The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
17 Points

The Fault In Our Stars should be banned from all public schools

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/28/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,629 times Debate No: 62396
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (3)




First round is acceptance. This is regarding the novel by John Green.


Color me intrigued. I do accept the debate, but I would like to ask for clarification before proceeding. If you wish, you may clarify in the comments.

1) By "all public schools," are you similarly referring to public college campuses?
2) I'm presuming on this, but you are confining this discussion just to U.S. schools?

I look forward to your clarifying this and the start of this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


First off I'd like to apologize for the wait... I've been kinda swamped with school and personal ventures lately. Anyways, I made it with only a few hours to spare so let's get debating! My debate won't be too structured simply for time purposes and the 'typical' debating format kinda hurts my head but my opponent is welcome to use whatever format they want. Let's begin.

I affirm the resolution that The Fault In Our Stars should be banned from all public schools. I've come to this conclusion based on 1) It sets a bad example for what love is for young adolescents 2) Its risque content is unnecessary and influences bad decisions among adolescents.

1) The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is obviously a very popular book among all ages, and clearly this presents a problem due to the examples it sets for teens and young adults specifically. While it acts as a 'cute' and 'harmless' romance about two starcrossed lovers who just so happen to both have cancer, the book at its core taints the image of love and what love is. The book's primary love plot follows the plight of Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace, and while their love is at first admirable, it degenerates into the lust between two teenagers and how they manipulate the world around them into supporting them using their cancer as an incentive. Frankly, I found this very notion offending and ridiculous. John Green might have thought he found a clever way to portray two innocent teenagers in love, but what he did was rather create a novel filled to the brim with deception, sex, and shameful habits. Coincidentally, these habits contribute to the love that Grace and Waters feel for each other. It might sound like at this point that I'm condemning teenage love and stating that there's no such thing, but I honestly feel the complete opposite. Love is a very real emotion that teenagers can feel. If it wasn't then many families that you or I know would cease to exist. That's beside the point though. The point of this first contention is to prove that John Green's novel sets a bad example for what love is for young adolescents. If I'm going to be completely honest here then I might as well go full steam ahead (warning: this is where I'm gonna get a lot of hate). Augustus Waters is absolutely creepy as all get out and is not an accurate representation of a teenage boy in love. I could pretty much sum up Augustus' actions towards Hazel Grace in a few words: staring, staring, sex, staring, 'goo goo eyes,' death. I hate to be the buzzkill, but Augustus is a poorly written character whose primary intentions for hitting on Hazel Grace originally seems to be completely restricted to him desiring coitus. So to conclude my first contention, The Fault In Our Stars taints the image of what adolescent love is due most likely to an author who was so geeky in high school he often wished he had cancer so that he could have his little 'We can die together' boogaloo.

2) The risque content in The Fault In Our Stars is unnecessary and influences bad decisions among adolescents. To begin with, we'll get the elephant out of the room. In my honest opinion, any book that portrays teenage, unmarried sexual activity between the protagonists should be condemned from school campuses on the spot. Should parents and school faculties support actions like these? The answer is a HUGE no. Furthermore, depictions of teens with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, whether it be lit or unlit, is still shameful behavior and shouldn't be used as a metaphorical device. Then you have things such as making out in the house of Anne Frank (disrespectful on all levels), the perception that all parents don't give any care in the world about the whereabouts of their children, underage drinking, and tampering of private property. The book uses cancer as a justification for the bad things the protagonists do, when cancer should have little impact on the morality of teens in the first place. I give my full support to cancer victims but strong individuals shouldn't fall prey to such careless behavior, kids or not. The fact that John Green seems to admire this is even more troubling given it's sending the message to adolescents all over the world that behavior like this is acceptable, but it absolutely shouldn't be.

To conclude, while the story of Augustus Gloop, er-, Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace starts cute and harmless, it evolves into a troublesome, provocative tale about two teens who go out on a limb (ha, Augustus joke) to flip their world upside down through unacceptable behavior. Stories like this shouldn't be allowed to have place in a school curriculum or in school campuses in general.


Thanks to tennistanner. I'd just like to say that he has absolutely no reason to apologize - as long as Pro posts, I'm simply happy to have this debate in any time period that is effective for him. I appreciate his clarifications in the comments, which make it clear that we are solely discussing middle and high schools in the U.S. That is entirely reasonable.

