NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: PEN America (by Kasey Meehan and Jonathan Friedman).
The 2022-23 school year has been marked to date by an escalation of book bans and censorship in classrooms and school libraries across the United States. PEN America recorded more book bans during the fall 2022 semester than in each of the prior two semesters. This school year also saw the effects of new state laws that censor ideas and materials in public schools, an extension of the book banning movement initiated in 2021 by local citizens and advocacy groups. Broad efforts to label certain books “harmful” and “explicit” are expanding the type of content suppressed in schools.
Again, and again, the movement to ban books is driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship. At the same time, a 2022 poll found that over 70% of parents oppose book banning. Yet the bans continue. Many public school districts find themselves in a bind. They face threats and political pressure, along with parental fears and anxieties surrounding the books on their school shelves. School Boards, administrators, teachers, and librarians are told in some cases to “err on the side of caution” in the books they make available. Too often, they do just that.
These efforts to chill speech are part of the ongoing nationwide “Ed Scare” — a campaign to foment anxiety and anger with the goal of suppressing free expression in public education. As book bans escalate, coupled with the proliferation of legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities, the freedom to read, learn, and think continues to be undermined for students.
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