|Weekly News Digest
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'How the New Banned Books Panic Fits Into America's History of School Censorship' by Constance Grady
Constance Grady writes the following for Vox:
It seems as though every few years, a new wave of panic sweeps across America about the books being taught in schools. They are too conservative, or too liberal; they’re being suppressed, or they’re dangerous; they’re pushing an agenda; attention must be paid. This winter sees America in the grips of the latest version of this story, with conservative-driven school book bannings heating up across the country. And experts say there’s a special virulence to this particular wave. …
And the bans, too, are much more forceful than they’ve been before. ‘Some are an individual school board deciding to pull something from a curriculum or take it out of the library,’ [Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America,] says. ‘But there are also much more sweeping pieces of legislation that are being introduced that purport to ban whole categories of books. And that’s definitely something new.’
While the extremes to which the most recent book bannings go are new, the pattern they follow is not. Adam Laats, a historian who studies the history of American education, sees our current trend of banned books as being rooted in a backlash that emerged in the US in the 20th century. That backlash, he says, was against ‘a specific kind of content, seen as teaching children, especially white children, that there’s something wrong with America.’
Looking at the school book bannings of the 1930s against the bannings of the 2020s can show us how history repeats itself—even when we attempt to bury our history.
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