In less than a year, more than 1,500 book bans in 86 U.S. school districts targeted 1,145 books in 26 states.
PEN America has documented “book by book, district by district” which books were being banned between 01 July 2021 and 31 March 2022.
Of the banned titles, 41% included “protagonists or prominent secondary characters” who were people of color, according to PEN America.
About 22% of the banned books “directly address issues of race and racism”, while 33% “explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes, or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+”.
In calendar 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) documented more than 700 “challenges to library, school and university materials” that targeted more than 1,500 books. That’s the most attempted bans since ALA began monitoring in 2000.
This year in Florida, the Department of Education reviewed 132 math books and then banned almost half of them “due to what the state calls ‘prohibited topics’ including critical race theory and social-emotional learning.”
Banning math books.
Chris Allen, the vice chair for the Indian River chapter of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, criticized “a word problem that talked about the gender pay gap, identifying how much less money women make over the course of a lifetime [because] she didn’t like the message it sent to young women. She said the presentation focused too much on the problem and not enough on the progress that has been made toward parity.”
PEN found “a profound increase in both the number of books banned and the intense focus on books that relate to communities of color and LGBTQ+ subjects.”
According to the Washington Post, the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police triggered “rising awareness of racism in society.” Like clockwork, that awareness triggered pushback.
President Donald Trump’s October 2020 executive order banning diversity training in federally funded agencies — to stop, he said, “efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex- and race-based ideologies” — ignited assaults on the teaching of systemic racism in U.S. history and society, as well as portrayals of the lives of members of the LGBTQ community.
This is a dangerous message and trend.
Librarians will now have to submit a list of every title on their shelves to the state for approval. But what happens to the books that are deemed inappropriate?
"I don't have a clue, but I would burn them." pic.twitter.com/C09qOpE8MX
— Ilene J. Gould (@producerilene) April 27, 2022
“No to decadence and moral corruption!… Yes to decency and morality in family and state!”
Joseph Goebbels shouted those words to an audience of 40,000 in Berlin’s Opera Square on 10 May 1933. The population of Germany: 65 million. (The combined population of California and Texas today is about 69 million.)
As part of an effort to align German arts and culture with Nazi ideas (Gleichschaltung), university students in college towns across Germany burned [more than 25,000] books they considered to be “un-German,” heralding an era of state censorship and cultural control… The students sought to purify German literature of “foreign,” especially Jewish, and other immoral influences.
We are rapidly descending into a very dark place.
The flip-side of banning; added post-publish:
Under Communist regimes, state officials monitor schools and universities for wrong think, ban subversive books, prosecute protestors and make baseless allegations against political opponents. Just a terrible, terrible system. https://t.co/q0vpVtTIOw
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) May 11, 2022