This year Banned Books Week in America is Sept. 26 through Oct. 2; it is a week of annual celebration of the freedom to read. LMP prides itself on the freedom to read and teach diverse literature in our English classes to prepare students for the real world. But annually some school districts throughout the U.S. ban books for a variety of reasons. Since LMP is a private school, it can bypass any bans on books if Florida enacts them.
Some of the most controversial books are frequently taught in LMP’s English classes as a core part of the curriculum. For example, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is taught to our 9th graders in English I, but is the 7th most challenged book of 2020 in the U.S primarily for themes of racism and rape, according to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are several other examples of these controversial books being taught at LMP. The real question is: what does LMP think about banning and censoring?
English Department Chair Gabriella Sweezey is against censorship and believes it is necessary to read a variety of opinions and books that are controversial.
“It can give you a really good insight into a concept you haven’t thought about before or a different point of view that you may not be able to experience in your own life. So I do think it’s really important to not shut down the concept of a difficult topic just because it might be hard to talk about,” said Sweezey.
Sweezey believes learning how to talk about difficult things is something that students should be learning at school.
“It’s a part of life and everyone is going to have to deal with difficult topics…. Demonstrating how to talk about a difficult topic will teach students how to have discussions that are sensitive to people who might be different from them.”
It seems students agree with Sweezey’s opinion. Senior Andrew Petrousky says he is completely against books being banned, especially if they don’t agree with your viewpoint.
“Learning about very important topics, such as sexual abuse and racism, and the more educated you are on controversial topics like those, the better you can fix inherent issues we have in society and the more you can educate others to bring about positive change. But we have to make sure we have professionals that know what they’re doing” said Petrousky.
The ALA has reported that a few books taught at LMP, including “Of Mice and Men,” “1984,” and “Animal Farm,” have been challenged to be removed by a variety of Florida county public schools and libraries for inappropriate content, but have not yet been banned. The most common reasons, according to the National Coalition Against Censorship, are for LGBTQIA+ content, sexual content, and content that includes abortion, rape, violence, and challenging social or political viewpoints. Several books which are either taught or appear on summer reading lists at LMP, including “Feed,” “The Giver,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Speak,” among others, contain these themes.
But Sweezey doesn’t seem worried. She said, “Teachers who are good teachers will know how to approach the topic that is sensitive to all parties involved.”