Banning certain books in schools has become the current trend to protect a child against uncomfortable information that some parents would prefer be discussed in the home rather than the classroom. This uncomfortable information is plentiful; sex education, sexual orientation, racism, offensive language etc. I would argue that the bible contains all of this information and more, but yet is considered by many who want to ban books as a book that should be taught more frequently in schools.
As a white Christian, I should feel incredibly guilty that some of my ancestors (the Romans) killed a person of color (Jesus), who is considered the prophet of my religion. The way in which he was killed by hanging is depicted at the front of many churches with a cross and sometimes a dead body. That symbol has always caused me to shudder but yet we think nothing of exposing our children to the message via the Easter celebration every year.
The bible has plenty of other stories that parents would want banned from classrooms if they were contained in modern literature. Genesis starts us off believing that Adam and Eve were the origins of God created humans, but then doesn’t explain how the rest of us came to be if they only had 2 sons. Later in Genesis, Lot has sex with his daughters (of course, this is the fault of his daughters and not Lot). The great king David had an adulterous relationship with Bethsheba when he lusted after her and tried to pass off the unborn child as belonging her husband, who he later murdered. The bible is rife with misogyny – women are considered the property of their husbands, they are seldom given names unless they are the mothers of great men, women could be required to marry their rapist, multiple wives were the rule rather than the exception in the Old Testament. So much for the original nuclear family!
As a child hearing bible stories, these are the not the stories I heard or the interpretations that I made. I was left with the impression of Jesus as a kind man who tried to help the poor, sick, women and children. I didn’t focus on incest, polygamy or misogyny because those concepts were above my development level. The same can be said for many of the books on the banned book list. Children/young adults get the message that is age appropriate for them and tend to ignore parts of the story that is beyond their comprehension.
Life experiences also affect how a student interprets a book. Have you ever picked up a book that you might have read and loved in high school and then read again 10-15 years later? Quite often, it is hard to believe that it is the same story that you read before. Life experiences get in the way of how you appreciate literature. I read Gone with the Wind in high school and remembered it as a romance/love story. Rereading it in my 50’s, I was appalled at the racism and treatment of people of color. I had moved from an all white rural community to be part of a diverse urban environment and I was a different person than I had been in my teens. Similarly, students come from many different backgrounds and will interpret literature differently depending on their life experiences.
The other reason that parents want certain books banned is that they feel that sexuality should be taught at home and not in the schools. As an Ob/Gyn doc, I have intimate discussions with women of all ages on a daily basis. This is what I have learned about sex education taught at home.
- It is often difficult for women to accept new info that is different from what has been taught by their loved ones. Much of my time is spent dispelling myths that women have learned from their female friends and family.
- Info that I learned in medical school is often displaced by new scientific understandings. The most up to date info is provided by someone who does this as part of their job.
- Parents have biases and communicate those biases around sexuality to their children. Books and sex ed classes deliver facts that are age appropriate for the developmental level of the student.
- Parents often don’t have the “sex ed conversation” with their kids because it is uncomfortable. I had a hard time with my own children when we had the “talk” and they were even more uncomfortable than I was. When no one talks about sex, either at school or at home, the student is led to believe that the subject is taboo and then gets the information in the wrong places (internet).
The attacks on our public schools are numerous and those who speak the loudest are the ones being heard by the public. Only 28% of Americans believe that certain books should be banned from schools. Unfortunately, this is double the rate since 2011. The 72% of us who believe in our education system choosing wisely for our students need to become more vocal and supportive of teachers and administrators. Speak out and Vote!