Imagine that Fahrenheit 451 has been challenged by a special interest group. Write a letter defending the novella, using specific evidence from the novella to support your ideas.

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You don't have to imagine that Fahrenheit 451 is being challenged by a special interest group, because historically this book has indeed been censored, challenged, and even banned. The American Library Association lists it as one of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged books from 2000 to 2009.

It is quite ironic for anyone to want to ban this title, since it is about a dystopian society where the government has banned all books. In an attempt to stop anyone from feeling offended, the government in the novel ends up silencing mixed viewpoints and different opinions. As books become illegal, the citizens become swept up in mindless television and radio programs. Captain Beatty tells Montag, the novel's protagonist:

If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war.

The people believe they are happy, but throughout the story we realize that they are really just blissfully ignorant. The censorship meant to protect them is actually harming them. Montag realizes this:

We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing.

He begins to read, gaining new information and creative thoughts in the process. He is changed by the books and understands their importance in society. Through Montag, we see that it is better to have access to information and different viewpoints, and to learn from them rather than erase them.

Let's look at a real case study by Charles M. Ellenbogen, a teacher in Tennessee. He constructed a unit on censorship and used Fahrenheit 451 as a teaching tool. He tells us how the students were able to learn from the book:

Many of the students who had been in favor of some limited form of censorship suddenly resented the external authority that was not allowing them the opportunity to discover these books in class or in the school library.

The students realized that even if they did not agree with an idea presented in a book, they still wanted the freedom to read that book if they chose to. It is better to explore controversial material and engage in discussion in a safe classroom setting where students can learn from controversial material, instead of simply hiding it.

You might also want to cite the work of English teacher Jennifer Rossuck, who also uses banned books as tools for learning. She cites Bradbury's book as an excellent choice because it “frames the issues of the course beautifully: why might books be considered dangerous; freedom of speech and the consequences of losing it; and the role of technology in shaping society’s values.”

Fahrenheit 451 can thus be considered a strong learning tool for students.

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