The instructive history of book bans

As the fight to control what students read accelerates, Americans would do well to reflect on the nation’s long history of banning books during periods of social and cultural upheaval. Book banning campaigns didn’t work, wasted time and money, upended the lives of innocent people and, most important, erased aspects of the past and of contemporary human experience.While similar in many respects to previous efforts, the current campaign is new in its breadth and scale and its almost exclusive focus on books intended for schoolchildren and young adults, including picture books, which account for roughly 10 percent of challenged titles.

In Orange County, Florida, 673 books, ranging from “well-known classics to popular contemporary novels,” were pulled from classrooms this year because they might violate recent laws restricting students’ access to material dealing with race, sexual orientation and gender identity. In Texas, which is entering its “third straight year of coordinated book banning,” districts are pulling books by Dr. Seuss, Judy Blume and Eric Carle, among others.
A Texas law requires publishers to label books based on their sexual content. Books rated “sexually explicit” can’t be sold to public schools and must be removed from school libraries. Books that refer to or depict sex “require parental permission to read.”

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