Banning books in schools (1 Viewer)

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    Optimus Prime

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    Excellent article I thought deserved its own thread
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    On the surface, it would appear that book censors and censored authors like myself can agree on one thing: Books are powerful.

    Particularly books for children and teens.

    Why else would people like me spend so much time and energy writing them?

    Why else would censors spend so much time and energy trying to keep them out of kids’ hands?

    In a country where the average adult is reading fewer and fewer books, it’s a surprise to find Americans arguing so much about them.

    In this election year, parents and politicians — so many politicians — are jumping into the fray to say how powerful books can be.

    Granted, politicians often make what I do sound like witchcraft, but I take this as a compliment.

    I’ll admit, one of my first thoughts about the current wildfire of attempted censorship was: How quaint.

    Conservatives seemed to be dusting off their playbook from 1958, when the only way our stories could get to kids was through schools and libraries.

    While both are still crucial sanctuaries for readers, they’re hardly the only options. Plenty of booksellers supply titles that are taken off school shelves.

    And words can be very widely shared free of charge on social media and the rest of the internet. If you take my book off a shelf, you keep it away from that shelf, but you hardly keep it away from readers.

    As censorship wars have raged in so many communities, damaging the lives of countless teachers, librarians, parents and children, it’s begun to feel less and less quaint.

    This is not your father’s book censorship…..

    Here’s something I never thought I’d be nostalgic for: sincere censors. When my first novel, “Boy Meets Boy,” was published in 2003, it was immediately the subject of many challenges, some of which kept the book from ever getting on a shelf in the first place.

    At the time, a challenge usually meant one parent trying to get a book pulled from a school or a library, going through a formal process.

    I often reminded myself to try to find some sympathy for these parents; yes, they were wrong, and their desire to control what other people in the community got to read was wrong — but more often than not, the challenge was coming from fear of a changing world, a genuine (if incorrect) belief that being gay would lead kids straight to ruination and hell, and/or the misbegotten notion that if all the books that challenged the (homophobic, racist) status quo went away, then the status quo would remain intact.

    It was, in some ways, as personal to them as it was to those of us on the other side of the challenge.

    And nine times out of 10, the book would remain on the shelf.

    It’s not like that now. What I’ve come to believe, as I’ve talked to authors and librarians and teachers, is that attacks are less and less about the actual books.

    We’re being used as targets in a much larger proxy war.

    The goal of that war isn’t just to curtail intellectual freedom but to eviscerate the public education system in this country.

    Censors are scorching the earth, without care for how many kids get burned.

    Racism and homophobia are still very much present, but it’s also a power grab, a money grab. The goal for many is a for-profit, more authoritarian and much less diverse culture, one in which truth is whatever you’re told it is, your identity is determined by its acceptability and the past is a lie that the future is forced to emulate.

    The politicians who holler and post and draw up their lists of “harmful” books aren’t actually scared of our books.

    They are using our books to scare people.

     
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    NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Summer Boismier was living her childhood dream. She grew up a bookworm, became a high school English teacher, and filled both her classroom and home with her favorite literature.

    She taught her students: “Stories are what is fundamental about the human experience. We all have them.”

    Boismier especially loves the fantasy genre, a passion sprouted from childhood favorite “Harry Potter.” But even in a world of fantasy, she couldn’t have dreamed that a lesson from her English class would land her in the center of a vigorous statewide political campaign and turn her into a target for candidates and voters on social media.

    Over the past two years, the nine-year teaching veteran was growing alarmed with the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Legislature’s increasing efforts to restrict access to books in public schools. In her classroom, she covered some bookshelves with red butcher tape and labeled them “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” She gave students a QR code link to the Brooklyn Public Library, which provides access to a variety of banned books.

    She hoped to spark a discussion about the legislators’ book restrictions and a new law prohibiting lessons on critical race theory and other concepts about race and gender. Instead, she was summoned to a meeting with school administrators after a parent complained.

    A firestorm erupted as Boismier resigned and a reporter from a local television station covered the story. The state’s Republican candidate for superintendent of public schools, Ryan Walters, wrote a letter to the State Board of Education calling for Boismier’s teaching license to be revoked.

    “There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom,” Walters wrote in the letter he then tweeted and sent to reporters, even accusing Boismier of providing access to “pornographic material.” The incident gained traction on social media, and people claimed she was part of a larger movement of teachers indoctrinating students with liberal ideology.

