AoW Banned Books Week

Name:___________________________________________________ Date: __________________ Class Period: _______
Article of the Week
Directions: Read the article carefully and make notes in the margin. Your margin notes are part of your
score for this assessment. Next, answer the questions carefully in complete sentences unless otherwise
“Confronting My Temptation to Ban Books” by Paul Raushenbush
We all know that banning books is wrong. So why is it so tempting?
This week, for the 32nd year, The American Library Association is observing Banned
Books Week, a celebration of the "freedom to read" and a chance to bring "national
attention to the harms of censorship."
In 2014 in America, you can still find a long list of books that are challenged, protested,
and sometimes banned in libraries across the country. So what kinds of books are being
challenged? The top 10 from 2013 includes such titles as Captain Underpants by Dav
Pilkey, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morison, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,
by Sherman Alexie, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, and The Hunger Games by
Suzanne Collins.
The main reasons for banned books strike me as not so shocking as banal: offensive
language, sex, and material unsuited to certain age groups. I have to admit when I saw this
list of potentially "banned books" my first thought was: How quaint. These books pose
zero threat to anyone and the basic approach of "Don't like it? Don't read it" works
perfectly well. The librarians who have had to fend off those silly challenges should get a
gold medal for patience as much as for free speech. I mean, The Hunger Games?
But if we're being honest, don't we all secretly have a ban wish?
Banned Books Week did get me thinking about the kind of information that I would rather
not exist. If I had a magic wand I wouldn't eliminate The Hunger Games, but I might be
tempted to ban recruitment propaganda from ISIS, or books and essays that perpetuate
systemic racism, or sexist literature that denigrates women and could incite domestic
violence, to name just a few. As someone who is trying to create a better world, it is
tempting to want to "ban" the material that I feel leads to radical harm.
Wrestling with these questions led me to reach out to Barbara Jones, director of the
American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. In a phone call with her,
Paul Raushenbush. “Confronting My Temptation to Ban Books.” Huffingtonpost. AOL. 9.22.14. Web. Accessed 9.24.14.
Jones agreed that the top 10 list of banned books was not the most pressing issue of Banned
Books Week, however she pushed back against my desire to ban anything.
Barbara Jones would rather we think much bigger than 'banning books' and instead focus on
the freedom to read. And she means the freedom to read pretty much anything.
"The First Amendment works pretty well. There are limits that include obscenity, child
pornography, and material that is harmful to minors; but beyond that there should be as
much information as possible."
Jones went on: "ISIS propaganda should not be prohibited because then we make it very
tempting. People are always curious if you ban something. Instead we need to battle that
propaganda with better ideas. As Brandeis wrote in Whitney v. California, 'the remedy to be
applied is more speech, not enforced silence.'"
…America can't afford small thinking in this extraordinarily difficult time. Covering our
eyes, and hiding a few books will not defeat the problems we face. What we need is
creativity, and more expressions of peace, equality and justice conveyed in such a way that
they are more compelling and inspiring than those that promote denigration, hatred and
…Don't observe Banned Books Week because a few idiots don't like The Hunger Games,
but instead because our very existence as a free, enlightened society rests on the idea of the
flow of information coupled with the skills to understand it. If you needed any more proof,
the first thing ISIS did in the areas that they control is ban the study of certain subjects in the
The 21st century ultimately does not allow for censorship -- people will find what they want
to find. Let's all be part of an effort that helps people find good information, and celebrate
the ability and freedom for all of us to read that information and use it for the good of the
Article Questions: Use complete sentences for your answers on questions 3-5.
1. The First Amendment does have restrictions. What are some of the limits? List at least two.
2. What types of books would the author of this article feel tempted to ban if he could? List at least two types.
3. Why does Barbara Jones of the American Library Association say that ISIS propaganda should not be prohibited?
4. What does Ms. Jones say is the “remedy” to fight propaganda?
5. What are two reasons the author gives for reading banned books and celebrating banned books week?
6. On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph in defense of banning books. Use the PEEC format (point,
explanation, evidence, conclusion). Consider using your reading experiences as support in addition to the author’s
Paul Raushenbush. “Confronting My Temptation to Ban Books.” Huffingtonpost. AOL. 9.22.14. Web. Accessed 9.24.14.