Beware book banning is on the rise. In Wyoming, a county prosecutor’s office considered charges against library employees for stocking books like “Sex Is a Funny Word” and “This Book Is Gay,” reported The New York Times.
In Oklahoma, a bill was introduced in the State Senate that would prohibit public school libraries from keeping books on hand that focus on sexual activity, sexual identity or gender identity.
In Tennessee, the McMinn County Board of Education voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade module on the Holocaust because of nudity and curse words.
Parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades. The American Library Association said in a preliminary report that it received an “unprecedented” 330 reports of book challenges, each of which can include multiple books, last fall.
Librarians say that just the threat of having to defend against charges is enough to get many educators to censor themselves by not stocking the books to begin with. Even just the public spectacle of an accusation can be enough.
“It will certainly have a chilling effect,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s office for intellectual freedom. “You live in a community where you’ve been for 28 years, and all of a sudden you might be charged with the crime of pandering obscenity. And you’d hoped to stay in that community forever.”
She said that aggressively policing books for inappropriate content and banning titles could limit students’ exposure to great literature, including towering canonical works.
“If you focus on five passages, you’ve got obscenity,” Ms. Caldwell-Stone said. “If you broaden your view and read the work as a whole, you’ve got Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved.’”
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