Banned in the USA: Lighting a Fire for Reading and Not to Books
12:30 PM PST – 1:45 PM PST
Across the U.S. in 2021, Republicans introduced and passed legislation restricting curriculum/instruction and censoring books and texts (over 850 identified in Texas), often under the rhetorical umbrella of “banning Critical Race Theory.” The consequences of these actions have resulted in a teacher being fired in Tennessee for teaching an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates, school board members calling for book burnings in Virginia, and Texas passing a second, more restrictive bill.
Ariana Garcia reports on Texas:
“What’s happening is a broader interpretation and confusion about how we talk about race and really important conversations are being silenced,” [Dr. Chloe Latham-]Sikes said. “In practice, because they [the laws] are so vague, they are interpreted as applying to any conversation about race, racism, social justice, sex, sexism and discrimination. That’s where that chilling effect and silencing is happening and it’s really concerning.”A new, more restrictive ‘critical race theory’ law now in effect for Texas schools
For educators in public K-16 settings, we must acknowledge that this legislative agenda directly contradicts The Students’ Right to Read (NCTE):
One of the foundations of a democratic society is the individual’s right to read, and also the individual’s right to freely choose what they would like to read. This right is based on an assumption that the educated possess judgment and understanding and can be trusted with the determination of their own actions. In effect, the reader is freed from the bonds of chance. The reader is not limited by birth, geographic location, or time, since reading allows meeting people, debating philosophies, and experiencing events far beyond the narrow confines of an individual’s own existence.
Roundtable leaders from K-16 address the following:
- Understanding Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project in the classroom
- Confronting and avoiding self-censorship
- Policies and practices for challenges to books/texts and curriculum
- Communicating with parents and political leaders about curriculum, instruction, and students’ right to access books/texts
- The importance of classroom and school libraries, especially for marginalized students
- Preparing pre-service ELA teachers for challenges to texts and curriculum
- Student reaction and responses to censorship and challenged books/texts
- Educators’ commitment to academic freedom and access to books/texts
- The disproportionate impact of censorship on texts by and about Black authors/experiences and LGBTQ+ authors/experiences
- Navigating texts labeled as “pornography” or “profane”
Following roundtable discussions, a brainstorming session explores strategies for honoring those commitments in the classroom.
Christian Z. Goering
- The Right to Read: Honoring Choice and Voice for Our Common Humanity, Alyssa Likens, Spartanburg 6 Schools, SC and Katie Kelly, Furman University, SC
- Cowards, Censorship, and Collateral Damage: The Other Reading War, P.L. Thomas, Furman University
- The Power of Words: Students Fighting Censorship in Their Communities, Donalyn Miller, Independent Scholar
- Called to the Office and Yet We Keep Cool: ELA Resources and Practices, Stacy Haynes-Moore, Coe College
- I’m Queer, Not Profane: Disrputing Policy Mandates that Censor Readers and Reading, Michael J. Young, University of Minnesota Duluth
- People are Not Prohibited Concepts: (Re)Defining Racist Laws in Red States, Emily Pendergrass and Brian Kissel, Vanderbilt University, Nashville
- Writing the Righteous Fight: Why Books Like Mine Are Crucial, Ellen Hopkins, currently America’s most banned author.
- To Self-Censor or Not? Text Selection and Inclusion at a Primarily White Institution, Lisa Scherff, Community School of Naples
- Courage, Cowardice, and Culpability in Footloose ISD, Jennifer Abramson, Austin ISD
- “But I need to be objective!”: Burning through preservice teachers’ self-censorship of tough topics, Melanie Shoffner, James Madison University
- ELA Teacher Preparation and Legislative Censorship: PSTs Analyzing Anti-CRT Legislation to Imagine Civic Engagement and Critical Education – Mike P. Cook and Lindsey Ives, Auburn University