I'll delay rebuttals to next round, so I will instead present my case. But before I do, I'd like to spend some time emphasizing the burdens we're presented with in this debate.

Pro carries a heavy burden in this debate. Fundamentally, this means he must show reading the book is objectively harmful to public school students of all levels. This means he must show:

1) that there are objective harms to reading the book;
2) that those harms are applicable at every level of public school education across the country;
3) that those harms are substantial enough to warrant a ban;
4) that those harms outweigh the benefits of reading the book;
5) that those harms are unique to this book, and therefore are less likely to be engendered by any other available book;
6) that the ban should be engineered and instituted by schools;
7) that the ban will be effective at preventing access to the book;
8) and that the ban's enaction won't cause more harm than good.

If Pro fails to prove any single one of these true, then he has failed in his burden and should lose the debate. It is not my burden to present any specific benefits to reading this book (though I will), nor is it my burden to establish that a ban on any given book is inherently harmful. I'm not advocating a change from the status quo, I am merely defending the situation that currently exists in school districts across the U.S., where TFIOS still remains available for reading among middle and high school students.

So let's get started.

1) The theme

I think the best way to start this is with a quote from John Green himself, who responded to a ban on the book in Riverside Unified School District with the following awesome quote:

"I guess I am both happy and sad. I am happy because apparently young people in Riverside, California will never witness or experience mortality since they won't be reading my book, which is great for them. But I am also sad because I was really hoping I would be able to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality."[1]

Now, why would he go about using such an interesting bit of dark humor? Well, in order to understand that, we should look to what the book is actually about. It's a story, narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient (Hazel Grace Lancaster), who is pressured to join a support group where she falls in love with another cancer patient and amputee (Augustus Waters). In other words, this is a story about two cancer patients who face down their own mortality and try to find beauty in each other and in the world. It's a tragic and realistic story with many ups and downs.

At its most basic level, it provides a strong appreciation for the lives adolescents live. If they don't suffer from such a disease, they acquire a strong appreciation for what they have, and view the obstacles they face as simpler to overcome. It humanizes an inhuman experience that is often beyond their comprehension, allowing them to see those around them who suffer as more than just victims.

If they suffer from a deadly disease or face constant pain, they find the character to be someone they can empathize with, which is especially important given the fact that many of these patients feel socially isolated.[2, 3, 4] Considering this social isolation can demonstrably shorten lives, this is a huge deal.[5] These characters provide an important role model of someone facing chronic pain and near certain death who manages to maintain family bonds, build friendships, and even a romantic relationship.

Each of the main characters provides a very different role model for these young adults to feel a kindred bond with. Hazel is constantly treated with kid gloves, incapable of participating in the broad world around her to the greatest extent due to the weakness of her lungs. She's a dynamic character who seeks to isolate herself at first, but realizes the importance of making her life worth living by experiencing it with others. She is easily the best role model for escaping isolation.

Augustus is high functioning, but his lost leg represents the baggage he carries around as a result of that threat on his life, and towards the end of the book, he represents someone befallen with a sudden resurgence of their cancer, struggling to remain independent while flailing against his own mortality. Watching him fail and plummet into despair from his usually ebullient nature is one of the most troubling aspects of the novel, though he also gains strength from his friends, having them eulogize him in his final days.

Isaac, a mutual friend of theirs, represents a person who doesn't face their own mortality, but loses his ability to interact with the world around him through the loss of his eyes. He also has to endure a crushing break up with his girlfriend as she seeks to insulate herself from the specter of her own disease and heartbreak at the expense of his despair.

Each of these characters represent not only incredibly different experiences, but dramatically different ways to address those experiences, and through it all their friendship becomes a rock on which their lives remain grounded.

2) Freedom to Read

There's a reason that we have a "Banned Books Week," focused on preventing censorship and book banning. The First Amendment, at its most basic level, requires that people not only have the freedom to publish, but that that published material be available to everyone. This group has no problem with the decision of parents to decide what their children read, but the government itself should not take part in that action, and since public schools reflect the legal structures of that government, they are effectively defying the Bill of Rights. Removal of that basic right in the school system is actively suppressing freedom of thought, and thus precludes and damages any learning that follows on it. I think that Gene Berkman describes this right best:

"People should have the right to be exposed to whatever information or even misinformation they can get access to " and then make up their own minds. You don"t get rid of bad ideas by suppressing them. You get rid of bad ideas by exposing people to good ideas."