    Boismier, 34, and other teachers have found themselves at the center of a renewed conservative interest in public education as a political issue. The movement gained steam with parents opposing mask mandates and other COVID-19 measures. It has since broadened, and some supporters focus on issues they say clash with conservative values — such as teaching about social justice, gender, race and history............

     
    Brandi Burkman arrived at the Texas school board meeting with a printed speech, a plastic-sheeted library book and a swelling sense of fury.

    The 43-year-old mother of three approached the podium at the Sept. 9, 2021, meeting of the Leander Independent School District board with her 16-year-old son in tow. As Burkman began to speak, the teen hoisted white posters scrawled with sentences in black marker. They were taken from the book he’d discovered a week earlier in his AP English classroom and brought home for supplemental reading: “Lawn Boy,” a novel by Jonathan Evison.

    Burkman’s three-minute speech recounted passages that describe a sexual encounter between two 10-year-old boys. Quoting pages 19, 91, 174 and 230, she told the roomful of adults how the boys meet in the bushes after a church youth group gathering, touch each other’s penises and progress to oral sex.

    “What sort of diversity are you intending to teach my child with material like this?” Burkman asked, her voice shaking, her son expressionless. “Who normalizes sex acts between fourth-graders?”

    She did not wait for an answer: “I’ll tell you who. Pedophiles.”

    Burkman’s remarks set off a tsunami of condemnation that, a year later, would see the book “Lawn Boy” challenged in at least 35 school districts spanning 20 states and temporarily removed from shelves in almost half those places, according to a Washington Post analysis. Most of those districts — 63 percent — later returned the text to shelves after a review, while at least four banned the book for good. The plethora of complaints, 87 percent of which were brought by parents, The Post found, rendered “Lawn Boy” the second-most challenged book of 2021, according to the American Library Association.

    The complaints against “Lawn Boy” came amid a historic nationwide spike in schoolbook challenges and bans as conflicts simmer over what to teach about race, racism, history, sex and gender. Already, 25 states have passed laws restricting what teachers can say about these topics or limiting the rights of transgender students at school, a Post analysis previously found.

    “Lawn Boy,” and the people who targeted it, also illustrate how misinformation germinates. Days after Burkman’s speech, a Virginia mother inspired by her comments falsely asserted during a school board meeting that “Lawn Boy” depicts a sexual encounter between an adult man and a 10-year-old. Her claim, caught on video, was repeated on social media and in news reports and magnified by prominent politicians, spawning pedophilia claims in nearly a dozen school districts, The Post found.

    The saga of “Lawn Boy” further shows how concerns about public education spread, fueled by conservative media coverage, political speeches and advocacy from religious and parents’ rights groups. In response, mothers and fathers across the country scoured their school library catalogues, signed up for public comment at school board meetings and filed challenges against books.

    And what happened to “Lawn Boy” reveals the little room left for nuance or forgiveness in the American political debate. Evison, the author, never meant for his book to be placed in school libraries, he told The Post in an interview. He was surprised when the American Library Association gave “Lawn Boy” an award in 2019 for its appeal to teens.

    Evison believes some librarians who chose the novel did so because of the award — and he says that, if any recommended it to lower- or middle-schoolers, they probably confused it with the children’s book “Lawn Boy,” by Gary Paulsen. (The Post found no documented cases in which this confusion happened.)............

     
    In one Texas school district, school librarians have ordered 6,000 fewer books this year than the year before, because under a new rule parents must have 30 days to review the titles before the school board votes to approve them.

    In Pennsylvania, a school librarian who must now obtain her principal’s okay for acquisitions has bought just 100 books this school year, compared with her typical 600.


    And throughout Florida, many school librarians have been unable to order books for nearly a year, thanks to their districts’ interpretation of a state law requiring librarians to undergo an online retraining program on “the selection and maintenance of library … collections” — which was not published until this month.

    Julie Miller, a librarian for the Clay County School District, has not been permitted to order a book since March 2022. In a typical year, she would have ordered 300 titles by now. Instead, she has had more than a hundred conversations with disappointed students seeking fresh titles, she said, especially the latest books in their favorite fantasy series.

    “It puts me in a terrible position,” Miller said. She has had to brainstorm a novel use for the 40 percent of her budget formerly devoted to books: “This year, I’m going to replace all of our chairs in the library.”


    States and districts nationwide have begun to constrain what librarians can order. At least 10 states have passed laws giving parents more power over which books appear in libraries or limiting students’ access to books, a Washington Post analysis found.

