Stand Up to Censorship In Schools

From Publishers Weekly:

After mounting pressure, including a student protest, a school district in York, Pa., has reversed a controversial book ban. But the fact that this ban was implemented in the first place means the conversation about book banning is far from over. Titles that were targeted include I Am Malala, Hidden Figures, and Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History. The main thing those books, and almost all of the books that were banned, share in common: they are about, or written by, people of color.

As an African American woman in publishing, I fear for my voice and the voices of my authors. Will my authors be turned away in libraries and school systems? Considered “too political” by parents?

. . . .

Wise Ink is one of the few publishers led by a Black woman, cofounder Dara Beevas. Beevas, who has also written the Li’l Queens picture book series about real-life Black and brown queens, says, “For African American children, a lot of our stories are rightfully about our oppression. But there are other stories, too. And a lot of those stories are stories that I feel like have been suppressed on purpose.”

. . . .

Since last October, educational institutions have canceled diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in response to orders against teaching “diverse concepts” and the public backlash against critical race theory. This year, Texas passed a law aimed at restricting discussions of race and history in schools. Politicians and nonminority officials seem to be trying to eliminate Black history and discussions surrounding race altogether. Sure, students could have these discussions outside of school, but why exclude the one place they congregate for most of their day? Banning books and resources that are connected to people of color and racism not only ensures the embedding of white-centric thinking in a new generation of children, but it ensures censorship of minority stories and voices.

“Resisting telling the truth is not ever a path that is going to get us closer to the kinds of healing, the kinds of interdependence, the kinds of relationships that we want to be in,” Trina Olson, cofounder of Team Dynamics and coauthor of Hiring Revolution: A Guide to Disrupt Racism & Sexism in Hiring, states in the podcast she cohosts, Behave.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Perhaps because it’s from Publishers Weekly, but PG feels like the good people vs. bad people story around which the OP is centered seems a little too convenient when expressed in racial terms.

Racial discrimination is real in the US and elsewhere, but, for PG, critical race theory is much more about Marxist philosophy and contemporary political arguments and ignoring some very obvious and material facts about American history than it is about contemporary racism.

But he could be wrong.

7 thoughts on “Stand Up to Censorship In Schools”

  1. IF those were the titles that were “targeted” – I can actually agree with the start of the OP*. But I have a doubt that they were – or that they were the only ones.

    * I could argue that there were better choices for some of the figures in “Little Legends.” But that is opinion; undoubtedly others would have yet a different list.

    • There is also the matter of *how* the books cover their subject matter.
      One would have to look beyond the title to see, maybe, a hint of intent. In a lot of these cases the issue isn’t the subject or even the material per se but its presentation or use. Case in point:

      https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/wyoming-librarians-fire-books-sex-lgbtq-80359758

      Things are never quite as simple seen from the outside. And in the above case there is the matter of local mores. The country still has a strong puritanical streak and the fact is a typical nine year old in a rural western town isn’t going to be anywhere near as world wise as a nine year old from a megapolis inner city.

      The country is not uniform. That was the whole reason for the Constitution’s federalist structure; federalizing everything is not going to be helpful. A light touch will benefit all.

      • Well, I have read both “I Am Malala” and “Hidden Figures.”

        “I Am Malala” could be called a “victimology” book – but there are real victims of the real Taliban (not the imaginary “American Taliban”) – and the struggles to educate women in the repressive Islamic countries should, in my opinion, be read by everyone – especially considering the current “woke” climate that ignores those women.

        “Hidden Figures” celebrates the accomplishments of the people that it examines, and their success in the face of obstacles. That it is centered on black women – well, the lessons to be learned by the reader can be applied by all races and sexes.

        Now, of course, this assumes that the “educators” using these books do not twist their message into a narrative of victimology – but that is true of any book. Anything can be twisted in that way, as see “The Sneetches.”

        I have not read “Little Legends,” so perhaps cannot comment as well on that. However, reading the introductory material, and the list of people that are examined in the book – it does not look like a problem to me. No Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Maya Angelou, etc. among their subjects. (I will probably pick up the book at some point – if for nothing else, to see the treatment of the great Louis Armstrong.)

        • How the teachers’ use the books is what I had in mind.
          Also, like the books mentioned in the ABC piece, there’s the matter of the students’ age. What might be appropriate for a teenager might not be a good idea for the lower elementary grades.

          Sometimes folks are too quick to jump to conclusions without all the facts.

  2. Will my authors be turned away in libraries and school systems? Considered “too political” by parents?

    Probably. That’s exactly what Elizabeth Warren was urging on Amazon last week. It’s a two-way street.

  3. As an aside:

    Thank god there was none of this when I was in high school in the 70s.

    The only safe place was the Media Center/Library. Eldorado was a brand new school, and the library was shipped in on pallets; books, shelves, carrels and all. I spent the next four years reading through the SF&F section, where I found Bradbury to Wells. Verne’s Mysterious Island is why I became a Civil Engineer. The A. M. Lightner and Jean & Jeff Sutton books spoke of mutant children banished to prison worlds that could not hold them.

    Those books helped me to escape as well.

  4. I would be curious to know how much of this was “these books were taken out of the library” and how much of this was “the kids were no longer required to read these books.” These are two very different things, and the ALA’s tendency to lump the two in together during “Banned Book Week” is one of its more obnoxious habits.

    Furthermore, I am really not sure how restrictions on teaching CRT restricts people from teaching the facts about black history. You don’t need to get into Marxism to explain to kids that if you were black in the United States your life was generally going to be harder than if you were white.

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