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Bigoted book bans

New York Teacher

Across the United States, right-wing opponents of racial justice and LGBTQ rights are waging a campaign of censorship to prevent children from learning about these topics.

A total of 1,684 book titles were subject to bans by school districts in 32 states from July 2021 to June 2022, according to PEN America. Forty-one percent of the targeted books included themes relating to gender and sexual orientation, 40% included a prominent character of color and 21% dealt with issues of race and racism.

The American Library Association said the rate of book-banning is the highest since the organization began tracking the numbers more than 20 years ago.

This surge in censorship has created a vast and growing population of children denied opportunities to explore key elements of their society through literature. Presenting students with literature containing only cisgender, heterosexual themes is telling students that those are the only acceptable ways to be. Similarly, banning books that feature prominent characters of color or explore the realities of race and racism renders the white experience as the default experience.

This agenda could not be more antithetical to the spirit of education.

Thankfully, educators are fighting back.

Librarians are organizing with the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship to get banned books back on the syllabus. In September, the AFT observed Banned Books Week — an annual celebration of the freedom to read — by collecting testimony from members about the surge in book bans and offering educational resources about the dangers of these efforts. The UFT website offers a variety of culturally responsive teaching resources covering topics including race and social justice, women’s history, LGBTQ rights and more.

Educators should support efforts like these to fight book bans and promote curricula that accept and celebrate the diversity of human experience.