Are Schools Banning Books?
fall, you see a lot of publicity about "Banned Books Week" and occasionally
public meetings and protests around public schools. It raises the specter of
the bonfires of books that the Nazis had in pre-war Germany. Do we have a lot
of censorship going on in our schools?
In a word, NO! According to
columnist Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, there were 348 challenges to
school library books, or assigned books, used in schools in 2010, as detected by
the American Library Association. Some of the challenges might have been about
the same book, so there were likely far fewer than 348 books complained about.
As Goldberg reports, there are
nearly 100,000 public schools in the United States, enrolling approximately 50
million students. So, with 348 complaints, that amounts to one complaint for
every 287 schools, or one complaint for every 143,678 students.
Hardly a case of widespread
And actually, the only "censorship"
going on in schools is by the school employees themselves, who "censor" certain
books away from students by not placing those books in school libraries, or
assigning them in class. When parents or taxpayers complain about a book, they
aren't trying to "censor" it - only government can do that. All the parents or
taxpayers are doing is questioning the educational value or age-appropriateness
of a book. So they aren't properly called "censors" at all.
In all of those cases, the books
were already purchased by the school system and in use with students. The parents
or taxpayers who were complaining about a book in the school library or
classroom brought out their objections, and then policymakers within the school
decided whether or not their objections were justified. None of these cases
went to court or had any other intervention other than local parents, teachers
and librarians involved. If the policymakers agreed that a given book was
contrary to sound educational practice because of its depictions of violence,
sex, immorality, occult religious activity, profanity, racism and the like,
then the book was withdrawn from the students.
There is no data on how many of
those 348 cases ended with the book being withdrawn from the school library
collection or classroom. But it is important to note that no book was ever
"censored," in that all of the books that were objected to could still have
been purchased in any retail or online bookstore. These incidents had no
bearing on what books could be available to students in a public library,
either. So the definition of "censorship" - blocking people from obtaining
books - isn't really what is happening at all.
Most parents and taxpayers would
salute people who take the time to bring objectionable school materials to
light. They shouldn't be condemned as "censors." They should be applauded as
caring about kids' hearts and minds!
can read excerpts from many of the objectionable books on the website of
Parents Against Bad Books in Schools, www.pabbis.org.
Or see this information from the American Library Association: