Our nation is in the midst of a manufactured cultural panic that is leading to government censorship at the state and local level. This is not a debate and the following examples are not one offs – extremists are quietly deploying tactics across the country that are fueling a clear pattern of book and other resource censorship in schools. In fact, Banned Books Week just ended less than two weeks ago.
More times than not the bans target children’s books involving people of color or LGBTQ individuals as the main characters:
- In Pennsylvania, the Central York School Board last year banned a list of resources from Latino/a/x and African American authors. The ban ignited protests from students, school faculty and locals which ended in the ban’s reversal last month. Here is the full list of books that the school district effectively banned for a full year, including children’s titles on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., “Front Desk”, the award-winning debut youth novel by Kelly Yang, education activist Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, and CNN’s “Sesame Street” town hall on racism.
- In Katy, Texas, a virtual speaking engagement by critically-acclaimed children’s book author Jerry Craft was canceled and his books pulled from school district libraries following complaints by a group of parents from the district. 400 Katy ISD parents claimed that Craft’s work promotes “critical race theory”, which they characterized in a change.org petition as “reverse racism against white children”.
- In Southlake, Texas, school administrators in Carroll Independent School District told teachers last week that they would receive mandatory training, as part of a new state law, on new rules governing books — and instructions for getting rid of any that don’t meet new content standards.
- Last week in Long Island, NY, “Front Desk”, the award-winning debut children’s novel by Kelly Yang, was being read aloud in a 5th grade classroom when an administrator walked into the classroom and halted the reading.
- Back in Southlake, Texas, the school board last week formally reprimanded a 4th grade teacher who kept a copy of “This Book Is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell in her classroom. A school parent complained the book violated her family’s “morals and faith.”
When you zoom out and look at policy changes being proposed in states like Ohio, where the legislature introduced House Bill 327 to ban discussion of “divisive concepts” in the classroom, including the idea that:
“(e) Members of one nationality, color, ethnicity, race, or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to nationality, color, ethnicity, race, or sex”
you start concluding: extremists believe the best way to tackle racism in American history is to ban discussing, reading about, or otherwise teaching it in schools.
This is no longer just about the rampant spread of misinformation about what is taught in classrooms. We cannot allow that misinformation to keep morphing into censorship forcing teachers to completely omit difficult parts of our history from their lessons or through the lens of children’s literature. Banning students from learning about racism is not only morally reprehensible – a broad bipartisan majority of Americans want schools to teach more about racism as part of American history lessons, and schools have spent years increasingly doing just that.
Learn from History urges Americans everywhere to #JoinUs and stand up for fact-based history lessons and against censorship in the classroom. We’re not too late to prevent this from happening:
Text “TRUTH” to 67076 or visit LearnFromHistory.org