Fahrenheit 451’s dystopian future may seem unfathomable, but modern society is inching closer to throwing books into the fire. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is one of the many recent examples of censoring curricula with the Stop Woke Act and installing conservative leadership at the New College of Florida. This problem, however, is not unique to Florida. As part of the Providence College community, each one of us is at the center of the debate between academic freedom and personal convictions. As an institution of higher education, the College does not have to question if certain topics are age-appropriate, but no one should take this freedom for granted since new arguments are gaining traction.
Reading should make one feel uncomfortable. A true work of literature pushes the reader to think beyond the confines of their own experience and leap into an unfamiliar world. Students should have the opportunity to explore their interests freely through the world of literature instead of operating within the boundaries of ideology. The new AP African American Studies curriculum bans authors such as bell hooks and Angela Davis simply to cater to the supporters of the right-wing agenda like Governor DeSantis. This does not serve as a valid justification for banning texts from the classroom.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of many influential politicians, history cannot be erased. Even if the government mandates that racism cannot be discussed in the classroom, the impacts of such systems permeate American society to this day. Ignoring the discussion does not change the fact that several of the Founding Fathers were slave owners.
While many parents of K-12 students push back against certain texts for including graphic content, in the age of social media, explicit content is only a search away. 82 percent of the challenges made against certain content involved books while only two percent involved films in 2021 according to the American Library Association. Even though films often depict sexual content, violence, and injustice more graphically by nature, the data demonstrates that the public is more concerned about books. Introducing difficult concepts like sexual assault and violence in a constructive classroom setting is much more productive than a child witnessing it in a YouTube video or Instagram post.
The logic behind the argument for banning books is inherently flawed in its nature. If one considers any discussion of violence worthy of a ban, then the Bible, by this logic, should be banned from libraries and the classroom. However, the targets of book bans are texts such as The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give. The argument is not about violence; the argument has never been about violence. If the argument was about shielding children from violence, the people calling for book bans would work to prevent guns from entering schools instead.
If books could indoctrinate the masses, then Hitler’s Mein Kampf would appear on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books more often than The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Of course, reading can shape one’s outlook on the world, but it does not produce individuals who blindly follow the words of one mind. In fact, reading creates well-rounded individuals capable of developing their own thoughts and opinions, which is the purpose of the entire education system.
If Americans read more books instead of scrolling through their social media feeds, the country would be better for it. With education being such a highly sought-after commodity, the nation should encourage intense critical thinking instead of close-minded ideological reassurance.