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The Controversy of Banned Books

Staff Writer, Chris Bennett

For the past 25 years, the United States has exhibited an event known as Banned Book Week. Often held the last week of September, this event calls attention to the banning and challenging of books, books facing these circumstances, and helps raise awareness of the freedom to read. The event was started in 1982, following a spike in the challenging of various works of literature, and was founded in an attempt to stop the banning of books. So what does it mean to ban a book? And how is it different from challenging a book?

Banned books are novels which have been removed from a place for one or multiple reasons. The severity of a ban can range from the novel in question being banned from one school or library, to being banned completely in a state, or even nationwide. A challenged book is one that has not been banned, but has been labeled as offensive by a person or group and thus faces the threat of becoming banned. If a novel is or has been frequently challenged, or challenged in excess, the book may eventually be banned.

Why are certain books challenged and banned?

In many cases, banned and challenged books contain inappropriate content, discuss a controversial topic, or are highly offensive to a certain ethnicity, religion, or political group. In recent years, the most challenged books have been ones deemed “sexually explicit” or “racist”, books with excessive profanity, and books viewed as inappropriate for their target audience. For example, children’s books depicting homosexuality and/or transgenderism have recently come under fire, as it has been argued these issues are too advanced for the mind of a young child to grasp.

There are several opinions on the subject of banning controversial material, with different arguments for each. Several people interviewed, and presumably a majority of the population, argue against the censorship of books, claiming that censoring material of any kind is a violation of the First amendment right to free speech (especially for the author), and causes people to become ignorant of certain opinions and ideas. Presumably, others argue that schools, libraries, and governments should have the right to ban books, arguing that some material is just too extreme or inappropriate for the public to be exposed to, and can be harmful to society. A majority interviewed, and likely a high percentage of the general public, have an opinion somewhere in the middle, arguing that while most books shouldn’t be banned, there are several notable exceptions when it becomes necessary to censor material. An example of a middle opinion is that of sophomore Amani Abumais, who commented “I think banning books is wrong. The authors have the right of free expression. But if an author has bad intentions for a book, or is using it to promote hate towards a certain group, it should be banned.

What are the pros and cons of banning books?

While the censorship of specific literature has little benefit, there are a few prominent positives. The biggest positive of being able to ban questionable or offense books is that doing so can prevent children from discovering more adult issues before they are ready to handle and understand them. This pro-book banning argument was put into terms by freshman Liam Holder, who commented “Banning books shields kids from the the horror of reality.” Banning books that are racist or insulting can be a good thing too, as it can prevent the groups targeted from becoming offended, and helps keep community relations strong.

However, these few benefits are greatly outweighed by the many negative consequences this practice presents. The biggest con is that banning books, in many instances, is a direct violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and expression, and is the very definition of censorship. This especially impacts the authors of these books, as their stories and opinions can no longer be heard, and they can no longer profit from the particular book or books banned. Even worse, the author’s whole reputation, or even career, can be tarnished if one of their works is banned, as this causes people to view the author unfavorably. Also, the censoring of books also often means the loss of history and ideas. As Sophomore, Luke Thomasson, commented, “If people censor books, they risk forgetting history; or repeating it.” Many people also argue that if someone is offended by a book, they should just leave it on the shelf and not try to have it banned for everyone else. Teacher, Justin Ingram, summarized the argument stating, “Once you start to censor things, you have to draw the lines, which is confusing and difficult. If you’re offended by a book, just don’t read it.”

While the efforts of librarians, teachers, and students have prevented the banning of many books, hundreds of challenges are still issued every year by various groups against several novels, with 10% of all books challenged eventually becoming banned. Some books even face the possibility of becoming banned nearly every year, as they are challenged dozens, or even hundreds of times. Worst of all, it is no longer just controversial material being banned and challenged. Some of the greatest books and book series in literary history now face the threat of being banned, or experiencing a much greater ban. Books like Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and even the Holy Bible have come under fire in recent years. Even the series Captain Underpants has become targeted, being the most challenged book in both 2012 and 2013, and receiving even more challenges than books with profanity and sexual content like Fifty Shades of Grey.

What should be done about book banning and challenging?

