Why and how books are contested


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Last month, Republican Governor-elect of Virginia Glenn Youngkin targeted Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in a campaign ad featuring an upset parent that his son was taught the 1987 novel while he was in high school.

This isn’t the only book by Morrison, a black woman, to be challenged in some communities – and as the education debate intensifies again, the books have become a flashpoint in the United States. .

A wide variety of books have been contested or banned for a wide variety of reasons, according to the American Library Association, which maintains a list of the most contested books in libraries and schools.

Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” isn’t the only book that has been challenged in some communities as the education debate intensifies again.

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Most of the books on the 2020 list – the most recent available – are contested, banned, or restricted due to alleged “LGBTQIA + content”, “anti-police messaging”, race themes, “divisive language” and “sexually explicit language” According to the ALA.

Deborah Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told CBS News that there appears to be an organized effort to challenge books that deal with two broad topics: racism or black American history and the LGBTQ community.

Stone said campaigns to ban books may spread more easily due to social media, and ALA has seen different people from different communities use the same language when they argue over books – a clue they have. got the idea from someone else, maybe online.

She said campaigns to ban books are usually a coordinated effort by activists targeting school boards.

Books with race themes are often banned under the “false claim” of critical race theory, Stone said. “We are talking about literary works, we are talking about individuals talking about their experiences in society – not critical race theory,” she said. “But there is a real effort to limit and restrict access to these materials.”

Critical breed theory recognizes racial disparities that have persisted in US history and provide an academic framework for understanding how racism is reinforced in US law and institutions.

There are no evidence that it is taught in K-12 schools, but its principles inspired dozens of states pass laws banning critical breed theory, which often allows parents to successfully campaign against certain books.

Under Texas’ new law banning critical race theory in the classroom, teachers cannot discuss the idea that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”

Jerry Craft’s “New Kid,” a book about an African-American boy going to a new predominantly white school, “is by no means a racist or critical racial theory,” and has won literary awards, Stone said. . But Katy’s, Texas parents managed to stop a Craft appearance in October and temporarily pulled the “New Kid” out of school “just saying it represented a critical breed theory,” he said. she declared.

“This is inappropriate teaching material,” Bonnie Anderson, a former Katy Independent School Board candidate, told CBS affiliate KKTV in October of the book. “They are singled out for white children displaying micro-aggression towards children of color. The books don’t say, ‘We want white children to feel like oppressors,’ but that is absolutely what they are. will.

Another parent, Omerly Sanchez, told KKTV that his school-aged son loved the book. “He said it was funny,” Sanchez said.

Like other laws that prohibit critical race theory, a new Tennessee law prohibits teaching any concept that would cause someone to experience “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or distress.” solely because of the individual’s race or gender ”and prohibits lessons that suggest anyone, based on their race or gender, is“ inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously ”.

Sharon Roberson, president and CEO of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, spoke out against the law. In a letter to the Tennessee Department of Education, Roberson said it would have detrimental effects on children’s education and society as a whole.

“The intention is really to put us in this war against each other. Let people say if you discuss these issues it will hurt the kids, as teachers are trained to teach and if you really want your students to have the benefit of a global society we live in, they will to have to know their history, ”said Roberson.

Stone said it’s not just books with race themes that are often contested. Books “in adulthood” which describe puberty, sexuality or sexual acts are generally considered “obscene” – although these themes are only part of the book and the concern often distorts the literary work. in general.

“Beloved is one of the best examples of that – it’s in the headlines right now – it’s not pornographic or obscene, it’s just about sex,” she said.

The book, which takes place during the era of reconstruction and vividly depicts the horrors of slavery and its legacy, contains violent and sexually explicit passages.

Republican lawmakers across Texas are working to impose a ban on what they see as “divisive concepts.”

Republican State Representative Matt Krause has compiled a list of 850 books he says should be banned, including “Rainbow, a first book of Pride,” intended for young readers, and “Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear “, intended for young adults. Krause, a candidate for Texas attorney general, sent a letter to school districts in Texas asking them to report how many books on the list they are currently making available to students.

Krause also asked districts to identify any other books that could include: human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, AIDS, sexually explicit pictures or material that “might cause students to feel discomfort, guilt, anxiety or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender, ”according to CBS Dallas. CBS News has reached out to a representative for Krause for comment and is awaiting a response.

Another Texas Republican lawmaker Jeff Cason called the state attorney general to investigate school districts that have sexually explicit books in their library. One of the books he deemed inappropriate was “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, which her editor describes as a “useful and touching guide to gender identity”.

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott echoed Krause and Cason’s concerns and called on the Texas Association of School Boards to remove books from school libraries that could be what he called of “pornographic” or “obscene”.

Stone said that books “that reflect the lives of LGBTQIA individuals and families” are often viewed as “obscene” or “pornographic” – which they often are not. “You might not be the audience, your child might not be the audience, but more often than not there is an audience for books and they are often desperately needed,” she said. declared.

Parents of students at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey have also challenged books on LGBTQ themes such as “Gender Queer” and another coming-of-age novel, “Lawn Boy,” according to My Central Jersey.

At a Hamilton County School Board meeting in Tennessee, parents gathered in large crowds to challenge books on reading lists for grades 8 through 12, including “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, reports CBS affiliate WDEF-TV.

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, school officials called on the principal to ban four books – “Lawn Boy,” “Gender Queer,” “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison – for “pornographic content,” according to The Virginian-Pilot, who obtained copies of their email to the Superintendent.

Stone said the censorship that bans reading a certain book violates the First Amendment rights of library users. She also said every parent has the right to raise concerns about a book. “It’s also part of the First Amendment, the right to petition,” she said.

The ALA encourages libraries and school boards to hear concerns about books, but also to put in place a “review policy” that asks petitioners whether they have actually read the book in its entirety and on the basis of their complaint, Stone said.

Just because someone says a book is obscene or inappropriate doesn’t mean it really is, Stone said. “It just means that it doesn’t meet their values ​​or their needs. ”

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GOP officials urge schools to ban some boo …

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