Of course, this is all assuming that a ban is effective at preventing access. The fact that the book will still be readily available at bookstores across the country and in libraries, not to mention that it has its own feature-length film with what is basically the same story, makes it unlikely that such a ban would prevent access. The very fact that the book is being banned only increases interest, as it creates huge news stories (as the Riverside School District's decision has) that make a broader audience aware of and interested in the book for the controversies it engenders. This means that not only is Pro's case leading to harms to the basic freedoms of students, stunting their growth as thinkers, but it is actually likely to have the opposite of its intended effect, leading to the book's garnering a larger audience.

With that, I hand the debate back to my opponent.

Debate Round No. 2


tennistanner forfeited this round.


Well, as my opponent has forfeited the previous round, I will simply post some rebuttal to Pro's first round arguments. As such, this will be my last round of argumentation, and should Pro find the time to post next round, that will make us mostly even, though I will provide a concluding summary in R4.

With that, I'm going to start back on burdens.

Pro has failed the meet the majority of his burdens I sketched out in R2, unless voters assume he has met them merely by presenting a case. The only burdens he's addressed to any extent are the first and second. I'll get into those on each of his contentions. He has not, as of yet, shown that the harms are substantial or unique, and has failed to provide any reasoning for why schools should act as the enforcers or prove the solvency of his case.

I would argue that the reason he hasn't met these burdens is because he cannot do so. I'll go through each one and explain why.

3. Substance

I established in the previous round that Pro has to show that the harms the book engenders are substantial enough to overcome appreciable losses to student freedoms " both in terms of freedom of the press and freedom of thought. All of Pro's harms are far outweighed by this one, which affects all students, whether they would have read the book or not. That makes this both a broader and deeper impact, and one Pro must overcome in order to win this debate.

4. Impact of book

This is explained by my case. I've shown real world impacts to the removal of the book, and the objective benefits of its presence. Weighing our cases against one another will show if Pro has fulfilled this burden.

5. Uniqueness

Pro's case comes down to two sets of impacts " setting a bad standard for adolescent love, and that schools shouldn't support bad behavior in the books they stock. Pro behaves as though this is unique to TFIOS. Let's list some other books that do the same or worse:

The Catcher in the Rye " premarital sex, sexual scenes, excessive violence, alcohol abuse

To Kill a Mockingbird " sex, rape, incest

The Color Purple " sexually explicit, rape

Brave New World - "makes promiscuous sex 'look like fun'"

A Farewell to Arms " "sex novel"[1]

And this is just 5 of the books that have been viewed as concerning throughout the ages, leading to numerous challenges. I sincerely doubt Pro would argue for banning these books as well, though if he chooses to do so, we can have that discussion. The number of books that include a character who is smoking are too numerous to count. The number that include underage drinking is similarly massive " Running With Scissors, the Harry Potter books (butterbeer, anyone?), and the Game of Thrones series certainly fit that bill. Disrespect in young adult novels is practically a staple, not to mention creepy stares (Twilight is pretty much nothing but stares, not to mention a relationship between a 107 year old vampire and a teenager). Is Pro going to support the banning of The Hunger Games, a book where children are forced to fight one another til only one is standing? That seems a lot worse than any of the claims he's making against TFIOS.

6. Agent of Action

The silence here is deafening. I've given a specific reason why schools should not be the actors here. I would say that denying access to this book is a good thing, parents are by far the better actors, as they are only affecting the freedoms of their own children, as they are allowed to do by law. Schools are not allowed to make those same judgments, nor should communities be allowed ot make those judgments for all students.

7. Solvency

I covered last round why I believe the ban will be ineffective, and even shown that such a ban increase interest in the book, leading more kids to seek it out. Pro will have to show that my arguments are false.

8. Impact of ban

I also covered the benefits of TFIOS pretty clearly, and being that they're fully articulated, with substantial impacts and strong warrants supported by evidence, Pro has quite a wall to climb here.


