By Stef Morgan
To arm, or not to arm?
How did that become the question?!
Those very terms bring to mind guns when we should be focused on arming our students with books. Imagine children gathered on a rug captivated by a book being read by a librarian or teacher during reading time. Toddlers in their favorite pajamas enraptured on the laps of their parents, waiting to hear an immersive bedtime story. Families on holiday road trips, listening to fascinating audiobooks.
To ban or not to ban?
Extremists want to restrict access to books, our very sources of information, in a world where knowledge is power. Students are hungry for information and want to learn. Books offer readers the opportunity to view through windows what they might not experience in their own lives, as well as seeing in a mirror experiences similar to their own. From their bearings outside those books, readers can gain empathy as they read about challenging circumstances of characters with whom they might not otherwise mingle, while also garnering ideas from characters in similar situations about how to confront problems. Controlling such curiosity, by banning books, will only create clones of those current leaders who are making the decisions about which books to ban.
To harm, or not to harm?
Is that the ultimate question?
What is more harmful? A book or a gun?
Weapons do not create comfortable, safe learning environments, nor do they nourish curious minds. Therefore it’s extremely ironic that those who want to ban books are defending the rights of those, even young people, who want to carry assault weapons.
We need to lay down our weapons and pick up our books! Our world needs to be properly armed—with books. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, helps readers understand white privilege and racism in the deep south. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie, helps readers understand life on an Indian Reservation. “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, helps readers understand the struggles of men during the Great Depression. Each of these books, among countless others, offers windows into worlds that middle-class white people might not otherwise understand, and yet they are on banned book lists. Books like these must never be banned. Instead, they should be raised up and used to arm the leaders of tomorrow with empathy and understanding.
We need educators in full force to lead a national revival. People do not fear what they understand. Books help develop an understanding of the world and those around us. Teachers could help citizens learn to be comfortable with who they are and interested in bridging differences between themselves and others, as well as how to understand opposing points of view and resolve conflict peacefully.
No book bans.
Just lessons with plenty of books and love.
To arm our children, with critical thinking skills.
Only then will the future generation be able to engage constructively with those around them who are both like them and different from them.
Stef Morgan is a teacher. Morgan lives in Boulder.