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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Book bans' sound bad, but so does graphic sex in school libraries

President Biden keeps talking about "book bans," writes Andrew Rotherham on Eduwonk. It's become "a nervous tic" for Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. "The conventional wisdom . . . sees 'book banning' as an absolute gift to the Democrats."

Maybe, he writes. Maybe not.

Most people don't think books about racial issues should be removed from school libraries because they might make some students "uncomfortable." They think older students can handle difficult books. But they're also worried about what's appropriate for younger children, about "political overreach" and especially about gender and sexuality, writes Rotherham.

Some schools are teaching critical race theory or “CRT-light,” and "not as one way some people understand the world or as a theory but as inarguable fact," he writes.

On the other hand, "too many Republicans have turned into snowflakes about teaching the uglier parts of American history."

Schools have to make choices, writes Rotherham. There are "calls to change what is in or out of the ‘canon’," as well as time constraints. "Debating what’s essential knowledge can be contentious, but it’s a healthy activity for a society and schooling inherently requires choices."

Gender Queer, the "most challenged book," is a graphic memoir by a non-binary writer that shows two boys having oral sex. Many parents think that's inappropriate for a school library.

Claims that censorship is surging are "false," writes Jay Greene on Daily Signal. Seventy-four percent of books on PEN America's list of books banned by school districts are available to students, he writes.

PEN America's report listed school districts that had banned “Anne Frank’s Diary,” “Brave New World,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Color Purple,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In every district, "we found copies listed as available in the online card catalogue." Some were checked out to students.

The report claims “The Hate U Give,” which was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, was removed from more than a dozen public school libraries in 2021-2022, Greene writes. Multiple copies of the book are available in every district listed.

Twenty-six percent of books on the list weren't found in school libraries, but it's not clear if they were "banned" or never purchased, writes Greene. Some "would strike most reasonable people" as inappropriate because of explicit sex scenes.

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