Those interviewed suggested petitioning governments and other organizations to prevent the banning of books, or creating something that will cause people to reconsider their choice. The American Library Association (ALA) website also has a page where those wanting to “stand for the banned,” where people can submit videos of themselves talking about the issues of censorship, or arguing for the unbanning of specific books. If people want to stop book banning they have to take action. In order to prevent the silence of censorship, people will have to speak out.

Works Cited and Further Reading:

(1996). Banned Books. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks

Berry, S. (August 24, 2017) Parents Frightened: Kindergarteners ‘Crying, Shaking’ Over Transgender Book Teacher Read. Retrieved from http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/08/24/parents-frightened-kindergartners-crying-shaking-transgender-book-teacher-read/

Brady, A. (September 22, 2016) The History (and Present) of Banning Books in America. Retrieved from http://lithub.com/the-history-and-present-of-banning-books-in-america/

Banned Books That Shaped America. Retrieved from http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica

(2013) Bannings and Burnings in History. http://www.freedomtoread.ca/links-and-resources/bannings-and-burnings-in-history/#.WdA8oEuGPrf

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Centerfest: From the tent

Staff Writer, Sean Sullivan

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.23.29 PMCenterfest is an event that takes place in downtown Durham. This year it was during the weekend of September 16th-17th. It is an art festival and is so big, that streets are closed in the city just to provide space for the event. Around 15,000 people walk through the streets of Centerfest each day, totalling up to about 30,000 people.

Over the past couple of years, History Teacher, Mr. Gatlin, the Civics and Economics teacher for the sophomores, got a tent there to spread awareness for Constitution day. The day that the Constitution was signed was September 17th, 1787. September 17th fell over the weekend of Centerfest so we partnered with the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), to celebrate this day of historic significance. The Civics class even sent a group of kids to present their projects to a group of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Daughters of the American Revolution is an organization that recognizes and celebrates life how it was during the constitutional times. Every one of them is somehow related to someone part of the revolution. Whether they are related to a soldier that fought, or Ben Franklin or John Adams themselves, they can still be part of the organization. They came to Centerfest and worked out of our tent with us. We handed out over 1800 little american flags to people as they walked by, and gave the kids candy and USA stickers.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.23.42 PMThe civics class recently did a project to answer the driving question of, “what would the founding fathers want us to know about the framing of the constitution?” That question can be interpreted in many different ways and taken in many different directions. The students in the class showed how each of them pictured the question and created a visual representation to express their thoughts. Mr. Gatlin had many of the projects out on display for people walking through to see and learn from. This was appropriate due to the fact that it was constitution day.

Gatlin put out several projects that he thought were very well made and put together, the ones that had an excellent mindset put into it showed in their work. In total there was about ten to twelve projects out on display. Gatlin was asked what the main goal was for this event and what he wanted people to learn from it, he said “To recognize constitution day, since it fell during Centerfest we took an advantage of the opportunity to raise awareness for it.” Gatlin has done this event for around seven years, and the past two have fallen on the weekend of Centerfest so jumpin on that chance to set up shop there was a really smart move by him. The Viking Tide asked him which year so far has been his favorite, and he said “the past two have been great just because we’ve gotten to do it at Centerfest, but this year was even more special because we handed out over 1800 American flags, which broke our records from all the previous years.

Holden Buchanan, Sophomore, also worked in the tent on Sunday at 1:30-2:30. He described his experience as “It was a lot of fun, I got to meet a lot of new people and saw a lot of cool art.” Holden was one of the few kids that got to go present to the daughters, when he was asked what that was like he said, “It went really well, everyone seemed interested in what I was talking about which made it easier to present, instead of a bunch of students forced to listen to it.”

Ella Mrozkowski and Abdullah Abumuais are both seniors here at Voyager academy, and have worked with Gatlin for the past three years. Both of them shared their thought about this year versus previous years, and both had the same answer. “Last year was my favorite because we got to work with kids and got to make stuff for them and play with them.” Abdullah said. Ella also favored last year, “last year was fun because we had a lot more space, and we got to make hats for the kids and I was pretty good at making the hats.” They both said that they loved doing it all three years and it wasn’t a waste of volunteer hours.

My Point of View

I worked in the tent from 10:30 to 12:00 on Saturday and from what I saw there were a lot of people that enjoyed our projects and learning about the constitution. I noticed that there were a lot of people that weren’t even aware that it was constitution week, some people didn’t accept the flag which was kind of awkward but we just ignored them and kept greeting new people.

