‘Rapid Acceleration’ Of US Schoolbook Censorship In One Year Leads To 2,500 Bans

A report by Pen America found that 1,648 individual titles had been banned by school districts in 32 states last year.

The number of book bans in the US has increased dramatically over the past school year, according to a new report.

This study found that 1,648 individual book titles were banned in 32 states in the last school year, many of them due to racial or sexual content.

Almost 5,000 schools across the country have barred students from accessing books in libraries and classrooms, according to a report by Pen America, a supporter of literature freedom.

At least 50 groups have sprung up either in person or online advocating for book removals, according to the report, from rightwing politicians in Texas, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

The books have been banned simply because they feature LGBTQ+ characters, with a third of all book bans from April to June citing such identities, often claiming that they are “obscene”. In addition to racial and racist topics, 40% of titles with prominent characters of color are banned for discussions of America’s racist past.

According to Pen America’s chief executive officer, Suzanne Nossel, the current wave of book bans represents a coordinated campaign by sophisticated, ideological, and well-resourced advocacy groups to banish books, despite our belief that book bans are the work of individual concerned citizens.

The censorious movement is turning public schools into political battlefields, driving wedges between communities, forcing teachers and librarians out, and undermining democratic spirit and intellectual freedom.”

According to the Pen report, book bans have long been a part of American education, but they are now driven less by parents’ complaints and more by organized ideological groups and political pressure.

Approximately 40% of book bans have been prompted by political pressure or legislation aimed at restricting and reshaping teaching, according to the report. As an example, Republican Governor Henry McMaster demanded that the book Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe be removed from school libraries for being “sexually explicit” and “pornographic” in November.

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The book by Kobabe was banned by 41 school districts in the past school year, followed by All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, banned by 29 school districts, and Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, banned by 24 school districts. One of the most banned authors is Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate. Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania led the way.

Some states have responded to a push to ban certain books with backlash. After state legislator Matt Krause called for the removal of 850 books from school libraries, librarians launched a broad online campaign to fight the bans, bombarding state politicians with tweets and emails.

When the Emperor Was Divine, a book by Julie Otsuka about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, was banned in Wisconsin by a school district, a decision that provoked a furious response from educators, parents, and students who organized protests. In spite of this, such bans have continued unabated in the US.

According to Jonathan Friedman, a lead author of the Pen report, the rapidly accelerating movement has resulted in more and more students losing access to literature that prepares them for democratic citizenship.

Books are banned in schools because groups working to organize and advocate to ban them harm students from historically marginalized backgrounds, who are deprived of stories that validate their lives.”

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