By Anjali Yedavalli

Censorship is a hot-button issue, but numbers show that it doesn’t work.

When my 7th grade English teacher gave us the task of writing a paper on “censorship,” I remember the room going completely silent—it was the first opinion paper we had ever had to write. Before we could contemplate any longer, she quickly added: 

“You will not be penalized on whatever your opinion is. I just want to see how you are able to flesh out your argument. Using the skills we’ve learned in class, of course. There is one condition: You will have to wait until after you have turned in your papers to learn my personal opinion.” 

Immediately, we were all intrigued. Each of us did our research, put together our arguments, and turned in our papers, wondering what the relevance of such a topic of censorship actually had in the real world. Was this just a thought experiment in the microcosm of our English class?

My mind immediately recalled that experience the second I heard about the current book bans occurring in states like Virginia, Florida, and Texas. According to an article from BBC, a mother of two from Richmond, VA, called for the removal of the book The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person after claiming it was “not the kind of book that should be available to children.” The mother, a local activist in the area, is known for running Moms for Liberty, an organization that compiles lists of books deemed to spread “racist and radical ideologies” to young readers.

The same article describes a phenomenon called “Covid Lemonade,” a term coined by a member of Moms for Liberty. The term describes how the pandemic has caused parents to be much more engaged in their kids’ learning during the pandemic, making some realize that they didn’t agree with the material their kids were reading in class. However, reading “banned” books seems to be beneficial for young readers. In a study published by the American Psychological Association, reading banned books is associated with “increased civic engagement and little risk of antisocial behavior.” In an interview with Arizona State University English professors, the act of banning books has been described as an act of simple ignorance. Parents seem to think certain material is not appropriate for their children, but the reality is that these books reflect the students’ daily lives, which are often complex and deal with themes of identity, race, gender, sexuality, etc.

The day after we turned in our papers, we saw a black poster at the back of class next to my teacher’s desk. It was a giant red X over the word “Censorship.” At that point, her opinion was clear—and as time goes on, it is even clearer as to why. As tumultuous times bring about a desire to protect children from the “scary” things, it is all the more important to stay educated on the political landscape and spread knowledge and compassion. In other words, for now, I think I’ll pass on the “Covid Lemonade.” 

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television.