Be sure to sign up in the upcoming years to work with Mr. Gatlin and the Civics class to spread awareness for the constitution.

Should Apple’s new iphone cost one thousand dollars?

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 2.44.02 PMSenior and Staff Writer, Ugonna Ezuma-Igwe

Apple released a new iPhone on September 13, 2017: The iPhone X. Before the release, the cost was rumored to be around thousand dollars. This would have been an significant increase in price compared to the average cost of previous iPhone. The average selling price of an iPhone is $605. The Viking Tide wanted to know about how the students and administrators of Voyager Academy felt about the new iPhone. We asked them if they would buy it, if Apple’s demographic of buyer change due to the significant price increase, and if the modifications of the iPhone is worth the price increase?

The significant price increase is due to the new features added to the iPhone. The major hardware changes are an edge-to-edge OLED screen, glass front and back and stainless steel frame. This is the first time Apple has put glass on the front and back. The OLED screen improves color accuracy, high contrast ratio, and true blacks. The major software changes are facial recognition, higher iPhone display resolution and wireless charging. The facial recognition allows you to simply raise the device, look at it, and swipe up on the screen to unlock the device and use Apple Pay. The iPhone X has the highest iPhone resolution ever with 458 pixels per inch. The X can now charge by being placed on an inductive charging pad.

We asked Ms.Wolfe, the English teacher for juniors and sophomores, if she would she buy the new iPhone. She said, “No, I don’t even have the new 7 and the reviews from the 7 don’t sound that great.” She went on to criticize the changes that were made to the iPhone 7 which lead to the next question; are the modifications of the phone worth the price increase? Her response was, “No, they are not they are just trying to get the money from people who are addicted to their phone.” She even went on to say that some of the new modifications, “sounded kind of creepy.” The idea that Apple is continuously trying to find new way to take people’s money was a common opinion among the people that were interviewed. Ms.Wolfe said, “it’s good to have the idea of buying quality and quantity but there is a point where that line is crossed,” and students agreed. She also believes, “There will be people that will buy it but there will also be a lot more people going another direction.”; this means that some people will have no problem buying the phone while a lot more will find an alternative option.

Seniors, Camryn Dunn and Caitlin Leggett, both said no to buying the phone, but for very different reasons. Camryn’s main problem is that, “they add things that are stupid.” She felt that the previous changes that have been made were unnecessary. For example, she felt that removing the headphone jack was useless because now people can not charge their phone and use their headphones. Referring back to what Ms.Wolfe said about Apple trying to get people’s money, Apple took away the headphone jack to give incentive to buyers to buy their new bluetooth earphones that did not require a jack. Unlike Camryn, Caitlin’s main problem was the price. She said, “No, that is .1 of my yearly college tuition.” She is currently working on college applications and the last thing she is ready to do is spend a thousand dollars on a phone.

We asked Mr. Ingram, the APES & Earth and Environmental teacher, if he would buy the new iPhone. He said, “I’m not paying a one thousand dollars for a phone,” and went to say even if he got a raise he still would not. He believes that Apple is heading in the wrong direction by following the competition. To elaborate he said, “their business model is based off innovation and giving the consumer what they want before they know what they want but instead they are following what the competition has already done.” He was saying that the new features on the IPhone X have already been on android phones. For example, in 2009 Palm released their smartphone, “Pre” that came with optional wireless charging. Phones with wireless charging are not new at all; they have been around for eight years. We then asked him, “would Apple’s demographic of buyer change,” and his response was, “Overall less people will change but at the end of the day if someone wants an iPhone then they’ll buy an iPhone.”

Overall, teachers and students were not willing to spend thousand dollars on the new iPhone, but they all had different rationale on why they would not. Many people really love Apple’s device, but do not love the price especially the fact that they keep increasing.

