Our View: Censorship continues

DKS Editors

Last week, one of the nation’s largest school districts, Chicago Public Schools, began pulling Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, “Persepolis,” from middle school shelves. It was the first step in a widespread plan to ban the novel throughout the district. Although the public schools’ CEO claimed the order to ban the books was recently reversed, it will still be absent from classrooms in grades seven through 10.

The banning of the work was sparked by brief frames that portray scenes of torture. Though the violence depicted in the novel may be difficult for some students to digest, when put into the story’s larger context, they serve a purpose must greater than illustrating violent scenes merely for entertainment or shock value.

“Persepolis” tells an important story that sheds light on life during the war between Iran and Iraq. It is significant in that it discusses a religion and culture many Westerners may not be completely familiar with. Its graphic novel format allows the story to be easily understood, especially by students.

“Persepolis” has been assigned to many students, including those at Kent State, for educational purposes and to promote discussion about different cultures. In the first section, the protagonist, Marji, struggles with her obligation to wear a veil, as well as with the rules and limitations enacted for women after the Islamic Revolution. Through pictures and text, the book explores a historical event through Marji’s understanding of and feelings toward oppression and revolution.

These are important social themes for any culture to understand, and using a book in this format is an easy way to absorb the information and hear a story students may not have before. In our own individual ways, we can identify with Marji’s questioning of authority, culture, religion and her thirst for rebellion, freedom and finding herself.

In a country founded on principles such as freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, censoring books – especially those with important social and historical themes – is a detriment to society. What kind of message does forbidding students to read a book that tells the story of a woman’s struggle with oppression send?

There has been rightful public outrage over the banning of books like “Harry Potter” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in schools across the nation. Censorship is not a new phenomenon, but pulling important works from school shelves for brief scenes without understanding the context of the work is not a smart move. We think instead of yanking books from shelves, schools should encourage voluntary reading and the understanding of different cultures.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.