Generally, Pro fails to prove why middle and high schoolers in all parts of the country are susceptible to the messages he says TFIOS imparts. Even if he's right that there are harmful messages, Pro needs to do more than just state that those exist " he needs to show that there's an actual, measurable harm to students in these levels of education, and demonstrate how that harm plays out. He'll need to show how that harm is pervasive throughout the U.S. So far, Pro has not done so.

Contention 1:

Note that while Pro tries to meet the first burden here, all of his arguments are simply subjective claims of harm, lacking any warrants or support sufficient to turn them into objective harms.

He says that the book is about "deception, sex and shameful habits," but never supports any of those claims, failing to note that the only sex that occurs is near the end of the book, and is coupled with Augustus receiving information that his cancer has metastasized, essentially a death sentence here.

He says they set a "bad example" for teenage love, but never states why teenage romance, or even teenage/unmarried sex, is harmful. I would contend that they set an example for conquering the desire to think only about oneself when faced with mortality.

He proceeds to spend much of the rest of his first contention assaulting Augustus and his character, stating that he's creepy, "not an accurate representation of a teenage boy in love," poorly written and focused on sex. None of this suffices as a reason to ban the book. He can hate on the character all he wants, but this is all a subjective evaluation of the character with no reasoning for why it should result in a ban of the book itself. Being focused on sex is practically a staple of adolescent male characters in books, and being stereotyped, odd or boring is no reason whatsoever to ban a book.

Contention 2:

Pro makes the claim that allowing the book in school libraries is somehow an endorsement of the actions contained within. This claim is absolutely baseless. If it was true, there would be no book on the shelves in which someone is killed, or a book in which someone is raped or curse words are spoken. Pro will have to establish a link between allowing the book's presence and an explicit or implicit endorsement of all the actions in that book in order to make this stick.

For the sake of argument, though, let's go through these harmful actions.

Pro points to the usage of cigarettes, saying that Augustus's metaphorical usage of a cigarette as a way of showing that he has some control over his life is somehow "shameful behavior" that "shouldn't be used." He fails to support either of these statements, ignoring the fact that THIS IS A YOUNG MAN DYING FROM CANCER. Pro will have to show why this lifeline is harmful to readers, rather than providing a unique and interesting way to gain some control over a life that's wholly out of his hands.

Speaking as a Jew, I found the kissing in Anne Frank's house to be odd, but an effective metaphor. Anne Frank had lived her last days with nothing but her bonds to those around her to keep her company, knowing that she was living on borrowed time. The fact that romance should bloom in such a place between two cancer patients seems all too fitting.

I don't know where Pro is getting at with his claim that the book showcases parents who "don't give any care in the world about the whereabouts of their children," this is just plain absurd.

I'm not going to support underage drinking and tampering with private property, but these are hardly reasons by themselves to support a ban.

Pro is going to need to support this argument that cancer is used "as a justification for the bad things the protagonists do," that's completely unwarranted.

I do hope that this debate continues, and I leave it to Pro to do it.

Debate Round No. 3


tennistanner forfeited this round.


Well, I'm disappointed, but I don't have it in me to be upset now. It's just a debate. I wish tennis the best in whatever is keeping his attention.

I have no need to extend my case further. I leave it to the voters.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Stefy 2 years ago
I really dislike The Fault in Our Stars for my own reasons. I thought it was a terrible novel but its content is not particularly risque or offensive and I do not believe in banning books. Just be glad the kids are at least reading.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
Well... thats disappointing. I'll be posting by the end of the day, and I'll leave my final round solely as conclusions to try and keep the debate somewhat even.
Posted by tennistanner 3 years ago
You can post whenever! Haha it's just been the last few days. But thank you
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
If I haven't heard back from you by the end of the day, I'll post my arguments.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
If you're pretty busy, I can delay posting for next round. Just let me know and I can delay for as long as you like. Or I can post immediately, if that's better for you.
Posted by tennistanner 3 years ago
This is for my opponent, whiteflame...
1. By 'public schools' I'm referring to all middle school and high school campuses (I'd rather college be excluded for debating purposes)
2. Haha yes only in America
Posted by 9spaceking 3 years ago
tennis gonna get it so bad, he gonna die before he even reaches his first argument
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by republicofdhar 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Con did a good job of proving his case, and Pro forfeited.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by lannan13 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture