A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Ashley Munroe, Editor

Beginning on Monday October 1, the ODA library, as well as many around the nation, began celebrating the 30th anniversary of Banned Book Week. For years, banned books have been targets of removal in public libraries and in schools by people who feel the readership of some books should be controlled. This censorship has been opposed by some who object to this selective sorting.

The celebration of banned books brings together all avid readers who support the freedom to read, even if the particular book one choses to read is considered unconventional.  Banned book week celebrates that despite the fact that many have tried to expurgate these book, they are still accessible to those who wish to read them.

What exactly makes a book banned? According to librarian Alyssa Mandel, banned books are books that have been dubbed inappropriate for some reason, be it violence, sexuality, profanity, or anything else a reader, or one who hopes to control a reader, might find unsuitable. You may be surprised to learn that many of the most famous classics are banned, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and The Grapes of Wrath.

The decision to ban a book is not taken lightly. If someone comes to a library declaring that a particular book should be banned, a board discusses if the book should become banned or not. If this happens at a public library, the case is sometimes sent to court.

Here at ODA, our librarian Ms. Mandel celebrates Banned Book Week with as much vigor as any other librarian across the nation. She, like any other book enthusiast, believes in intellectual privacy, a person’s ability to read whatever he or she choses without question.

Ms. Mandel sees it as a responsibility to keep banned books in the ODA library, so that students have to choice to read them if he or she chooses. She makes sure to stock the ODA library with banned books, and over the years has seen a demand for them. One popular request has been George Orwell’s novel,  1984. In the spirit of banned book week, Ms. Mandel has set up a display of banned books in the library and encourages students to check one out this week!

While many people just associate banned books with libraries, the controversy of the topic goes much deeper. At ODA, some of the teachers from out English department have also faced challenges with banned books. Some of the banned books in the ODA curriculum are The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, Brave New World, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and A Clockwork Orange, all of which contain contentious subjects. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is also taught, and though it is not on The American Library Association’s list of 100 banned books, it is one that has been controversial since it was first published and remain so today.

When it comes to teaching banned or controversial books, English teachers find themselves in a difficult spot. Ms. Giraud, an English teacher at ODA, describes the process as a balancing act. “As an English teacher, you need to balance what you are hoping to teach with the maturity of the students.” Ms. Giraud has taught books in the past that have been points of confrontation with students and parents, such as Water for Elephants. Though people have objected to depictions of sexuality or use of profanity, Ms. Giraud remarks that she’s never seen a parent or student who objected to violence.

Mr. Lemieux, the head of the English department, has also taught challenged books in the past. However, he comments that he has never had many confrontations with teaching banned books. The books that have been brought to question are not what one would expect. “While I think it is important we teach them for their literary significance, I am pleased that we have rarely had much criticism for our choices in curriculum.”

Banned Book Week, although controversial, brings to light the true meaning of intellectual freedom. In the spirit of banned book week, Ms. Mandel has set up a display of banned books in the library. Honor the tradition. Check out a banned book this week and decide for yourself, should people be able to read anything they want at free will?