    At the same time, school districts are passing policies that bar certain kinds of texts — most often, those focused on issues of gender and sexuality — while increasing administrative or parental oversight of acquisitions……..

     
    A suburban Alabama community is rallying behind a Black author after the school district rescinded an invitation to have him speak and read his books at local elementary schools during Black History Month.

    Award-winning children’s book author Derrick Barnes, known for writing stories for and featuring Black children, will no longer be visiting three Hoover City Schools, a school system just south of Birmingham, Alabama area this week. Dee Fowler, the district superintendent, cited contract issues and a parent’s “concern” regarding Barnes’ social media posts, he told CNN.

    The cancellation incited outrage from frustrated parents, teachers, and Hoover residents, some of whom channeled anger into activism. Hundreds have come together to raise a portion of the $9,900 Barnes would have been paid for the events.

    Some are also working to stock his books in Free Little Libraries, public bookcases where anyone can take or leave a book, throughout the city.........

    The district’s move to cancel Barnes’ visits triggered concerns of censorship amid controversial book bans in some parts of the country, specifically targeting titles related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Republican-led states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, have pushed statewide rules making it easier for critics to remove titles they dislike from school libraries.

    In Alabama, the state’s board of education adopted a resolution in 2021 titled “Declaring the Preservation of Intellectual Freedom and Non-Discrimination in Alabama’s Public Schools,” which, according to the Legal Defense Fund, “prevents educators from teaching the full and accurate history of racial discrimination and civil rights in Alabama and the United States.”

    However, Fowler, the school district superintendent, told CNN the issue is not about the content of Barnes’ books, which Fowler said are found in libraries and classrooms across the district, but posts he had made on social media.

    Fowler said the events were canceled after “a parent at one of the elementary schools voiced concern regarding social media posts made by Mr. Barnes.” He did not clarify what the posts included or what made them controversial.

    “I wasn’t told anything about a parental complaint. My socials are all about my books, events, children, and of course I talk about Black history facts and things happening in the world, but everything is factual,” Barnes said..............

     
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    Books aimed at teaching children about how Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente overcame racism to become both baseball and American icons were removed from schools in Duvall County, Florida for "review" early in 2022, and Pen America says they are among 176 flagged titles that have "been kept in storage with little indication of when they might return to classrooms."........




     
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    That's not really accurate. A person can't decide what their kids school provides their child or gives their child access to. Their only choice is to not send them to that school and the majority of parents cannot afford that choice, so it's not really a choice at all. Furthermore, as one of the articles you cited stated, removing a book from a school does not deny anyone from having access to that book if they choose to seek it out. The difference is a child can walk into a school media center and check out anything they want or a teacher can instruct with anything they want from the media center and the parents can only assume that it is something that is appropriate for their child's age. Parents have no choice but to trust that their schools will not provide inappropriate material to their kids. Outside of the school environment, attentive parents can at least have some control and knowledge over what their kids are accessing.

    Judging by at least some of the material I've seen posted, I'd have to say that removing some of those books was warranted. I guess I probably have different ideas about what is appropriate for children, but I think it's fair to at least try to have an honest discussion about what should & shouldn't be allowed in a school setting and what educational benefits there are to gain from allowing such material.
     
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    That's not really accurate. A person can't decide what their kids school provides their child or gives their child access to. Their only choice is to not send them to that school and the majority of parents cannot afford that choice, so it's not really a choice at all. Furthermore, as one of the articles you cited stated, removing a book from a school does not deny anyone from having access to that book if they choose to seek it out. The difference is a child can walk into a school media center and check out anything they want or a teacher can instruct with anything they want from the media center and the parents can only assume that it is something that is appropriate for their child's age. Parents have no choice but to trust that their schools will not provide inappropriate material to their kids. Outside of the school environment, attentive parents can at least have some control and knowledge over what their kids are accessing.

    Judging by at least some of the material I've seen posted, I'd have to say that removing some of those books was warranted. I guess I probably have different ideas about what is appropriate for children, but I think it's fair to at least try to have an honest discussion about what should & shouldn't be allowed in a school setting and what educational benefits there are to gain from allowing such material.
    I think parents should take a look at what books their children are reading and discuss with them what they feel are inappropriate. I know my parents (specifically my mom) always knew what I was reading. They should also communicate concerns with their children’s teacher.

