I am writing to express my concern over the potential banning of Angie Thomas’ book “The Hate U Give” as well as concerns about censorship of books in general. As a language teacher at Del Norte High School, I see the banning of books anywhere as a threat to equality in education everywhere. I fully support the inclusion of this book in the curriculum and commend this teacher for his willingness to teach such a complex novel with such topical themes.

Book censorship occurs when a group disagrees with its material based on ideological objections. In a free and democratic society, this is morally reprehensible and counter-productive to the exercise of free thought. To clarify, I am not suggesting that individuals or groups should not be able to have their own values ​​and morals, nor that they should not be allowed to dictate to themselves and their children what information they are exposed. The problem is to let one person or one group decide for the whole, which is expressly against the very idea of ​​democracy and democratic education.

Does the book in question contain foul language? It does. This presents a perfect opportunity to discuss the power of language, something no public school high school student is new to experiencing daily with their peers. Does the book in question contain a story that involves distrust of the police? It does. And don’t we see and hear a great deal of distrust of our leaders – police forces, politicians or otherwise – to which our teenagers are surely no strangers, whether from their own parents, peers, information stations, etc. ? The question should not be how to silence these dissenting opinions, but rather how to respectfully and appropriately express our distrust and concern for various leaders and authority figures?

And what about the redeeming qualities of history? The book deals with the complex issues of adolescent struggles to fit in, the importance of transcending one’s circumstances to make better lives and healthier choices, how individuals can challenge societal stereotypes and judge people based on their character and personality rather than the color of their skin. or any other assumption, and the importance of a community that comes together for the good of all. I can’t think of more timely and imperative themes to discuss with today’s teenagers.

To those challenging this book, I humbly ask you to consider, if the school board were to go ahead with this ban, where would they stop? And according to whom and what set of specific values ​​are these prohibitions made? Are you suggesting that they are solely based on your ideology? This is where the problem lies. Would you like a different group of people motivated by morals and values ​​entirely different from your own to decide for you or for your children what can or cannot be read or viewed? I anticipate the answer to be an emphatic no, and I encourage you to apply the same standards to your blatant demand to ban “The Hate U Give.”

Rather than removing the book from the school library or removing it from the curriculum, several other steps could be taken. First, it is entirely reasonable to offer students an alternative selection. It does not dictate to the entire group what can or cannot be read, nor does it require a student to read a book that their parents deem inappropriate. However, an even more effective approach than this action plan would be to provide discussion questions to encourage parent participation in the material at home. With any controversial topic (which, let’s face it, can be anything in our current political climate), the best way to go about it is not to ignore the controversy, but rather to engage in a civil discourse regarding topics and perspectives. It’s not something our current society is particularly good at, but it can be taught in an appropriate way that maintains respect and encourages appropriate sharing from all perspectives.

After all, isn’t that the point of public education? Isn’t that what supposedly makes our melting pot of a nation so wonderful? Luckily, we’re not all robots who believe exactly the same things, and fortunately, we all have the freedom to choose what those beliefs are. Banning books goes against this important ideal and fails to teach our children, the next generation, how to deal with and appropriately discuss controversies and opinions that differ from their own. Let’s be the adults in the room and explain this to them, not through censorship based on group ideals, but through encouraging civil discourse and respecting other perspectives.

Elizabeth Bailey

Del Norte Language Arts Teacher