Ban intolerance, not ideas

Conybear explains reading culture and implores readers to change their perceptions.

Every time I step into a library, I feel a wave of excitement. So much knowledge is waiting to be gained, resting on the endless shelves. My fingers itch to reach for my next great read, my eyes dart from spine to spine. I find book after book that I yearn to read, though as the stack in my arms increases, the realization sets in: I don’t have time. Paradoxically, my initial eagerness fades with every minute spent surrounded by the multitude of books, my excitement quickly extinguished by a sense of hopelessness. My ‘to be read’ list continuously grows, but my time to read diminishes as school consumes me. Ironically, school assigned reading is the best remedy for the dilemma of not having enough time to read. 

Many students have expressed disdain for school reading. When teachers assign books, it strips the joy and motivation from reading. But, school assigned reading encourages students to explore new ideas and perspectives. In fact, some important ideas come from books with core themes of injustice, diversity, and identity, which have unfortunately become the target of book bans across America. 

Moms for Liberty is one force behind the book banning efforts. The group, focused on eliminating books that they believe are “manipulating” children from school curriculums, has taken action in districts across the country. Often, the conservative organization claims that schools “poison” their children with harmful ideas communicated through books and traumatize them with graphic information. Yet, they have no evidence to support their claims, and their targets contain themes commonly associated with left-wing ideals, revealing their political motivations. Several of the books under fire are classic school materials, and they are not necessarily “manipulating” or “poisoning” children because of their content. A psychologist in Williamson County Tennessee, one area harassed by Moms for Liberty, says she has not seen any children with trauma from the school curriculum, only children with trauma from being bullied and discriminated against because of their race, religion, or identity. Parents should be allowed to raise concerns relating to what their children learn in school. However, such concerns should be based on facts—not assumptions, biases, or harmful ideals.

School assigned books with diverse themes provide opportunities for children to feel recognized in school. These books simultaneously ensure children are aware of the struggles of others, appreciative of their privileges and differences, and are more open-minded. The Moms for Liberty movement highlights the fragility of our education system. School assigned reading is one way to ensure that students have access to a variety of voices and experiences, and it needs to be protected. Go to your local library. Ask your teachers for book recommendations. Read a banned book. Next time you’re assigned a book or article to read in school, be appreciative that the teachers here at Lower Merion are able to, and that your education is not being restricted. We have to ask ourselves: is it more harmful to read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or to live it? 

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