    Librarians know what books are generally appropriate for different age groups. If there are issues they should be handled locally. Wholesale book banning is just wrong. Especially when books like the one above are removed. Families shouldn’t have to “seek out” normal books like the one shown here. Read the list of banned books in the link in the tweet above.

    It isn’t the school’s responsibility to instill your values in your children. If a child brings home a book that parents object to, that is a great opportunity for a frank discussion in the family setting. Parents should explain to the child why they object to the book and then have a discussion with the teacher. I promise your child won’t turn into a pumpkin if they look at a book you don’t like.

    I cannot stress this enough: it isn’t the school‘s place to raise your children. Know what your children are reading.

    Don’t buy into the “outrage” that is being peddled by right wing sources. Just worry about your schools and your children. These people are trying to whip up outrage with examples taken out of context and/or made up. So because of this fear campaign we see valuable books being removed from schools. This isn’t any different than the childcare “Satanic” panic of a few decades ago.

    Go look at the library at your children‘s schools, I’m guessing you won’t find anything like the books you have seen in social media.
     
    I'll go out on a limb and say pretty confidently that the people supporting banning these books from schools have little to no clue of what their kids are seeing and reading on the internet or on their friend's phone. The banning of books thus far is not about protecting children from harmful content. It's about keeping their children ignorant to real and true history so that they (parents) can continue teach the history that the parents want their children to believe. I feel bad for those kids to grow up and get out from under their parents protective watch only to find out that a lot of the BS that they have been taught was actually BS.
     
    NEW YORK (AP) — Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022, according to a new report from the American Library Association released Thursday.

    More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.

    “I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”

    Thursday’s report not only documents the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose with parents and other community members and referred to an individual book.

    Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”


    Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its findings on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries and acknowledges that the numbers might be far higher…….

     
    We have a local radical nut job who got elected to the school board. Three of them ran but only one got elected. Older gentleman, not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, to put it mildly.

    Even though he’s only one vote he is causing havoc. He expects a list from every teacher of every book they assign the kids to read and each librarian is to give him a list of every book they read to kids during story times. And he has a group of “volunteers” from the radical right orgs that funded his campaign ready to review the lists and then pass judgement on whether the books are appropriate.

    So far the superintendent is humoring him and the teachers have been told to prepare the lists. I think that’s a huge mistake, but not my circus. He also posited that someone from the group of volunteers would be spot checking the classrooms because he thinks the teachers would try to hide books. And he says that in two counties neighboring us the schools have provided litter boxes for students who identify as “kitties”. He knows people who know people in those schools, mind you. (I told you he wasn’t smart).

    Never mind that we live in a very red state and all the counties bordering our county are rural and more conservative than this county. I’m sure all these rural school corporations are so “woke”.

    It’d be funny except for the fact that he won’t rest until he gets some poor teacher or librarian fired.
     
    Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) pulled no punches on Thursday while giving a floor speech denouncing a GOP-backed measure to give parents greater oversight over public school curricula.

    Raskin, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, dismissed the measure, which is hyped as part of the GOP’s “war on woke,” and proceeded to suggest the real reason behind the bill is to fuel the right’s desire to ban books.

    “Well, it’s about book banning, of course,” Raskin declared, adding:

    Two years ago more than 1,600 books were banned in the United States of America. Here are three of the key books that the right-wingers have been going after. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner about the dangerous fanaticism, authoritarianism, and abuse of the Taliban, a right-wing religious fundamentalist movement all about censorship and repressing women’s control over their own bodies and their own fertility.
    The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s extraordinary dystopian novel about a right-wing, misogynist movement which uses high technology and depraved religious ideology to control not only the minds of their followers, but the private and public lives and the fertility of women. And, of course, George Orwell’s 1984, because they have no sense of irony! They’re always trying to censor this one.
    “Mr. Chairman, [the] gentleman’s time’s expired,” interjected another member.

    “We need more politicians reading books in America and fewer politicians trying to censor books in America. And I tell you, it is amazing to me,” Raskin continued as the chair told him his time had expired.

    After receiving more time to finish his speech, Raskin added, “It’s amazing to me to see politicians who oppose a universal, violent criminal background check and who defend assault weapons after the massacres at Columbine, after Parkland, Florida, after Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, after Uvalde, after Santa Fe, Texas, that they are now going to keep America’s children safe by banning The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. We can do better for the children of America.”.............

     
    Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
    How Orwellian that a group for "liberty" is attempting to remove the freedom to read a certain book.
     

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