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Banned Books

1. What reasons might be given for the banning or

challenging of a book?
2. Why might a particular group or person want to
protect a child from some of the ideas in the
challenged books?
3. Why might it be important for students to read books
that explore controversial or sensitive topics?
 What's the difference between a challenge and a
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict
materials, based upon the objections of a person or
 A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges
do not simply involve a person expressing a point of
view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material
from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the
access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians,
teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens,
most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are
retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Banned and Challenged Books

Books usually are challenged with the
best intentions—to protect others,
frequently children, from difficult ideas
and information.
Censorship can be subtle, almost
imperceptible, as well as blatant and
overt, but, nonetheless, harmful.

Why are books challenged??

 As John Stuart Mill wrote in “On Liberty:”

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one
person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more
justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the
power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a
personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be
obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it
would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only
on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of
silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing
the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation;
those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who
hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the
opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose,
what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and
livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

Why are books challenged?

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to
protect children from “inappropriate” sexual
content or “offensive” language. The following
were the top three reasons cited for
challenging materials as reported to the Office
of Intellectual Freedom:
1. The material was considered to be "sexually
2. The material contained "offensive language"
3. The materials was "unsuited to any age group"

Why are books challenged?

 Although this is a commendable motivation,
Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an
interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's
basic policy concerning access to information)
states that, “Librarians and governing bodies
should maintain that parents—and only parents—
have the right and the responsibility to restrict
the access of their children—and only their
children—to library resources.”
 Censorship by librarians of constitutionally
protected speech, whether for protection or for
any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

Why are books challenged?

 As Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in
Texas v. Johnson, said most eloquently:

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First

Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit
the expression of an idea simply because society finds
the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

 Ifwe are to continue to protect our First Amendment,

we would do well to keep in mind these words of Noam

“If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people

we despise, we don't believe in it at all.”

Why are books challenged?

Or these words of Supreme Court Justice
William O. Douglas:

“Restriction of free thought and free

speech is the most dangerous of all
subversions. It is the one un-American act
that could most easily defeat us.”

Why are books challenged?

 Throughout history, more and different kinds of people and
groups of all persuasions than you might first suppose, who,
for all sorts of reasons, have attempted—and continue to
attempt—to suppress anything that conflicts with or anyone
who disagrees with their own beliefs.

 In his book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the
American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat
Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any
direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of the Los
Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive
in human nature; sex is a weak second.”

 According to the
Challenges by Initiator, Institution, Type, and Year, parents
challenge materials more often than any other group.

Who challenges books?

 Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental
 Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or
appropriateness of the material in question.
 Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with
the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the
presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.
 Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement
challenging the value of the material, presented to the
media and/or others outside the institutional organization
in order to gain public support for further action.
 Censorship. A change in the access status of material,
based on the content of the work and made by a governing
authority or its representatives. Such changes include
exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

Terms and Definitions

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
◦ Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987)
because of "language and sexual references in the book.“
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
◦ Since its publication, this title has been a favorite target of
censors. In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, Okla. was fired for
assigning the book to an eleventh grade English class.The
teacher appealed and was reinstated by the school board,
but the book was removed from use in the school. In
1963, a delegation of parents of high school students in
Columbus, Ohio, asked the school board to ban the novel
for being "anti-white" and "obscene."

Banned and Challenged Classics

 The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
◦ Burned by the East St. Louis, III. Public Library (1939) and
barred from the Buffalo, N.Y Public Library (1939) on the
grounds that "vulgar words" were used.
 To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
◦ Challenged in Eden Valley, Minn. (1977) and temporarily
banned due to words "damn" and "whore lady" used in the
novel. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, N.Y School
District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel." Challenged at the
Warren, Ind.Township schools (1981) because the book does
"psychological damage to the positive integration process " and
"represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good
literature." After unsuccessfully banning Lee's novel, three
black parents resigned from the township human relations
advisory council.

Banned and Challenged Classics

 The Color Purple, Alice Walker
◦ Challenged as appropriate reading for Oakland, Calif.
High School honors class (1984) due to the work's
"sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas
about race relations, man's relationship to God, African
history, and human sexuality."
 Beloved, Toni Morrison
◦ Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St.
Augustine, Fla. (1995). Retained on the Round Rock,
Texas Independent High School reading list (1996) after
a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged by
a member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee
(1997) because of the book's language.

Banned and Challenged Classics

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
◦ Challenged at the Dallas, TX. Independent School
District high school libraries (1974); challenged at
the Sully Buttes, S. Dak. High School (1981);
challenged at the Owen, N.C. High School (1981)
because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it
implies that man is little more than an animal";
challenged at the Marana, Ariz. High School (1983)
as an inappropriate reading assignment. Challenged
at the Olney, Tex. Independent School District
(1984) because of "excessive violence and bad

Banned and Challenged Classics

1984, George Orwell
◦ Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981)
because Orwell's novel is "pro-communist and
contained explicit sexual matter."
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
◦ Banned from classroom use at the Scottsboro, Ala.
Skyline High School (1983) due to "profanity." The
Knoxville, Tenn. School Board chairman vowed to
have "filthy books" removed from Knoxville's public
schools (1984) and picked Steinbeck's novel as the
first target due to "its vulgar language."

Banned and Challenged Classics

 Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
◦ Banned in Ireland (1932). Removed from classroom in
Miller, MO (1980), because it made promiscuous sex "look
like fun" and challenged frequently throughout the U.S.
Challenged as required reading at the Yukon, Oklahoma
High School (1988) because of "the book's language and
moral content." Challenged as required reading in the
Corona-Norco, California Unified School District (1993)
because it is "centered around negative activity.“
 The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
◦ Banned in Boston, MA (1930), Ireland (1953), Riverside,
CA (1960). Burned in Nazi bonfires (1933).

Banned and Challenged Classics

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken
◦ Challenged in the Greenley, Colorado public school
district (1971) as a non-required American Culture
reading. In 1974, five residents of Strongsville, Ohio,
sued the board of education to remove the novel.
Labeling it "pornographic," they charged the novel
"glofiries criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt
juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre
violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and
human elimination." Removed from public school
libraries in Randolph, NY, and Alton, OK (1975).

Banned and Challenged Classics