The recent politicization of — well, almost everything — has put education front and center on issues ranging from COVID to widely misunderstood issues like critical race theory. One of the most visible effects has been the banning of books.
Or “book ban” or “book police”.
What is the book ban?
Prohibition and book policing are related but distinct practices of controlling access to certain books or regulating their content.
Book banning refers to the official banning or removal of specific books from public access, such as school libraries and reading lists, classrooms, public libraries, or bookstores. This censorship can take place for a variety of reasons, including concerns about controversial or objectionable content, political reasons, religious sensitivity, or moral grounds. The book ban is often the subject of criticism and debate as it raises questions about freedom of expression and the right of access to information. Proponents argue that it protects certain values or ideologies, while opponents argue that it infringes on intellectual freedom and limits the diversity of perspectives and ideas.
Book policing, on the other hand, encompasses a broader set of practices that involve monitoring and controlling the content of books in various ways. This may include pressuring publishers to edit or remove specific content, launching online campaigns to discredit or silence authors, or intimidating writers to prevent them from expressing certain perspectives.
Book font is often driven by ideological or cultural motivations and aims to shape the narrative and discourse around certain topics. Like book banning, book policing also raises concerns about free speech and creative expression, as it can lead to self-censorship and stifle the free exchange of ideas and perspectives – a difficult but important task in public education.
While the problem is more nuanced than a single article like this could address, we have to start somewhere. So let’s look at the process of responding to and mitigating the effects of what is often an absurd and irrational practice that rarely improves children’s lives.
In the face of book bans and book policing, schools can take several steps to respond effectively and defend intellectual freedom. We can too Stop teaching children how to read, but rather why to read.
8 Strategies for Responding to the Book Police
While policies and topics are more important than anything, a response to any issue whose primary forms are standards, bullet points, SMART goals, legalese, and clinical language is decidedly inhumane.
All “politics” begin and end with people.
See also The definition and characteristics of a “good school”
Emphasize goals (for school, books, etc.) on politics
The purpose of a library and its collection of books is to help children learn and grow through, in part, reading.
These “collections” are gathered from countless books available in a library, accessed by teachers and students, each with their own purpose for being there. There may be relevant questions about the collection, but before these inquiries, a goal or objective should be clarified and shared.
In other words, we need to share a definition of ‘library’, especially in light of its changing role in the age of digital media and changing forms of ‘books’ and associated content. We can answer that – if such an effort is worth it, given the massive demands on schools and teachers.
And, in return, we could take a critical look at all the texts rather than just those in political conflict. If a text is offensive to a group and considered biased, hurtful, problematic in its themes, etc., then we can decide how to respond if a response is warranted.
We could also invite those who have strong opinions about certain texts to bring a similar emotional and intellectual investment in all matters related to the education of their child.
See also In Defense of Absolute Literacy
Engage in open and good faith dialogue
Create opportunities for open and respectful discussions with parents, teachers, students and community members. Listen to their concerns and explain the educational value and relevance of the books in question. Encourage constructive dialogue to foster understanding and dispel misconceptions. This instead of receiving complaints at school board meetings or via social media, for example.
Organize workshops, seminars or parent-teacher meetings to raise awareness in the community about the importance of intellectual freedom, the role of literature in education and the potential impact of book bans on students’ intellectual growth . Raise awareness of the dangers of censorship and the benefits of a diversity of reading materials.
See also What are Literature Circles?
Develop a clear book selection policy
Establish a well-defined book selection policy that aligns with educational goals, program objectives, and principles of intellectual freedom. This policy should define the criteria for book selection and emphasize the importance of diversity of perspectives and critical thinking.
Review existing practices
Continually review and revise book selection policies to remain relevant and inclusive. Seek input from various stakeholders, including educators, students, parents, and community members. By involving multiple perspectives, you can strengthen your policies and make them more resilient in the face of challenges.
Develop a challenge-response protocol
Establish a simple procedure for handling disputes or book bans. This protocol should include gathering information about the complaint, forming a review committee, involving experts, and communicating decisions to affected parties. Make sure the process is fair, transparent and complies with legal requirements.
See also How to read a book
Seek legal advice if necessary
If book bans or challenges escalate and legal issues arise, consult legal experts specializing in education law or civil liberties. They can guide the school’s legal rights and responsibilities in such situations.
Collaborate with local, national and/or global advocacy groups
Connect with organizations dedicated to promoting intellectual freedom and fighting censorship. These groups can provide resources, advice and support for navigating book bans and help you amplify your message through their networks.
In short, responding to book bans requires a proactive and informed approach that prioritizes intellectual freedom, inclusion, and open dialogue. By fostering a supportive environment and engaging with stakeholders, schools can effectively combat the book police and protect students’ right to access diverse ideas and perspectives.