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Letter: Banning of books in Utah’s school libraries is misguided and dangerous

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Four of nine books that have been removed from schools in the Canyons School District and placed under review, Nov. 23, 2021. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.

“I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.” — Judy Blume

As a 36-year veteran English teacher, I was honored to share my love of literature with my thousands of AP Literature/Language students. My students were bright, intuitive, and thoughtful. They were eager to discuss issues that were important, and yes, sometimes uncomfortable. These young people were not tender flowers who would be corrupted by reading tough and challenging prose or poetry. They were idealistic young adults waiting to enter the world equipped with the necessary tools to survive and thrive. Would I teach “Lolita” or “The Bluest Eye” in my classroom? Probably not. There were always a few students who did not have the intellectual maturity required to carefully peruse certain novels. Would I have suggested some of my brightest students check out these titles from the library. Absolutely! What a glorious moment to be able to critically discuss sensitive topics with students who were searching for answers. Even better was when these students took the novels home and discussed issues with their parents and then shared parts of the discussions with me.

The banning of certain books in our school libraries is not only misguided and dangerous, it is a fear born of ignorance. If a parent is choosing a passage in a novel that makes her squeamish, yet, she is not willing to read the entire text and then try to flesh out the important lessons, she is dishonest and disingenuous. Our children have all the information they could ever seek, both good and bad, at their fingertips. They are not quite as innocent as parents might believe. One need look no further than the Bible or Shakespeare to see that difficult topics have been available in texts since the invention of the printing press. Rather than clutch one’s pearls and throw up one’s arms in disgust, let’s at least be honest. The idea of banning books is really about control. While parents “might” be able to control what content their child reads, they don’t have the right to control what is available for other children to read and discuss. As Gov. Cox stated, rarely does book banning turn out well.

Shannon Coon, Taylorsville

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