A purported “list of banned books” from the state of Florida, including classics like Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” recently began circulating online. But not before it sparked massive outrage online.
For many, it’s been another chapter in a story all too familiar in recent years, as book bans are on the rise in school districts across the country, according to a PEN America report.
Free speech advocates have found that between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, 1,586 books were banned in classrooms across the country. A comprehensive list of bans includes cases from 86 school districts in 26 states that affected more than 2 million of her students in 2,899 schools.
said Jaci Urbani, associate professor and director of early childhood special education programs at Mills College in Northeastern Oakland, California. “To say that there was a time in my life when there was a plethora of banned books is that we are headed in the wrong direction.”
Texas alone had 713 book bans, and Pennsylvania had 456 bans, most of which came from one major ban.
Florida’s “banned book list” was bogus, but book bans are nothing new in the state. According to reports, in Florida alone he had 204 book bans within nine months. In fact, Florida’s Palm Beach County removed “To Kill a Mockingbird” from school libraries earlier this year, but returned the book after reviewing its contents.
For Urbani, the recent book ban is particularly troubling because it targets work by or about members of people of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups. By further limiting who’s story is told in schools, Urbani says US schools are failing teachers as well as students.
“Books are a way for those of us who are uncomfortable with some of these conversations to start conversations in class,” said Urbani, who was a classroom teacher in Philadelphia for 12 years. “These books lead to a lot of great and complex conversations.”
Book bans are by no means a new phenomenon. Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Speech and Education Program and author of the report, says book bans tend to happen whenever there’s a “culture war.” But last year’s wave of book bans represented something different than the typical isolated case of resentful parents.
“We’re talking about the growth of concerted efforts to encourage people to make the same kinds of challenges to the same books for the same reasons spread across multiple states and school districts.” It’s also the fact that it’s been pretty successful.”
Unlike in the past, recent mass book bans aren’t caused solely by concerned parents. Friedman said politicians are now the main driving force behind book bans in states.
In October 2021, Texas Republican Rep. Matt Krause sent a list of 850 books to superintendents of school districts across the state. He asked if their school had copies of these books, and if so, details about where they were kept and how much money was spent to acquire them. I asked for an explanation.
According to Friedman, compiling the list was tantamount to a “witch hunt.”
“It appears that he or someone on his staff did a keyword search in the library’s database for keywords like ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘racism,’ and that’s how they created the list,” Friedman says.
Of the bans included in the report, 41%, or 644 bans, were initiated by state officials or elected leaders.
The book ban is troubling, but Urbani says it is symptomatic of a broader problem in the US public education system.
“We don’t talk about race. We don’t talk about injustice in school or in real life,” Urbani says. “Over the last few decades, our focus has been on standardized testing, but not on teaching children how to think critically.”
Urbani saw this in real time when they watched mobs storm the US Capitol on January 6.
“If there is any reason to say that we need to put more money into education, there is evidence, because there was a lot of overwhelming evidence that the election was not lost,” Urbany said. says. “People have to take the evidence that’s out there and be able to think about it for themselves, but that’s not what we did with education.”
However, just because book bans are on the rise doesn’t mean they have staying power. was often
Central York has banned 441 books after George Floyd’s protests. These books were on the list of optional resources for teachers looking to start a conversation about race with their students. This list includes an entire series of books featuring characters of color, as well as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
Ultimately, students organized and succeeded in trying to overturn the ban, but the case shows how “bogus” such a large-scale ban can be, Friedman said. increase.
In some cases, however, school districts go beyond just banning books.
In May, Rapid City Area Schools in Rapid City, South Dakota, was selected by its teachers for its grade 12 English class, but administrators determined it contained “inappropriate and sexually explicit material.” Banned 5 books. About 350 new copies of these five books, including her groundbreaking LGBTQ graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and dystopian novel The Circle, are finally in storage. I was.
In May, the district took another step forward. The minutes of a Rapid City Board of Education meeting concealed a mention of investigating the contents of the book to determine if it should be destroyed.
“Since we stand 25 minutes from Mount Rushmore, we know that the four stone-carved heads are not only robbed of young adults with books yanked from their shelves, but destroyed. You’ll be crying, “The Circle,” told a crowd gathered outside Rapid City’s Mitzie’s Books during a May event held in response to the ban.
“You don’t want to be with someone who burns books,” he added.
media contactPlease contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.