The country is stepping up efforts to ban books in schools and libraries across the country in 2022, and researchers expect more efforts to challenge books in 2023.
Activists across a wide political spectrum have sought to restrict or protest some forms of literature, but the bulk of the book challenge comes from conservative groups, researchers say. There are also a handful of initiatives from liberal sources that target books that contain racist or offensive language.
“If five people were allowed to go through a library and delete anything that was there that they thought would annoy someone, they would be all sorts of things, conservative and progressive. “We all have different issues that we don’t think should be on the books,” Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Speech and Education Program, told ABC News. For example, historical expressions of racism, such as those of Mark Twain, [be seen as potentially controversial] Gender Queer is no different, an adult memoir about the author’s LGBTQ identity.
Free expression advocacy group PEN America reported that between July 2021 and June 2022, there were at least 2,532 book challenges, affecting 1,648 book titles.
“We are at risk of removing all kinds of material from our libraries, some of which are considered classic literary forms, and some of which are censored and therefore future classics. Some are in danger of not becoming literary works, like this,” Friedman said.
According to the American Library Association, most book challenges fail to completely remove a book from a classroom or library shelf. However, all contested books are considered “banned books.”
What kind of content is being targeted?
According to anti-censorship researchers, the books targeted by conservative groups were overwhelmingly written by or about people of color and LGBTQ people. Many refer to sexual content and specific messages contained in the book.
According to the ALA’s list of banned books, these groups include books for young adults that discuss racism in the United States, such as “The Hate U Give” and “The Bluest Eye,” as well as “Gender Queer” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” discusses LGBTQ identity, sexuality and gender.
Liberal initiatives, on the other hand, criticized or restricted the book in the name of anti-racism and progressive ideals.
Books like “Mouse and Man”. According to the ALA, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and several Doctor His Seuss titles, have been challenged in some schools and libraries due to their use of racist language and imagery over the years. I came. .
Where do book ban efforts come from?
Conservative efforts have been found by some members of Congress and conservative political groups such as Moms For Liberty and No Left Turn in Education, PEN America found. According to the websites of these organizations, these organizations are committed to giving parents more say in what their children read in the classroom and to maintaining the “principles” of “liberty” and “liberty.” want to be.
States such as Florida, Utah, Missouri, and Texas have also made legislative efforts aimed at restricting the lessons and content that educators can teach in the classroom, including specific perspectives on race, gender, and sexual orientation. It is
While Florida’s parental rights laws in education and national laws are intended to prevent discussion of LGBTQ content and identities in some classrooms, laws like New Hampshire’s , bans “divisive notions” of race and gender in the classroom.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and state legislator Matt Krause will campaign in 2021 to “students experience discomfort, guilt, distress, or other forms of psychological distress because of their race or gender.” We researched a list of about 850 books that could make you feel. In a letter first reported by the Texas Tribune.
Free speech and anti-censorship advocates said these ongoing efforts are ringing alarm bells. They say they are threatening me.
“It’s moving away from parents and citizens providing lists to school boards and the law,” Friedman said. “This is a very big change because there is a big difference between a school board responding to parental anger and a school board responding to the threat of punishment from the government.”
Liberal or progressive initiatives are typically individualized and localized, experts say, unlike conservative groups that have expanded into national movements against specific books.
Several progressive literary groups, including We Need Diverse Books, have condemned book bans and restrictions, focusing instead on literary diversification.
Amidst 2020 U.S. Racism, the Burbank Unified School District in California made it mandatory for some schools to use the n-word after complaints from local parents and review by administrators. Removed some titles from the reading list. However, books were allowed to be read at school, taken into the school library, or read in small groups.
Several other schools have made similar changes to their reading lists, according to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, a free expression advocacy group.
“Professional educators are well-equipped to guide students to read books that may contain challenging or potentially distressing content, and books that depict the complexities of history and modern society. We believe that taking into account is part of the purpose of education,” said PEN America. A letter to the Burbank Unified School District discusses removing materials containing the “n-word” from the required reading list.
In response, teachers and administrators should establish criteria for developing primary reading lists, establish professional development opportunities for learning how to talk about race and racism, and continue diversity. , equity and inclusion.
“Through this process, everyone agreed that the current curriculum did not represent black students and families in a positive and uplifting way,” said Matt Hill, Burbank Superintendent of Education for BUSD Families and Employees. “Worse still, many admit that these books contribute to perpetuating intergenerational trauma.”
He continued, “This is not about censoring or banning books outright. This is about deciding which books are mandatory and which are optional.”
The BUSD administration did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Anti-censorship organizations such as PEN America and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom oppose any effort to ban books and call it censorship.
But the organization, which has long tracked the nationwide book ban, says the complaints from liberal groups do not compare to the large wave of conservative book challenges seen across the country.