🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
Intro(Sam): As usual, this month's school board meeting started on some pretty heated topics. Instead of COVID-19 or racial sensitivity being this month’s topic of debate, the concept of inappropriate books was...
what seemed to draw the most outrage. Though, before covering that, let’s discuss the basics. The meeting began as usual with a Future Ready presentation where a math adoption was discussed coming in the 2022-2023 school year. This seems to be involved in an overall STEM field focus, though that isn’t clear from the discussion. This section of the meeting concluded, and the controversial topics began.
Banning Books (Sam): As a student and a lover of history, the topic of banning books is concerning, to say the least. It is entirely normal, and even healthy, to want to censor your young child from exposure to violence or overall negativity--but when does that sheltering become actively harmful? What becomes acceptable and unacceptable, and who is fit to judge that without outside prejudice or bias? No matter how neutral, we all carry internal bias--a strong belief in what we see as right and wrong. To say that all books which contain negative or “bad” language should be banned is to prohibit books that tell some of the most important, heart-wrenching stories. Students should hear those complex stories about slavery and the holocaust told by those who experienced them more than anyone else. With that being stated, of course, there is an appropriate age to be introducing such topics. That should be gauged on the maturity of the child, not by the content of the book. Books aren’t the problem; they are simply a medium for storytelling. Some of humanity’s most important lessons are only written down on paper, contained within the ink. We shouldn’t keep those stories from students who are ready to hear them simply because they have the “F” word, which students more than likely already hear daily in their classrooms. We shouldn’t be discussing banning; instead, we should be discussing what age or maturity we should be introducing certain topics.
Delegations (Kaitlyn): Like the earlier sections of the School Board Meeting, most of the delegations pertained to the banning of books or the Tennessee curriculum. Although I would like to avoid the repetition of ideas, it’s paramount that all perspectives are considered and included. Lauren Sloan, a teacher and mother of three, expressed her support for including diverse, possibly controversial material in education. Referring to personal experience, Mrs. Sloan explained that she had struggled to read until she could find books she could relate to. She spoke about her fear that current students could face the same issue, struggling to find the material they enjoy and ultimately losing out on a lifetime of reading. As an avid reader in elementary and middle school, Mrs. Sloan’s words deeply resonated within me. Although a large portion of my reading was confined to books like The Boxcar Children and The ABC Mysteries, I found myself branching into more mature ideas and novels. Books like The Hunger Games not only intrigued me but opened new worlds to me, introducing the dystopian genre and real-life issues I had never considered. These exciting, new stories fueled my passion for literature, ultimately leading me to be the writer and reader I am today. Additionally, the characters in these books often faced hardships, sometimes even ones I could identify with. I would go as far as to say that these fictional people instilled moral qualities and jurisdiction that I would no longer be the same person without. I agree with Mrs. Sloan’s opinion as I believe it is essential for students to be intrigued by what they are reading and challenged by it.
Representing the opposite side was Jamie Hall, a member of Moms for Liberty. Mrs. Hall began her speech with the sentence, “There is no attack here”, before explaining why she and her group were for banning certain books. She wanted to protect children from harmful language and topics, especially those integrated into the mandatory curriculum. Although I believe her intentions are not misplaced, and I agree with her to a certain extent, I think that the banning of books will negatively impact student growth. I do not believe elementary students should be exposed to mature themes and language, especially if they cannot comprehend the overarching message. At this age, students would most likely not grasp the morals and themes of the story, only remembering the controversial scenes and language. However, when students reach a particular maturity, their learning shouldn’t be inhibited by parents’ choices that are not their own. Teachers, the ones monitoring student comprehension and education, should have the responsibility of determining whether or not their classes can handle such material. We cannot shield students from mature themes and real-life hardships forever, but we shouldn’t force students to exchange their childhood for the heavy yoke of adulthood too soon.
Conclusion (Sam): Overall, this School Board Meeting, as many others do, had a mature, controversial topic proposed with a controversial response. This tends to be how many things involving the public are, especially with politicized issues. It seems so odd to me that a topic such as books could possibly be political, seeing as books are merely a teaching aid and not an attack on anyone’s moral character. I would like to see School Board Meetings more focused on funding school programs, such as free school lunches or after-school activities for low-income students. I wish we could take a step away from the heated moral debates and instead focus on things that can be actively solved with a bit of money and focus.