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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

EDITORIAL: Book Bans Oppose Jesuit Values

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
via Marquette Wire stock photo

Every person has the right to intellectual freedom; however, this right has been challenged due to recent legislation regarding book banning. Marquette University, grounded in the Jesuit value of education, must be aware and contribute to the dialogue regarding freedom of information.

Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the curriculum transparency bill that requires the approval of books in public school classrooms and libraries. In order for books to be approved for the classroom, they must be analyzed by a media specialist trained by the Florida Department of Education.

54 of 132 proposed high school  math textbooks were rejected under this provision. This was on the reasoning that the textbooks had connections to critical race theory, an academic framework that asserts that systemic racism is part of American society.

It may be somewhat confusing as to how ideas such as critical race theory could possibly be perceived in a math textbook. One book that was rejected was a high school statistics textbook that discussed racial profiling in policing, discrimination of magnet school admission and mentioned that the proportion of white police officers in the New York Police Department did not match up when compared to the racial makeup of New York City. 

It’s clear that this statistics textbook was simply using real-world statistics in order to teach the subject. The banning of these textbooks is an inappropriate overreaction.

This isn’t only a problem in Florida. In Wisconsin, Laurie Kontney, a former Marquette professor, aided in the removal of a book from the Muskego Norway school district curriculum. The book, “When the Emperor was Divine,” covers the Japanese American internment camps of World War II. Kontney claimed that the ideas of the book didn’t have a place in an English class.  

Students have a right to learn and teachers have a duty to educate about the past no matter how unpleasant it may be. Just because something makes you uncomfortable does not mean that it is immoral. 

Stories by writers, such as Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and George Orwell have been deemed to contain objectionable content inappropriate for the classroom. For example, the “Twelfth Night” was banned in Merrimack, New Hampshire for “encouraging homosexuality”. The “homosexuality” in question is an expression of gender in a comedic tone. In the play the heroine, “Viola,” dresses as a pageboy. Consequently, the character Olivia unknowingly falls in love with Viola as her pageboy alter ego, which is the basis for its exclusion from the curriculum.

The play isn’t even explicitly queer. If a Shakespeare play that is not explicitly queer, aside from the gender-bending storyline, is too much then what does that say for books which actually represent queer stories? Queer stories are often overwhelmingly labeled as too sexual. Students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community deserve to be represented in their curriculum. 

This kind of banning sends the message that some stories don’t deserve to be told. 

Banning books is not a new practice in the United States. It’s been around since the beginning of the country. During the early 19th century, the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was banned for expressing anti-slavery sentiments. The book exposed the true horrors of slavery and was praised by abolitionists. Publicly, slaveholders burned and banned the book. Book banning has always been a means to censor speech and is and will forever be unacceptable. 

Students have a constitutional right to read banned books. In a 1982 Supreme Court case, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico,  the court ruled that school boards cannot remove books on the basis that the board disagrees with the ideas and themes discussed. Banning books violates students’ first amendment rights.

Education is a deeply important Jesuit value. A holistic and comprehensive approach to education cannot be achieved under book bans. In the 2021 to 2022 school year alone, more than 1,600 books were banned from school libraries in the United States. This is a concerning trend that Marquette, a Jesuit Institution, should be wary of. 

Book bans are a dangerous step towards inappropriate censorship and lack of intellectual freedom. 

Editorial topics by the Marquette Wire are decided at weekly meetings between members of the executive board. The editorial is crafted with leadership by the executive opinions editor. The executive board consists of the executive director of the Wire, managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, managing editor of the Marquette Journal, general manager of MUTV, general manager of MUR and ten additional top editors across the organization.

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