must remember that people don’t develop strong character and will when steeped in comfort. I also believe that any policy needs to be consistent with the standards of the day. If the words read aloud to a school board meeting from a book found in the school library are so horrible as to cause the reader to be expelled from the school board meeting (an actual occurrence, but not here in Albemarle), then that’s probably not an appropriate book for the school library. Is that banning? No, that’s adulting.


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