Sunday, April 14, 2013

Education and Book Banning

I've been well out of high school for a few years now and I really don't know what goes on in high schools these days. As far as I remember during my grade school years, no parent has ever complained about any assigned reading that I have ever had the privilege of picking apart. I never understood book bans, or people who go out and complain that the books being picked apart in the classroom are inappropriate for children.

Grade 12 English was where I was given the gift of a study in Elie Wiesel's Night. The book itself is a telling about Eliezer's (slightly fictionalized version of Elie, himself) own reflections on the struggle to survive the Holocaust inside an Auschwitz concentration camp. At the beginning of the novel, a man, Moishe the Beadle speaks of witnessing babies being thrown into the air and used as targets for machine gunners. I always reflect back on reading this novel and discussing it in class and that very image to me was disturbing but so important to my education. Why is learning about the Holocaust from this book, so important?

Because we see people struggle with their humanity and faith in this book. We see Eliezer's relationship with his father strengthen, falter, and personal conflicts. We see fragility in these characters but really, it's not the characters we see these things in. We relate to them because the themes portrayed in this book are timeless. The Holocaust has happened once, ever and hopefully, never again; but that isn't to say that genocide, war, and torture aren't happening in the world. That isn't to say that we, ourselves, will never be put in a position where the strength of our relationships will be put to the test in such a terrifying way. Or where our beliefs, faith and humanity are challenged for a scrap of bread.

In my neighbouring country of America, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) banned this book in 2001-2002. It was challenged in Texas for it's use of profanity, horror and violence which as a result, only select students were permitted to read this book. 

To say that teenagers should not read this book is an insult to the intelligence of young minds. The minds that we often call our "future" and the minds that will bring us into advancement and innovation. Night is the truth -- horror, violence and all. It is not worth banning and doing so would be absolutely insulting to Elie, to so many other Holocaust survivors and to those we tragically lost. 

It's amazing, however, that so many amazing books, meant to impact us as a society have been banned/are banned/challenged into being banned. Literature should be celebrated and should be open to everyone unless, in a sort of ironic fashion, the dystopian futures of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 should happen. The censorship of books is incredibly, mind-bogglingly frustrating. 

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