OPINION: Why are we banning books that teach children their gender, sexual, race identity don’t define them?

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Ren Sikes | Opinions Editor

I remember when I read Huckleberry Finn, and my third level English teacher had to give us the “talk.” The talk that we all have probably heard about the fact that Huckleberry Finn is satire and that there is “that” word in it. We were told to be mature and respectful. This is for our education. 

Huckleberry Finn, and countless other novels, have been banned from schools multiple times. As of 2020, 273 books were affected by censorship attempts according to The American Library Association, Office for Intellectual Freedom. Many of these books cover topics of race, gender and sexuality. 

What world are we in where it is wrong to teach children about gender, sexuality and race? What’s next? Will we stop teaching these topics in school all together? Who is controlling these things? Who has a say in all of this? The school board?

A non-fiction graphic novel about the Holocaust, written by American Cartoonist Art Spiegelman, titled “Maus” has been banned in Tenesee as of early Janurary. 

The reason: It was deemed inappropriate for 13-year-olds due to swear words and depictions of nude figures. 

Take that in.  

In my experience, and that of my younger siblings who are 13, these kids have probably heard all of those words already. Between their home life, school hallways and the internet – they’ve probably seen it all, too. 

How much are we depriving them of if we refuse to expose them to things in school? School is supposed to be a safe place to learn about the things you don’t understand. 

I learned that I was bisexual while in school. I learned what it takes to be in a healthy relationship and what emotional abuse is in school. 

I learned who I am as a person, who I was and who I wanted to be. Middle school and high school is a time for self discovery and we are putting the younger generations at a disadvantage by refusing to normalize and teach these topics. 

If we are comfortable teaching health and wellness, sex education and anatomy courses, should we not also be comfortable teaching students about gender and sexuality. 

Race has always been a problem in the classroom, with many people refusing to admit we were wrong. Education is meant to prevent history from repeating itself. 

It is intended to nurture friendships and encourage self expression. Education is meant to empower students so that they can go on to make the world a better place than when they found it, and fix the mistakes of previous generations. 

We are only making that more difficult by refusing to teach them about gender, sexuality and race. Book Bans have always been a bitter wound for me. I love reading, and hearing that books that have a valuable message that is applicable to this day and age truly hurts me. 
Sooner rather than later, if we don’t do something about this censorship…1984 and Fahrenheit 451 may not seem so far fetched.