At least 50 groups have recently joined the evolving movement to remove books from schools, a new PEN America analysis shows.
PEN America, an organization that advocates for literary and free speech, released its latest analysis on Monday of banning books from school libraries and classroom curricula in the 2021-2022 school year.
Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s free speech and education programs and author of the report, he said that in the last decade “there has never been an organization of this scale or this kind of momentum,” but it is important to understand that these censorship efforts are often led by people who are not parents and who are only educated. without reading the books online, but officials are asking them to remove them from the shelves.
The organization has identified 50 groups active at the national, state or local level advocating for bans in K-12 schools, and most of these groups appear to have emerged in the past year. They range from local Facebook or online groups to more established conservative organizations.
“While we believe book bans are the work of concerned citizens, our report demonstrates that today’s wave of bans represents a coordinated book boycott campaign by sophisticated, ideological and well-resourced advocacy organizations,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO. Official PEN America.
One such group is Moms for Liberty, a conservative group that came together in Florida last year to fight for parents’ rights and has since expanded across the country. PEN America has identified seven other national groups with multiple chapters, as well as 38 groups operating at the state, regional or community level that appear unaffiliated with national groups or with each other, the report said.
“Some of the groups espouse Christian nationalist political views, and many have mission statements aimed at reforming public schools, in some cases to provide more religious education,” according to the report.
Friedman said some of the groups stem from “anger fueled against schools during the pandemic,” with some sharing their frustration over school closures, masks or vaccines. Other groups “have been around for a long time and now they’ve moved to pressure schools in new ways or with new success,” he said.
Moms for Liberty members at school board meetings and rallies to protest mask and vaccine mandates, book and curriculum materials related to race and LGBTQ rights, and critical race theory (CRT), among other issues.
PEN America said the actions of these groups can be “directly linked” to at least 20% of the book bans in effect in the 2021-2022 school year. These actions included members making statements at school board meetings, presenting a list of books for formal review, or submitting paperwork to challenge books with school districts.
While Americans have the right to organize and advocate under the First Amendment, PEN America says it is concerned about how these tactics are being used “with the ultimate goal of restricting or banning books” and the extent to which schools are yielding to the groups’ demands. without objection
“Parents and community members play an important role in shaping what students learn in school, but this goes beyond organic expressions of concern or normal parent-educator interactions in a healthy school environment,” Nossel said. “These groups have made it their mission to undermine educators, sabotage students’ freedom to read, and ignite divisive battles that distract from teaching and learning.”
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As part of the report, PEN America released an updated number of book bans. From July 2021 to June 2022, the group says, there were 2,532 book bans targeting 1,648 different titles.
About 41 percent of those were books that told stories related to LGBTQ people or featured a queer protagonist or prominent supporting character, the report said. Another 40 percent of titles have main characters who are people of color, and 21 percent of titles directly address issues of race and racism, the report said.
The findings are similar to those released last week by the American Library Association, which said efforts to censor books in the US are on track to surpass last year’s numbers.
ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reported 681 attempts to ban or curtail “library resources” in K-12 schools, colleges and public libraries nationwide between January 1 and August 31.
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The group tracked 729 book challenges in 2021, based on direct reports to the ALA, news coverage, and public records. ALA said it was the largest attempt to ban books since the organization began compiling its list of most challenging books.
The organization has been collecting data on banned books since 1990, but since at least 2001 it has published a list of the most questionable books.
“The unprecedented number of challenges we are already seeing this year reflects coordinated national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deny everyone (especially young people) the opportunity to explore a world beyond the limits of personal experience,” said Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada of ALA. the presidents