Plummer, L. (2017, September 19). Apple has unveiled its 10th anniversary iPhone X – here’s what you need to know. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/iphone-x-release-date-specs-10669502?service=responsive

The iPhone X (or whatever the new iPhone will be called) is expected to come with all the bells, & Screen, W. A. (2017, September 11). Is anyone really going to spend $1,000 on the iPhone X? Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/11/technology/gadgets/iphone-x-1000-dollars/index.html

Thursday September 14, 2017 6:00 AM PDT by Joe Rossignol, 1 hour ago on Front Page, 4 hours ago on Front Page, 15 hours ago on Front Page, 19 hours ago on Front Page, 20 hours ago on Front Page, . . . 1 day ago on Front Page. (2017, September 14). 50 New Features in iPhone X. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://www.macrumors.com/2017/09/14/50-new-features-in-iphone-x/

Palm Pre. (2017, September 17). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Pre

Sloane Stephens Wins Big at US Open

Staff Writer, Kylah Crooks

Over the weekend Sloane Stephens celebrated her first win in the U.S Open. She beat Madison keys 6-3, 6-0 which gave her the great win for the U.S. Open. This was a really big win for Sloane Stephens, not because she won a Grand Slam, but because she just recovered from a foot injury back in January.

After recovering from her foot surgery and receiving her first Grand Slam title, Stephens will also enjoy her $3.7 million check she received from an official post match. During an interview after her match, a reporter asked Stephens if her win motivated her to continue playing to win another title, Stephens replied by saying “Of course girl- did you see the check that that lady handed me? Man, if that doesn’t make you want to play tennis, I don’t know what will.”

Unknowingly, Sloane Stephens has become the new face of tennis. Before winning the Grand Slam title, she was ranking No. 957 now with the title she is ranking N0. 17. Stephens explains that after winning, it hasn’t sunk in that she is the U.S. Champion she explains, “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Stephens said in her press conference, “but hopefully in a little while once I, like, am able to lay down and relax and think about it, I’ll realize that I really am the US Open champion.” Before winning the U.S. Open, Stephens was in a rough spot. Like stated previously, she was recovering from a foot surgery back in January. This surgery didn’t stop Stephens from wanting to compete in the U.S. Open.        

Back in April, Sloane was unable to walk when she called her Coach Kamau Murray explaining that she was ready to start practicing. Murray was surprised at the fact that Stephens was ready to begin practicing. They began practicing at the U.C.L.A. campus courts in May. Due to Stephens just learning how to walk Murray had her sitting on a wooden table with her racquet hitting balls. Neither Stephens or Murray would of thought she would win the Grand Slam title. For Stephens being the lowest ranked player to win the women’s title she really came a long way. Stephens was ecstatic to win the U.S. Open she explains “One day I’m going to, like, be able to show my kids that I won the U.S. Open,” Stephens said with the trophy next to her. “Like how many people can say that? Not many, and they already engraved my name on the locker. Like, hello. This is awesome.”

Senior, Ugonna Ezuma-Igwe says, “I think it’s amazing how she went from unknown to #17. I love that she’s representing black females in a positive way.” Madison Cater also said, “As a person who started tennis at an old age, an individual like Sloane Stephens is truly inspiring. She had people tell her she would never mount to anything, matter of fact, her number ranking is discouraging on its own. Along with that, during this year she went from barely being able to walk, to playing play defense while in a sprint, Sloane inspires to never give up on my aspirations no matter how far fetched they may seem at the time.” Stephens has inspired many girls not to give up in pursuit of their dreams.

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Ohikuare, J., Tennis Champion Sloane Stephens US Prize Money Winner, Entertainment • Living • News • Work & Money, Ohikuare, W. B., & Images., P. C. (n.d.). U.S. Open Winner Sloane Stephens’ Reaction To Prize Money Is On Point. Retrieved September 12, 2017, from http://www.refinery29.com/2017/09/171704/sloane-stephens-us-open-winner
Clarey, C. (2017, September 09). Sloane Stephens Beats Madison Keys to Claim U.S. Open Title. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/sports/tennis/us-open-womens-final-madison-keys-sloane-stephens.html

Should the confederate flag be banned from schools?

