Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 “PEN America” Documents Growth in Educational Censorship

“PEN America” Documents Growth in Educational Censorship

by | Sep 26, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

The freedom to read is “under assault” in the US, according to a damning new report from writers’ body PEN America. The report follows a similar survey by the American Library Association.  PEN America’s report states: The freedom to read is under assault in the United States—particularly in public schools—curtailing students’ freedom to explore words, ideas, and books..”

 

It notes that in the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year.”

 

Among the key findings are:

 

  • Over 40 percent of all book bans occurred in school districts in Florida. 

 

  • Hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric about “porn in schools” and “sexually explicit,” “harmful,” and “age-inappropriate” materials led to the removal of thousands of books covering a range of topics and themes for young audiences.  Overwhelmingly, book bans target books on race or racism or featuring characters of colour, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters.

 

  • Punitive state laws, coupled with pressure from vocal citizens and local and national groups, have created difficult dilemmas for school districts, forcing them to either restrict access to books or risk penalties for educators and librarians. 

 

PEN America says that in the past two and a half years, it has tracked an evolving movement to exert ideological control over public education across the United States. This campaign—which PEN America has dubbed the “Ed Scare”, is penetrating public libraries, higher education institutions, and public schools, using state legislation and intimidation tactics to suppress teaching and learning about certain stories, identities, and histories.

It says: “Efforts to suppress free expression are particularly pervasive in public schools, where coordinated campaigns to restrict the freedom to read, learn, and think are affecting students nationwide. PEN America has tracked the spread of explicit prohibitions to restrict teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities in K–12 and higher education—which we have dubbed ‘educational gag orders’…These legislative efforts work in tandem with coordinated campaigns locally, enabling local groups and individuals to challenge curricula, movies, songs, art, plays and thousands and thousands of books.”

 

It concludes: “Public schools have long been deemed essential to American democracy…Over the past two years, coordinated and ideologically driven threats, challenges, and legislation directed at public school classrooms and libraries have spurred a wave of book bans unlike any in recent memory, diminishing students’ access to books and directly impacting their constitutional rights.

 

 

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