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Commentary: Book banning stains pages

Julian Burrell, Associate Editor

The debate over book banning is a long-lasting one. The movement of overly concerned parents and other conservative-minded individuals has focused much of its efforts on ridding school libraries of a variety of works from classics like “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to more modern favorites like the “Harry Potter” series.

However, the issue has once again emerged, this time dealing with a list of more contemporary works of fiction.

Stephen and Christina Brown of Blue Springs, Miss., were outraged to learn that their daughter had recently finished reading the novel “Hold Still” by Nina LaCour, a novel about a young girl coping with the suicide of her best friend.

The novel is riddled with somewhat risqué substance, including expletive language, sexuality and a number of other things that would make a republican mother blush.

The Browns took it upon themselves to alert their daughter’s school and convinced the school board to remove not only “Hold Still,” but also an additional 14 other popular works of Young Adult fiction.

When questioned about whether or not their actions infringed on the writers first amendment rights, Stephen Brown responded that he was “All for freedom of speech, but not when it infringes on my rights as a parents.”

There is definitely a fallacy that comes with that statement; no one is trying to tell parents that they should not be able to dictate what they can and cannot expose to their children.

However, if Stephen Brown wants to talk about infringing on rights of a parent it is oddly hypocritical of him to not discuss how he and his wife decided that what was not best for their daughter was not best for the entire student body.

These people believe that the only morals that matter in books are the bad ones. If any of them had actually taken the time to read “Hold Still,” they would have seen that there is a lot of sentimentality and closure to the book and not just a few F-bombs.

Here is the problem with book-banners: they refuse to acknowledge that there is more to the world beyond the sunshine and rainbows that they think should populate books.

The real world can be a very dark place, and many of these books are reflective of that. To not acknowledge that presence is not only ignorant, but dangerous.

Further arguments against these so-called questionable works of fiction being made available to high school students is that students do not have the literary sophistication to make the distinction between fiction and reality.

To those people I offer this piece of advice: shut up and stop condescending teenagers.

Kids are a lot smarter than what they are credited to be.

Reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” does not encourage them to go out to the farm and kill the pigs before they become fascist dictators. Reading William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” does not encourage them to split into tribes and kill each other. Reading “Waiting for Godot” does not make them think it is cool to sit around and do nothing – they think it is cool to do that anyway.

The truth is that a group of well-organized, would-be book banners trying to control the public school system is degrading to the educational process. Teachers and parents should be able to decide for themselves what should go on the bookshelves.

If a few parents have a problem with that, they should deal with that on their own instead of worrying about a book harming the morals of the entire student body.

Julian Burrell, a sophomore communications major, is an associate editor for the Campus Times. He can be reached by email at

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