Trusting Young Adults

It would seem that there are wavering opinions on what is suitable for young adults to read and whether their reading habits should be censored. I have to wonder, though, why it is okay to take these choices from young adults. Why do “adults” think they have the authority to decide which novels are appropriate for someone to read, considering that reading is an activity often done for entertainment? What entertains one young adult might be boring to another. I understand that there are arguments to be had in terms of religious schools, but in terms of public schools why are some books “banned”? If it is labelled (another problem in itself, but for now let us allow it) “young adult” then why are we taking the choice away from young adults to read it? My biggest problem with this is that it means we do not trust young adults to make appropriate choices for themselves. The problem is that this is one part of what being a young adult is about: learning to make your own decisions—and mistakes for that matter. A “banned” book only brings allure to young adults. It makes it a secret that they want to uncover. There is another option, though, one where we actually trust that a young adult can decide what it is they want to read, and when something makes them uncomfortable or does not entertain them they can choose  to not read it anymore.

Another problem that keeps reappearing is the idea that young adults are taking longer to become adults. How can we expect these young adults to make the transition into adulthood if we cannot trust them with something as simple as choosing to read what they want? How can a young adult make any life changing decisions if people are constantly telling them what not to do from lack of trust? It is impossible to shield children from the bad in this world, but would we not rather have them exposed to these situations on the lines of a page rather than in real life? A young adult who was never spoken to about drugs could learn the dangers from one of the “dark” young adult books, and maybe (though this may be too optimistic) if they have read about them then they know what decision it is they are going to make if they are exposed to them. When it comes down to it I say we let people read what they want, and we trust young adults to be exactly that, young adults.

Alyssa

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4 thoughts on “Trusting Young Adults

  1. Peyton says:

    I agree with you argument. In terms of censorship, kids only get to read what is available. The smaller the library, bookstore, schools, etc. the less books they will be able to hold and therefore limit what is available to read. These places choose which books they hold based primarily on what is popular. These places, even the public ones, choose what goes on their shelves and the reason certain books may not be in their inventory is because they do not think that they will be read/sold. My mother owns a library and every now and then she will go through the books and see when they were last taken out. Any book that hasn’t been taken out within the last five years gets placed on selves by the door to be sold. This way it makes room for new books that will hopefully be more popular and get a better readership. If kids really want to read banned books they will have to put in a lot of effort to access them. I think it is more important that kids are reading than what they are reading. So long as there is a good variety of books available for kids that they will read then they should have no problem choosing books for themselves.

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  2. Megan says:

    I agree that one of the fundamental issues regarding YA literature and the censoring of it resides in the tendency not only to shelter youth from some fiction but in doing so, in some ways it is sort of insulting that youth can’t be trusted to read something and take from it what they will.

    I suppose another question that follows this one is whether YA fiction is imposing ideologies that some would argue is dangerous for youth (even if they are shown in a negative light), who tend to be very impressionable. I think this is a totally viable argument for censorship, but at the same time youth will always be and will learn from situations that aren’t their own, and if nothing else I believe YA literature provides a medium to do so, so that even if they are very impressionable at least they can take the time to reflect on what they see in fiction even if adults are crafting it than to seek it out in person and potentially end up harming themselves.

    I feel like few kids would read “Swimmers” and go on to dope themselves up on copius amounts of drugs. Sure, they may do that anyways, but in YA literature even more so than any other genre, finding a space and characters which is relatable is of utmost importance, and seeing Hunter be supported through his struggles may convince them that they, too, can find help should they ever need it.

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  3. It’s true that we (adults, me(?)) undermine young adults and the choices they make. You’re right in saying that young adults should be making their own choices and reading what they want because, like you said, it would be better for them to encounter challenging situations in a book rather than in real life. This would make them think about what they would do in a similar situation or even be aware that it could happen in real life (it being an imaginary situation). I’m sure the parents of young adults think that it seems too unpredictable to trust their child in choosing “appropriate” texts for themselves and they want to be good parents, but I’m sure the young adult would prosper much better from making their own choices than being forced by their parents to read only a certain kind of book and end up being sheltered. I can understand where parents and the government are coming from because they want to protect their kids and keep them innocent for as long as possible, but banning literature is the wrong way to go about it. What happened to Freedom of Speech, Choice, etc?
    I agreed with a comment in class today that mentioned that the libraries in schools have a very wide range of books that are probably deemed inappropriate by leaders because of the content. I think it is a great opportunity for young adults to have such a wide choice of reading material and I myself was very glad to find such a place that gave me the opportunity to read what I wanted outside of the classroom. Banning books is definitely not the right step to discourage young adults from reading “bad” books. Give them choice and they’ll probably make the right one, or one right for them. Who are we to judge?

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  4. As I was reading this I kept nodding and ‘uh-huhing’ to myself. It’s totally true! Adolescence is a time to be challenging what you know about the world and coming up with your own ideas about things. If we don’t allow young adults to challenge themselves and their opinions, how do we expect them to grow into adults capable of making well-reasoned decisions? I think this is also particularly important in religious schools. I went to a Christian school in Calgary for most of my education and in elementary I explicitly remember hearing that the Harry Potter books were banned. Upon hearing this I thought to myself “wow, I wonder what all the fuss is about!” This kind of natural curiosity is important to nurture in young children, and when books raise important questions, the discussions that can result from those questions are invaluable. If we outright ban these books, who are the young people going to feel comfortable approaching with these questions?
    I think that students need to be challenged and exposed to new ideas so that they can understand for themselves why they believe what they believe rather than being told and passively absorbing the information. It it is by challenging the assumptions of the world they live in that young adults can find a voice and opinion for themselves.
    Whats more dangerous, allowing young adults to read content that may shock or brig into question their understandings of the world, or students who have never had those understandings questioned?
    -Cayley

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