Limited censorship on library books proves valuable for students

Students that frequent Mission Hill’s library may be familiar with the library’s transparency on having challenged books on their shelves.

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Photo by Ariana Talamantes

1984 by George Orwell has been challenged because of its political and explicit content.

Should students read “obscene” books? This question has been at the heart of a debate going back several decades, with books such as “Catcher in the Rye” having been banned in schools across the US in decades past to create a safe reading environment for students. However, Mission Hills’ philosophy on such books demonstrates that choosing not to do so is ultimately beneficial for students.
Books considered “profane,” “sexually explicit,” or “violent,” such as “Looking for Alaska” and “The Hate U Give,” are often the most challenged by parents and teachers, as shown by the American Library Association. The debate over such works reemerged last year, when a Tennessee school board voted to ban the graphic novel “Maus” from being taught in classrooms due to containing material deemed inappropriate for students, primarily nudity & graphic violence, described by PBS Newshour.

“I think that banning books is detrimental to students and their learning experiences; it’s crucial that students have access to a diverse variety of stories. […] Even just having the freedom to pick up a book and read it without having anyone stop you is a growing and learning experience for students,” senior Sarah Griffith said.

At Mission Hills High School, both volumes of “Maus” are freely available for students in the library’s graphic novel section. Every day, a slideshow plays over the students, showing that such novels are available for students to read, alongside funny book summaries and new arrivals to the library, encouraging them to come to their own decision about whether they want to read such.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one of the many challenged books displayed in the library’s daily slideshow. (Photo by Ariana Talamantes)

“By giving the students the choice to freely read books that are typically banned elsewhere, it shows how bold we are as a grizzly family. I think [the slideshow] shows how we are bold enough to move forward with giving our students the opportunity to read what they want and educate them on real-world issues,” senior Mikayla Bautista said.
In providing students this freedom, Mission Hills allows for them to discover stories and perspectives from a diverse range of authors that they might not otherwise, providing them with a unique multitude of experiences and encouraging important conversations to be held between readers about the subjects of those works.
“I feel like the efforts to censor books has been just a conversation stopper, like [schools] don’t want to talk about the hard topics that might be in these books, and our goal is to promote them. We want everyone to read them and talk about them, because the issues that they discuss in those books are really important, and we want to make sure that conversations about those issues are allowed to happen on our campus,” librarian Lora Diaz said.

The fact that we’re a public school library means that we need to have as many diverse voices in our library and our collection as possible to reflect the voices of our community.”

— Lora Diaz

It is understandable to assume that, by banning such works from students, schools are doing a favor by shielding them from some uncomfortable matters of life. However, by giving students access to these stories and the messages that authors hope to spread, Mission Hills ensures that they are able to grow and learn more about what the wider world is like, wrinkles and all.