Banned Books Week: Why?

Looking at our favorite books from yesterday a variety of reasons are given for banning them: drug use, violence, sexual references, mentions of magic or the occult. Why do you think people want books with these (or other) content banned from schools or libraries?

Dorothy: I think mainly, parents want to control what their kids are exposed to. I think this was much easier in the pre-Internet age, because now kids have access to a LOT of ‘controversial’ content on the Internet, even if the parent installs content blockers. Before the Internet, the main method of getting information was school or the library, so parents and other ‘concerned citizens’ like religious groups wanted to reduce the chance of their kids seeing something about, say, two girls who happen to fall in love with each other.

Madeleine: Ultimately, I think banning books comes from a place of fear, however irrational or, worse, prejudiced those fears may be. I’ve never personally known any parents who deliberately forbade their children from reading specific texts — mine own always let me read whatever it was I wished no matter my age — but I can imagine that, in the heads of most, they think they are in the right. After all, most people don’t think themselves the villain; but there’s the famous aphorism that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and I think it’s fully applicable here. Keeping children in the dark and trying to hide some of the horrors of the world does not erase them, and it won’t make it easier if/when those children have to confront them. Would it not make sense, therefore, for a child or young adult to experience such things in a safe environment: in between the pages of a book?

Akhi: While I generally agree with the above two answers (Dorothy’s and Mad’s), I think there may be something about human nature that we can understand about the repeated attempts by people, in almost every culture and era, to ban certain ideas or books. And I think this comes from a recognition that people are influenced by their environments–what they see, hear, and are exposed to. There isn’t a necessary correlation between the environment and action (for example, playing violent video games won’t make you a murderer), but there’s a relation. This is something that Plato realized 2,500 years ago, and a feature of modern totalitarian regimes like North Korea. But even in more benign systems, books and music have an influence. Plato warned that music had an influence on the thoughts of the youth; the 1960s does show that there was a relation between music and various social movements. So I think the various rituals and taboos we have as a society (often subconsciously) are how we cope with trying to mold our external social/psychological environment to our advantage.


*Nota bene: All links to books available for purchase through Amazon are affiliate links, which means Backroom Whispering Productions receive a small percentage of the sales made through that link.

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