Banned Books Week: Essential to Supporting Student Growth


Graphic By William Gangnath

In response to recent hazing allegations and then charges for five JV football players at Damascus, all athletic directors held a meeting with fall athletes that reviewed MCPS hazing policies.

Banned Books Week was Sept. 24-30 and served as an important reminder that banning influential, engaging and well-written works of literature deprives students of valuable learning opportunities.

Books are typically banned within individual school districts for reasons such as explicit language, sexuality and drug or alcohol use. As MCPS students, we are fortunate that our school district and Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) do not ban books. Other students across the country, however, are not as lucky. “The Great Gatsby” and “The Catcher in the Rye” have been banned or challenged multiple times, both of which are required reading for several classes at RHS.

“The Great Gatsby” has been challenged due to profanity and promiscuity, and “The Catcher in the Rye” has been banned due to profanity, promiscuity and depictions of depression. These elements are essential to the stories which have been considered two of the greatest American novels. The books are riddled with beautifully-written sentences and clever metaphors. Reading them is one of the best ways to learn how to become a stronger writer and analyze other texts.

Accurate depictions of the ugly race relations throughout U.S. history are a common reason that books are banned. By glazing over unfavorable parts of history, students are denied the right to understand and learn from the past. Classes should be reading these books and thinking critically about the racial issues within them and how they may apply to society today.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic which has been frequently challenged and banned since it was published in 1960. The Accomack County school district in Virginia challenged this book in 2016 as a group of parents believed the frequent use of racist slurs condoned racism. These slurs are used in a historical context, and allow children to understand racism in the South during the 20th century. This is not a part of history which can be forgotten, no matter how repulsive it may be.

Just this October, the Biloxi School District in Mississippi removed “To Kill a Mockingbird” from its curriculum because, according to school board vice president Kenny Holloway, language in the book “makes people uncomfortable.” This is an absolutely heinous explanation. Race relations are uncomfortable, and if they are never confronted, how can students and future leaders be expected to improve this country?

It may seem easier to ignore the past rather than accept it and learn from it. However, students and society will never progress if they fail to understand that the past often repeats itself. The only way to break this cycle is to remember and resolve to do better. Remember the good, remember the bad, remember by reading.