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Talk About Books, Don’t Ban Them

First published in the April 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

A wise New York Times letter (4-18) from Burbank High student Sunglo Yoon suggests that we talk about the contents of books rather than ban them.
I graduated from Glendale High in 1969, and fortunately was NOT overprotected. We read challenging books and debated them, passionately but respectfully. We learned that people have opinions different from our own, both now and in the past. We learned to deal with differences, without banning anyone with whom we disagreed. We also went and played in the park, without adult supervision. We solved problems ourselves.
I went on to Caltech, which was a challenge. Having dealt with difficulties helped me succeed and go on to a successful career.
The last 20 years, I taught freshmen at the University of Colorado. I’ve seen the average college freshman become less and less able to handle challenges either in the classroom or out. When asked to defend their ideas, instead of a well-reasoned reply, they say, “don’t challenge my ideas, it makes me uncomfortable.” They can’t articulate why they believe that they do, because they haven’t thought about it or had to explain it.
Well-meaning parents who suggest banning books, you are not helping your students. In college, they are struggling to deal with the complexity and challenge of the real world. You would do better to let them grow up now.
Read the poem “Terrance This Is Stupid Stuff,” which suggests why poetry and challenge, not just beer, are necessary to deal with life. True in 1896, true today.

Douglas Duncan
Boulder, Colorado

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