Student Opinion: The Slippery Implications of Literature Bans

By Kennedy Library, CC BY-NC 2.0,

By Ethan Wang


CHICAGO — Bans on literature have long plagued the United States and its policymaking. To this effect, Illinois lawmakers’ recent greenlighting of a bill to defund libraries that adopt book ban policies begs the question of why access to literature is so imperative.


The Illinois government’s policy to combat statewide bans on literature is a unique one, setting a precedent that is not visibly observed in other American states. An NBC Chicago report details how this policy stands out against others recently passed in states such as Missouri, Indiana and Louisiana.


The increasingly common laws which ban books from public libraries — especially in states that are more politically conservative — make it much easier for local libraries and educational institutions to exercise bans on materials of their choice. In organizations such as elementary schools, this is particularly alarming.


The aforementioned NBC report details the necessity of intellectual and creative freedom for school-aged children, which are being directly threatened by state acts that ban particular reading materials. These laws ultimately undermine the self-proclaimed purpose of “free” education and speech in America.


Book bans have been on the rise across the United States since 2021, but they became much more prevalent over the course of the past year. In particular, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has enacted three key pieces of legislation which headed and bolstered the sweeping statewide book bans.


DeSantis’s legislation includes the Stop WOKE Act, which “prohibits instruction that could make students feel guilty or responsible for the past actions of other members of their race.” Such legislation is especially harmful in the dissemination of literature which teaches young students about racial difference and discrimination, an essential component of elementary education.


Policy changes in Florida also have implications across the United States, as successful conservative law instatement against critical teachings from minority voices sets a dangerous precedent. With DeSantis’s acts comes the instigation of national efforts to suppress educational material that center such voices, or simply discuss the implications of discrimination, racism, and white supremacy.


Mike Simmons, senator and representative of Chicago’s seventh district, took a pronounced stance against book bans in a recent article. Simmons asserts the necessity of diverse literature and marked activity against book bans in the development of youth intellect and identity. As one of Illinois’ key policymakers, Simmons makes a case for the fervent efforts against the bans of literature that is dubbed offensive or ‘woke’ by right-wing efforts in the state and across the United States.


Illinois sets an important precedent, as scholarship continually indicates that banning books — especially those authored by and centering characters who are part of one or multiple minority groups — is a principally political effort with no proven benefit to children’s education. Ultimately, “[m]ost book bans are tied to anti-wokeness laws,” and are truly “about refusing to see the value in the perspectives of people on the margins.”


As 37 states still continue to institute book bans, it is imperative that legislators and community leaders alike work to repeal the active war on diverse literature. Employing curricula that teaches students to understand perspectives outside their worldview whilst developing empathy for their peers is an overlooked component of American education — and one that will dissipate if action is not taken to foster it.


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17 thoughts on “Student Opinion: The Slippery Implications of Literature Bans”

  1. Walter Shwe

    I wholeheartedly agree with and go farther than Ethan Wang on this vital issue. I find all Republican initiated book bans to be completely without merit and laughable. I recently learned that some red states even ban books by the acclaimed author Judy Blume that discuss topics including the totally natural biological issue of menstruation. How are young girls going to learn about what’s it really like growing older if books that mention something as simple as menstruation continue to be banned? 😂

    1. David Greenwald

      You make a claim; ” it’s the woke left that has initiated most of the book banning”

      Then instead of providing a link that does a rigorous analysis of what books have been banned and by who, you post a link to a NY Post article on one book. That doesn’t substantiate your claim that the “work left” has “initiated” “most” of the banning of books.

        1. Keith Olsen

          But why wouldn’t you find a link that has a systematic analysis?

          Because maybe there isn’t “one”, or if there is “one” it will be done by some left wing think tank and not worth even reading.

          But since you asked and questioned my comment, why don’t you provide a systematic analysis from a reputable source, not some handpicked leftist organization.

          1. David Greenwald

            These are the two best sources I have seen…

            This is from the American Library Association:

            This is from PEN America –

            Here is from Barnes and Noble –

            Here’s an op-ed – When It Comes to Banning Books, Both Right and Left Are Guilty | Opinion

            Here’s an article – How conservative and liberal book bans differ amid rise in literary restrictions

            “While activists across the political spectrum have sought to restrict or protest some forms of literature, the vast majority of book challenges are from conservative-leaning groups, researchers say. Only a handful of efforts have also come from liberal sources, mainly targeting books with racist or offensive language.”

            Find me a better source if you don’t like these…

      1. Keith Olsen

         you post a link to a NY Post article on one book.

        What part of
        ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ Bond, other classics
        Equals “ONE” ???

