FLYING OFF THE SHELVES FOR THE WRONG REASONS: Heating Arguments Between Republican Lawmakers and Bibliophiles


Photo by Georgia Scherrer

Banned books are presented within Barnes & Noble with a sign saying, “Discover what you’ve been missing.” A variety of books are presented including “Anna Karenina”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “1984”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”

Controversy is on the rise within the world of literature. 

A recent dispute between legislators and the public regarding whether or not books should continue to be banned in certain school libraries, public libraries and states has become a more popularized instance than in recent years due to the censoring of books and charges against librarians and bookstores nationwide because of their beliefs. 

Books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “1984,” “Anna Karenina,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Lord of the Flies,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Crime and Punishment” are all popular books that have been banned within the United States since their release to the public. 

These are also all books that are studied within Sage Creek High School’s curriculum. 

Selective books – most of which that have been identified as “banned” in certain states – are presented along Barnes & Noble’s walls. To Kill a Mockingbird is banned within four different states so far. (Photo by Georgia Scherrer)

English teacher Emily Kalberg is able to see both sides of the argument.

“I think there shouldn’t be so many banned books,” Kalberg said. “We read them and analyze them for a reason, and I feel like some books that are banned have strong language. We could have a different book that focuses on the same culture and same ideas but doesn’t use that vulgar of language.”

According to the ALA (The American Library Association), the top three reasons a book may be “challenged” or banned in a specific city or state are due to “sexually explicit content, offensive language, and material that is unsuitable to an age group.” If a book is deemed inappropriate by an individual under one of these constructs, they have the ability to “challenge” the book and potentially remove the book from shelves, publishers and available bookstores. 

Kalberg continued to note that books are very important to expanding students’ perspectives, cultures and overall viewpoints on the world. 

“You can’t just have this one view in life – you have to understand that there are multiple types of people, beliefs and values, and reading diverse books allows students to not only feel connected if they can relate but also allows the other students to understand different viewpoints.” Kalberg said. “The world is full of diversity and that’s what makes it beautiful and creative.”

Kalberg isn’t the only teacher at SCHS that believes in the power and knowledge reading a single book can hold. Matt Haupert, an English and Sage Yearbook teacher, strongly believes in the power an educational facility can hold in supporting students and their abilities to think freely. 

Haupert acknowledged, “When you start banning books, you begin curating what kids are exposed to and not exposed to. The function of education is to develop independent critical thinkers that can go into the strange world and figure out how we should move forward as a society.”

As a new father, however, Haupert is able to recognize the viewpoint of parents who are concerned about the teachings and content of books being taught in schools and what their children are being exposed to. 

“I think a lot of the concerns come from an understandable place of parents wanting to protect their kids, which is where a lot of it stems from,” Haupert granted. “But there’s a distinction between what we’re requiring kids to read versus what is made accessible to them in the community. “

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. is also presented among Barnes and Noble’s walls The Great Gatsby is banned in Alaska and South Carolina. (Photo by Georgia Scherrer)

The opposing opinions arose within news and media publications most recently due to the censorship of certain wording within Roald Dahl’s “Matilda,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Along with numerous bookstore owners and school/city librarians facing fines and possible jail time for refusing to oblige by the challenging of certain books. All causing the spotlight to be on this sensitive subject frequently. 

Jesse Pugliese, the assistant manager at Barnes & Noble in Oceanside, feels that in light of not only recent controversy but also the deed of banning books as a whole is something that reflects negatively on society. 

“I think it’s pretty negative, limiting what students are able to read. It limits the opinions they’re able to express on their own,” Pugliese explained. “The good thing is that a lot of English teachers and English departments in most schools are very conscientious of books that are banned now or have been in the past, and they make a point of putting them into their curriculum for that reason – which is a good thing!”

When shoppers walk into the Barnes & Noble store, tables of books with various signs are found at the entrance. One of these tables contains stacks of books identified as, “Banned Books: Discover What You’ve Been Missing”. 

Books are being ironically advertised as “banned,” which can lead customers to purchase them simply because they have been labeled in a certain way. According to PEN, 2,532 books were banned ranging from July 2021 to June 2022. 

Haupert, like many other readers, contended that instead individuals should simply “Find the books that speak to you.”

“Everyone should read,” Haupert said. “It’s important for people to read a lot because the more you read and the wider variety of what you read, the more of a critical thinker you become the more nuanced you become. You should read whatever piques your interest.”