 Staff Writer, Allie Akers
Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.38.15 PM
Picture from:
NC schools ban ‘racially intimidating’ clothing amid Confederate flag controversy. (2017, June 13). Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://eagnews.org/nc-schools-ban-racially-intimidating-clothing-amid-confederate-flag-controversy/

Should the Confederate flag be banned from schools? This is a topic that has always caused a lot of controversy, but it has recently made headlines following events in Charlottesville this past July. The debate centers around the question: Is this a violation of the first amendment? Also, is the flag a symbol of oppression or a symbol of heritage? Most recently, all Durham County Public Schools have banned the Confederate flag from the dress code. Other local schools, such as Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County, have already banned clothing featuring the flag. Some argue that banning the flag only causes more debate and protest than before. Others counter argue that it prevents distractions and conflict, by not allowing symbols that many people see as a threat. However, due to the current political climate, this is not an issue that can be ignored.Voyager Academy has been facing this question and, as of this writing, has not made a decision. The Viking Tide asked some Voyager High Schoolers on which route they think Voyager should take and why. “No, I don’t see the issue (in banning the flag). The reason behind this is, when I see the Confederate flag, I think of the hate it brought my people in America,” says Madison Carter, a sophomore. “Students would be mad because they think you’re violating their right to expression,” said Kyla Crooks, sophomore. Shawn Sullivan, another sophomore, states: “I don’t think they should ban it because I’ve never seen it. If they ban it, it would only bring attention to it… There’s more history to a confederate flag than a KKK symbol, like that would be a different story.”

This brings us to the legal questions of banning the flag on campuses. Is banning the Confederate flag in schools violating the first amendment? There have been several cases of this brought to court, including Castorina ex rel. Rewt vs. Madison County school Bd., Bethel School District No. 403 vs. Fraser, and several others. However, in the end, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that schools banning students wearing clothing that shows the Confederate flag does not violate the first amendment. In civics class at Voyager, the students had to do an assignment on taking notes of a video on the Tinker vs. Des Moines case.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.40.20 PM
Agiesta, J. (2015, July 02). Poll: Majority sees Confederate flag as Southern pride – CNNPolitics. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/politics/confederate-flag-poll-racism-southern-pride/index.html

In July of 2015, following the murder of nine African Americans in a South Carolina church by white supremacist Dylann Roof, CNN took a poll to see what viewers thought of the Confederate flag. The questions was whether one saw the flag as a sign of racism or “Southern pride.” As results poured in, the final numbers showed 33% felt it was racist and 57% believed that it was a sign of Southern pride. CNN says that, “The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride.” Even following the Far Right march in Charlottesville, 43 percent of Americans polled still believe it’s a symbol of pride, compared with 38 percent who view it as a symbol of racism, according to an August 2017 Economist/YouGov poll. A Reuters poll, also from August, agreed with those findings, and stated that 54 percent of people said Confederate monuments should remain in public spaces, versus 27 percent that believe they should be removed. Both polls find responses split along party lines. In the end, it’s the people’s choice whether the Confederate flag shall remain in schools or be banned.

 

Agiesta, J. (2015, July 02). Poll: Majority sees Confederate flag as Southern pride – CNNPolitics. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/politics/confederate-flag-poll-racism-southern-pride/index.html

NC schools ban ‘racially intimidating’ clothing amid Confederate flag controversy. (2017, June 13). Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://eagnews.org/nc-schools-ban-racially-intimidating-clothing-amid-confederate-flag-controversy/

Confederate flag in school and free speech (October 2016 School Leader Update). (n.d.). Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.educateiowa.gov/resources/laws-and-regulations/legal-lessons/first-amendment/confederate-flag-school-and-free-speech

Willets, S. (2017, August 28). Durham Public Schools Ban Confederate Flags, Other Divisive Symbols. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/08/24/durham-public-schools-ban-confederate-flags-other-divisive-symbols

Volokh, E. (2015, September 21). Opinion | The Confederate flag, the First Amendment and public schools. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/09/21/the-confederate-flag-the-first-amendment-and-public-schools/?utm_term=.a9c21e480fe0

Kahn, C. (2017, August 21). A majority of Americans want to preserve Confederate monuments: Reuters/Ipsos poll. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-protests-poll/a-majority-of-americans-want-to-preserve-confederate-monuments-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKCN1B12EG

Frankovic, K. (n.d.). Trump’s domestic crisis: Charlottesville and white nationalists. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://today.yougov.com/news/2017/08/16/trumps-domestic-crisis-charlottesville-and-white-n/?belboon=031b3908984b04d39400589a%2C4711850%2Csubid&pdl.rlid=203577