Fighting Book Bans—and WinningBreaking News
tags: censorship, teaching history, critical race theory, Book Bans
Book lovers should take heart. The censors can be beaten. And longtime library advocates have mustered an arsenal of statistics, talking points and legal strategies to keep shelves full and fascinating.
The most powerful fact: Censorship isn’t popular. Fifty-six percent of respondents to an August 2022 survey disagreed with the statement: “If any parent objects to a book in the public school library, that book should be removed, even if other parents like the book.” A poll published in March 2023 by Wall Street Journal-NORC found 61 percent were more concerned that “some schools may ban books and censor topics that are educationally important” than by the prospect that instructional materials might offend students or parents. That skepticism isn’t partisan, either.
Because library and school policies are made locally, library advocates must tailor their campaigns to their communities.
In a red state or town, that might mean public testimony shouldn’t emphasize that books by or about LGBTQ people or people of color are disproportionately challenged. It could backfire, explains Peter Bromberg, associate director of EveryLibrary. A lawmaker who thinks homosexuality is wrong or anti-racism is a menace will be more likely to excise books if he thinks doing so will further his crusades.
Instead, library supporters can point out that censorship has costs and wastes public resources. Libraries have been sued for removing books or restricting access to them on the grounds that it is illegal for public facilities to favor one political viewpoint over another. Towns can’t ban books because they’re Marxist, or use internet filters that restrict access to gay rights websites while letting users browse conversion therapy ministries. Even if a library or school system wins a case, defending it costs money, and damages can be substantial. Recently, reminders of the risks of litigation helped library advocates temper a censorship policy in League City, Tex.
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