        1. Matt Williams

          Keith, none of those books were/are banned.

          In each case the owner of the publishing rights has chosen to make editorial changes to the text as a marketing decision … so they can boost sales.  When you own something you have property rights, and the publishers are simply exercising those rights.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Making an author rewrite his work is worse than a ban.  Then people get to know a fake, sterilized version of what the artists never intended.

        3. Matt Williams

          Keith, all authors have editors.  Almost all of them rely heavily on editors. Go into the Acknowledgements page of any book and you will see the author thanking all the people who made the book possible … many of those names being editors.

          or you can go to the masthead of any newspaper (or electronic equivalent) and you’ll see an Editor in Chief and a whole slew of editors … essentially one (or more than one) for every section of the newspaper.

          or you can watch the credits at the end of a Fox NES program.  There will be multiple editors listed.

          The Academy Awards give out multiple Oscars each year for Best Editing.

          And then of course you are ignoring the simple Capitalistic principle that the owner of the publishing rights is making a discretionary decision on how to get the best Return on Investment from their ownership rights.  None of the book banners have ownership rights to the books they are banning.

        4. Matt Williams

          And one more point you should consider Keith is that editorial changes in newly printed books do not in any way affect older copies of those books.  It’s kind of like Coke and Diet Coke.  Both are available.  If you want the original you can have it.  If you want the “edited” version you can have that too.

    2. Hiram Jackson

      Keith Olsen: ‘Who are we kidding here, it’s the woke left that has initiated most of the book banning and the rewriting of children’s classics.’

      Your link is to a Rich Lowry opinion piece condemning rewrites of classics, not book banning.  It seems that you’re using this as an opportunity to conflate the two.  I don’t see Rich Lowry talking about book bans.  Did I miss something?

      Also, when I read Rich Lowry’s opinion piece, he goes to places that actually undermine his argument, IMO.  I have a harder time understanding why I should be outraged.  When I was growing up back in the last century, I participated in a children’s theater production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that was rewritten for kids.  The Shakespearean English was substantially changed to modern English, scenes were cut or abbreviated to bring the length of the play more in line to a school production, bawdy jokes were taken out.  Even as I performed in that play as a kid, I was aware that this was a kid version and that there was an adult version that I had also seen and enjoyed back then, but in that time I still recognized and appreciated the kid version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I really enjoyed that opportunity.  Was I engaged in some evil ‘wokeism’ back then and didn’t recognize it?

      I grew up thinking the Disney version of Pinocchio was the authoritative version.  The original version by Carlo Collodi, which I discovered years later, was quite a bit darker than Disney, but still enjoyable and interesting.  Should your point about rewrites of literature have been made back in 1940 when the Disney version came out?  Have I been tainted by watching the Disney version?

      This isn’t a government entity banning anything.  It is private entities doing rewrites for whatever reason.  I think the original versions will always be with us, and at some point they will leave copyright protection and be available for free.  If the stories are good, I think they will always be with us in some form.  If more contemporary rewrites are less popular, then I think the marketplace will make a correction there.

      The second part of this quote from your link also piqued my interest:

      ‘This is no more defensible than someone deciding Monet’s water lilies should be an ever-so-slightly different shade of green or that Tchaikovsky should have written his “1812 Overture” in D-sharp minor instead of E-flat major.’

      As someone who has followed music education for decades, I have seen arrangements of classic works simplified for grade school ensembles.  Sometimes the key is changed to make it easier to perform.  Sometimes complex passages are simplified, sometimes a full orchestra original is rearranged for a string orchestra or concert band, depending on the situation.  Are our kids damaged by not using the original?  I’ve even done that myself with strumming songs with guitar, changing the key to fit my vocal range.  I think it’s recognized that these are re-arrangements of the originals.  Did something wrong happen in changing the original?  The original composer is still acknowledged.

      Maybe I’ve missed something important, and you’ll point it out?

  2. Ron Oertel

    I recently learned that some red states even ban books by the acclaimed author Judy Blume that discuss topics including the totally natural biological issue of menstruation. How are young girls going to learn about what’s it really like growing older if books that mention something as simple as menstruation continue to be banned? 

    I think this goes down another rabbit hole, so to speak.

    “Young girls” on puberty blockers don’t menstruate.  And some don’t want to be referred to as “girls” at all.


    1. Walter Shwe

      “Young girls” on puberty blockers don’t menstruate.  And some don’t want to be referred to as “girls” at all.

      Young girls that aren’t on any puberty blockers definitely do start menstruating at some point. [edited]… do you deny the existence of  biological menstruation in women?

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