Let Them Read: Why Banning Books Hurts Children (A Short Essay)

In February 2016, legislation surfaced in Virginia that, if passed, would have permitted the “banning” of certain works of literature in the state’s grade schools. Parents would be allowed to opt their children out of reading books containing material that they do not approve of, particularly if the subject matter has “sexually explicit” content.

The bill ended up passing in both the Virginia House and Senate, but was (thankfully) vetoed by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe.

But this isn’t the first time “banning books” has been an issue in the U.S. — and it likely won’t be the last.

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Renaming Memorial Buildings is Erasing American History

I recently read an article highlighting a young student who has been working to change the name of her former middle school. In her eyes, the school’s reputation was tarnished by its namesake: an esteemed former Virginia governor and U.S. senator who has been honored across the state in highways, schools, and memorials.

Harry Flood Byrd, Sr., along with his children and grandchildren, greatly impacted the state of Virginia and the nation in their political work, community service, and adventurous expeditions. Miles away from the young girl’s middle school is a business college named for Byrd’s son, Harry F. Byrd, Jr., and another middle school, named for his admired brother, Richard E. Byrd, a naval Medal of Honor recipient who became the first man to fly to the South Pole. These men were truly the epitome of committed citizens, dedicating their lives to their country and their families. The community they served still sees the effects of their leadership: the town’s newspaper is still owned by the Byrd family – a family that makes appearances at schools and other ceremonies as treasured guests.

Harry F. Byrd, Sr., a man whose ancestors included the infamous Pocahontas, who contributed to leading Virginia out of its crippling debt of the early twentieth century, and whose triumphs are still studied in schools across the state, is at risk of losing his honor over one trivial societal opinion: he was opposed to the desegregation of public schools.

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