Feb. 13, 2022: Banning Books
Banning books is not a new thing. The practice of limiting people’s access to printed material can trace its roots back to the Counter-Reformation when both Catholics and Protestants tried to curtail individuals from reading things that conflicted with their belief system. In the United States, we can trace the practice back as far as 1624, when some colonies banned books that were critical of their way of life.
Sadly, banning books has been part of our human experience for as long as we have had printed books.
There has been, however, a recent push to ban books that looks different than it has in the past, and one that should trouble us all deeply. What makes the current effort to have books banned different than those efforts that we have been dealing with for hundreds of years?
- The groups behind these current pushes to ban books are no longer small groups of people who are locally trying to make a statement. Many of the current challenges have been funded by national, conservative organizations who do not have a small, local agenda. They have a national agenda, and deep pockets. The damage they can do is already being felt across the country.
- Many of the current bans that have been successfully put in place, are becoming laws. The legislative process is being used. These are no longer “library guidelines” or “school policies”, they are laws. Like most laws, there are consequences for those who break the law. In some cases very harsh consequences, and they are focused on librarians and educators.
As parents, we should be outraged. The groups that are pushing through these bans may be saying that they are supporting a parent’s right to determine what their child reads, when in fact, they are legislating against that. Parents have always been able to prevent their child from reading a book they deem inappropriate. Schools have always respected a parent’s right to say that they do not want their child to read a specific book. Teachers have always complied with those requests. What is happening now is that conservative groups are deciding what everyone’s child has the right to read. They become the gatekeepers and decide what your child can and cannot read.
As educators, we should be infuriated. Laws that involve book banning prevent educators from making those critical instructional decisions. We are the trained professionals who understand the content standards we need to teach. We understand academic development and children. These bans not only impact the materials we can use when actually teaching our lessons, but they impact the books we can add to our classroom libraries that our students may want to read. These groups want to silence and eliminate those that do not agree with them and their views.
As writers, we should be incensed. This current push to ban books, is an effort to sideline and silence voices that do not support their political agenda. It is an effort to erase historical facts that they do not like, and to outlaw dissenting thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
As Americans, we should be deeply frightened. Historically, these types of efforts to ban books and to criminalize what does not support their agenda, is always part of a first step toward authoritarian and fascist regimes.
Stand up. Say NO to banning books.