Friday, March 24, 2023

Republicans are increasing their charges of censoring thousands of books in schools in the United States of America

Images show empty library shelves; others with tomes of books bent round them or covers such that the titles do not exist. There are arguments from Florida schools that have been requested by parents who believe the services are inappropriate for students. In one of them They withdrew the titles of 150 titles of one person. In another district, a petition to censor more than 3,600 students in all schools in their county.

The struggle in schools to idealize the end of US history: “The question of the founding story is perceived as a threat.”

In addition

Censorship of books in schools in the United States is a well-known phenomenon, but it occurs in isolated cases. When the case reached the Supreme Court in the 1980s, it affected only 11 titles. Today, a range of initiatives by Republican politicians and citizen organizations with conservative ties are attempting to remove thousands of books from public libraries.

For two years, book criticism has become a political and electoral debate in the one country with the greatest protections for freedom of speech. Experts say the move has a dose of political opportunism, but it’s also caught up in ways with Americans that until recently were hard to predict. Thus, the leadership of the president of Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis, found the support of other lawmakers who passed his initiative or even aspired to take it further.

States like Kansas have added the premise that a teacher who uses any material that deals with homosexuality in school can be reprimanded. In Arizona, parents can contact teachers and schools directly if they believe the law has been broken. Missouri prohibits public funds from purchasing titles that contain “gamer” content. And in North Dakota, the Senate passed a bill to remove titles that contain print materials from public libraries, including adult ones, up to 30 days in jail for librarians who don’t remove those books.

The mechanism conceived by the Republicans is simple. The law allows parents to report that they find a book inappropriate because of its “obscene” or “pornographic” content. Activists sometimes denounce this as an obscene scene of a kiss between two persons of the same sex. But as soon as the title is indicated, he is ordered to withdraw it until the school’s studies agree on the board whether the text is appropriate or not.

A SNOW CASE of organized litigation

A number of conservative organizations also provide instructions for referencing books, which has allowed a large number of publications to be challenged. One of them is MassResistance, described as an “anti-LGTBQ+ hate group” by the Southern Policy Rights Center, which specializes in counting these organizations. Others are Moms for Freedom and Parents Defending Education. On their web pages they publish a guide to understanding the language “awakened” how to create forms to collect comments in favor of the book.

“You can set up a dedicated social media account for the school and document indoctrination,” says Parents Defending Education. “You’re looking for hard things out there from the community and the world to see as a very powerful tool.” Another group, No Left Turn in Education, provides sample letters that can be sent to different organizations and petitions and sample other groups across the country.

“It’s a lot different with a school principal dealing with an angry parent than it is when they have to respond to a state law that’s going to be implemented,” explains Jonathan Friedman, director of America’s PEN, an advocacy organization. freedom of speech through the expression of letters. Its latest report documents that all books were removed from schools between the summer of 2021 and the spring of 2022 : more than 40% had protagonists from racial minorities, another 30% had LGTBI themes or characters and 7% spoke of transgender people.

Friedman attributes the crackdown, in part, to filling school libraries over the past decade with titles that reflect the country’s diversity and progress. “A child could not be in school with two parents and find a book that talks about the same thing,” he says. “But when this book ends in a house where they have the goods between one man and one woman in marriage, they don’t want their children to know that they are human.”

Moved by the anger of a few parents to the lawmaker in recent months, he has also been surprised by the institutions that track various attempts at censorship. “The scale is immense, the wave of censorship bordering on the absurd,” says Friedman, who attributes this scale to the fact that institutions “become more efficient at getting larger amounts of books removed.”

The wonderful success of censorship

Experts are surprised that the Republicans, led by the president of Florida and a possible presidential candidate in 2024, Ron DeSantis, opted for a trick that did not promise great depth among citizens. Barely one in eight Americans believe that parents are the ones who decide what books are in school, according to CNN data.

However, the rise of a little-known Republican candidate in 2020 as the president of Virginia has given many conservatives clues. The winner, Glenn Youngkin, had promised to draw the lessons of the school career if he won the election, and to pay the game.

In just two years, other Republicans like DeSantis have banned Florida schools from teaching gender identity and sexual orientation up to the 11th century, limited lessons on racism and slavery, and institutions can no longer teach a special history curriculum. African American in the US for students under the age of 18.

“Politicians have exaggerated citizens’ fears about how schools deal with issues of race or sexuality,” explains Christopher Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. But he would work them out. Thanks in part to the laxity of laws and deliberately confusing discourse, teachers are left wondering what they can and cannot do in school, and what books they can recommend. “They have created a self-censorship problem; [los profesores] they avoid discussions of ideas that could cause them problems”, adds Finan.

Nearly half the district follows DeSantis’ lead

According to a count by the organization PEN America, about 20 states have approved similar measures. In total there are 270 laws from the previous year. The attack affects classes in which minors learn to detect cases of discrimination and brutality, subjects related to race, gender or any philosophy that has raised public debates about racism, gender identity or sexuality.

It also belongs to things where they learn the history of their country. “Florida’s struggles to teach African-American history have turned into a battle over who controls the past,” reported the Miami Herald last week. Millions of students are at risk, for example, of not being able to read the works of Toni Morrison, the only African-American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Nearly century-old companies like Essential Words, which serve school libraries with titles for different age groups, have seen their collections target new demands on African-American, Asian or Hispanic children. Conservative America does not want these stories to enter the school. One of them is about Roberto Clemente, the Puerto Rican national baseball legend, whose history can no longer be read in Florida. In the meantime, ‘The Struggle for Me’, by Adolf Hitler, continues to circulate freely, because no one has asked for it to be withdrawn.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, children’s stories and the work of Toni Morrison

Friedman uses the example of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, the title of Margaret Attwood, which is present in many requests for censorship, because it mentions violations of its content. “The classic and modern legislation was made considering that the sexual content is essential to the narrative,” said the expert.

However, the precision in the language of the new laws can accuse the label of pornography and get it out of schools, even temporarily. Other victims were children’s texts such as the graphic novel ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’ or the work ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman.

“The movement is based on common sense,” explains Friedman, who states that the movement is “a group that wants to impose its own rules on public institutions.”

Censorship reached the courts

The number of address restrictions over the past two years exceeds all previous records, according to the American Association of Tallies. There are more than 681 title withdrawal requests that affect more than 1,650 books. As a result, various organizations have brought a lawsuit, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Texas law and that led to an investigation by the Department of Education.

It would be a first for the Government to trace the Conservative offensive in banning school books that deal with issues of sexuality and gender identity. The lawsuit against Texas alleges that it violates a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender in schools.

But the fear of anti-censorship activists is that while politicians are talking about public schools and libraries, they are trying to go further. Several Republican senators have asked, for example, to show television programs if they broadcast LGTBI content.

“We are talking about laws that want to impose new age restrictions on books and warnings to parents as if they used to be on cigarette boxes,” laments Friedman, who fears that books are “another consumer-oriented object.” The idea of ​​controlling the circulation of information, they lament about PEN America, can be applied in schools and children’s libraries, but also in adults, public libraries, bookstores and universities. For Friedman, “once you get hold of this idea, it can go in any direction.”

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