Freedom of expression?: Last year saw 1,648 books censored from US schools, Texas tops with 650+ bans

As per a new analysis, the past year saw hundreds of books; 801 to be exact, banned in Texas. These books ranged across multiple genres from the so-called “Queer agenda” to those featuring people of colour. 

Unfortunately, Texas is not alone, Florida banned 566 books, Pennsylvania pulled 457 out of classrooms, and Tennessee dealt the blow to 349 books. From June 2021 to July 2022, in total there were 2,532 instances of individual books all over the country; 1,648 unique titles were banned across 138 school districts in 32 states.

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Which books were banned?

As per Pen America’s report titled “Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools”, 5,049 schools and a whopping four million students were affected by these bans. 

The 1,648 banned books include:

– 674 that had LGBTQ+ themes, 659 had people of colour as protagonists, 

– 338 dealt with the issue of racism, 

– 357 contained sexual content; like stories of teen pregnancy, sexual assault, abortions, sex, relationships and even “informational books about puberty”

– 161 had themes of rights and activism

– Also banned were 141 memoirs, biographies, autobiographies

– And 64 had religious minority characters.

Of these, around 75 per cent were fiction, 24 per cent non-fiction and the remaining 1 per cent poetry. Even picture books catering to the young audience weren’t spared.

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Who’s behind these bans?

According to PEN America, at least 40 per cent of the 1,109 restrictions mentioned in the Index “are connected to either proposed or enacted legislation, or to political pressure exerted by state officials or elected lawmakers to restrict the teaching or presence of certain books or concepts.”

The report blames 50 groups (300 if you count the local, and regional chapters) across the country for these bans. It also points out that 73 per cent or 262 of these groups have been formed since 2021.

However, parents and community groups also played a role.

“This movement to ban books is deeply undemocratic, in that it often seeks to impose restrictions on all students and families based on the preferences of those calling for the bans and notwithstanding polls that consistently show that Americans of all political persuasions oppose book bans,” remarks the report. 

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It further points out that this movement has a variety of negative impacts: on students who are no longer represented, on teachers whose teachings are now dictated and on authors who have all but lost their right to tell stories their own way.

“We should heed this warning,” the report states, noting that attempts to undermine civil liberties and undermine democratic norms continue, and that “the dynamics surrounding school book bans are a canary in the coal mine for the future of American democracy, public education, and free expression”.

(With inputs from agencies)


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