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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