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Books Education United States

53% More Book Banning Incidents In US Schools This Year 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-bans-the-banners dept.
vikingpower writes "Isabel Allende's The House of The Spirits. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. What do these titles have in common? They are banned at a school in the U.S. Yes, in 2013. A project named The Kids' Right to Read Project (by the National Coalition Against Censorship ) investigated three times the average number of incidents, adding to an overall rise in cases for the entire year, according to KRRP coordinator Acacia O'Connor. To date, KRRP has confronted 49 incidents in 29 states this year, a 53% increase in activity from 2012. During the second half of 2013, the project battled 31 new incidents, compared to only 14 in the same period last year. 'It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,' O'Connor said. 'We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block. The NCAC also offers a Book Censorship Toolkit on its website."
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53% More Book Banning Incidents In US Schools This Year

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:10PM (#45832439)
    the new 15th Century.
    • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:37PM (#45832681) Journal

      Ellison's Invisible Man is banned? Dammit, I was forced to read that (very slow-paced book about racism) in high school. Hours of my life I'll never get back! Why couldn't you have banned it earlier? Whyyyy?

      Actually, that one baffles me: unlike, say, Huck Finn, Invisible Man is primarily about racism: of course it depicts racism and racial stereotypes; illustrating just how messed up we were was the point of the story (the man was "invisible" in the sense that no one ever noticed he was a person, deserving basic consideration).

      • by Rick Zeman (15628)

        Ellison's Invisible Man is banned? Dammit, I was forced to read that (very slow-paced book about racism) in high school. Hours of my life I'll never get back! Why couldn't you have banned it earlier? Whyyyy?

        LMAO. I thought the same thing when reading the summary and was going to post exactly that. (I think my torture was freshman college.)

        • Have you tried it in audio format? Sometimes a good reader will make all the difference.
        • Exactly the same for me. I was going to post that too. I remember suffering through that book and coming out the other end glad that I was done and wouldn't have to read it again. Same goes for several other books I was forced to read.

          Even so, I'm glad to hear that these are isolated incidents of banned books, and that even the ones I may not like are not being banned in any sort of appreciable way. 49 cases across the entire nation is not exactly a huge deal, considering that's several orders of magnitude

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:48PM (#45832785)

        Politics, probably. There's a lot of backlash against political correctness - some people would see reading such a book in schools as 'liberal indoctrination' intended to make white people feel guilty about being white.

        • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:14PM (#45832949) Journal

          I'd give you odds it's the reverse - that someone searched through an eBook library and banned every one with racial epithets regardless of context.

          • by darnkitten (1533263) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @07:33PM (#45833445)

            Politics, probably. There's a lot of backlash against political correctness - some people would see reading such a book in schools as 'liberal indoctrination' intended to make white people feel guilty about being white.

            I'd give you odds it's the reverse - that someone searched through an eBook library and banned every one with racial epithets regardless of context.

            Usually, anymore, it is an organization that specializes in book or curriculum challenges. It will have a list of "objectionable" materials; downloadable complaints; challenges with page numbers and everything included; and all the press releases needed. The parent/teacher/administrator/pastor/insert authority figure does not even have to read the book.

            Check out the Parents Action League's Book Alert Page (sorry, can't remember how to insert a link) for an example.

        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:47PM (#45833179) Journal

          Gotta agree with sibling... most school districts are far more enamored with stomping out all hallmarks of what most of us refer to as the real world.

          Can't have harsh terminology, can't have depicted violence... hell, they can't even stand to have some wayward little boy kissing a girl, or pointing a finger at a classmate while saying "bang".

          With all the zero tolerance BS going around? I can almost assure you that the censorship isn't coming from some drooling caricature of the "Right Wing" (cue ominous music), but more a result of overly-anxious officials scouring the libraries to expunge anything that could remotely intrude on what they assert is the "best" way to teach a child.

          • by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) <SammyKake@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @09:05PM (#45833971)

            With all the zero tolerance BS going around?

            Zero tolerance = zero thinking. It's a way to remove the responsibility out of school administrators and pin it on some other government body, probably one with lawyers. It's a "Just following orders" for education.

          • If you can come up from your fantasy of PC guvvmint censors, you will realize that these are "challenged" books. This means someone NOT in the local school district's governing body or staff (usually a parent or community member) demanded that the book be removed. And yes, this is almost ALWAYS from the "right wing."

        • So let me get this straight. The way to deal with political correctness is more political correctness?

          That's what always amazed me about the Huckleberry Finn bans. You had everyone from the KKK to Civil Rights types demanding its removal from school libraries. About the only thing you could say was that the White Supremacists got the point.

        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @11:14PM (#45834589) Homepage Journal

          While I am a really tired of PC I do not think that is the reason.
          Of course my school didn't ban books. It had a far better solution. In my Jr. High School they had a small book shelf that had books that required parents permission. One of the books on that shelf was Brave New World which I will never understand being restricted since it was anti drug and anti casual sex. It was not a problem for me since my parents gave me permission to read what ever.
          In High School they put the books like Catch 22 and Slaughter House 5 in the "young adults room". You had to be in 11th or 12th grade to go in but for some reason it was never open. They where always using it for projects and such. Very effective way to not have the books cause a problem.

          • by tlambert (566799)

            While I am a really tired of PC I do not think that is the reason.
            Of course my school didn't ban books. It had a far better solution. In my Jr. High School they had a small book shelf that had books that required parents permission. One of the books on that shelf was Brave New World which I will never understand being restricted since it was anti drug and anti casual sex. It was not a problem for me since my parents gave me permission to read what ever.

            Uh... Brave New World is all about sex, drugs, and shallow relationships. One of the plot points centered around one of the characters mis-dialing her birth control device (her "Malthusian belt"), and any message to the contrary was only by way of negative examples. It was also about the consequence to a society which had effectively "banned God". Another plot point revolves around Shakespeare's works having gotten banned, and so anyone whose into banning books in the first place would probably have as m

            • Brave New World ran into the problem of trying to write a dystopia which, upon further consideration, actually looks like a very nice world to live in. Sure, it may be a bit oppressive to some... but the standard of living is ridiculously luxurious, crime is all but unheard of, unemployment is barely even imaginable and overall the people are very happy there.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jythie (914043)
        It is hard to say, but keep in mind a lot of regions are going through a 'poor abused white man, any mention or discussion of racism is just libs trying to take down white people!'. There were several attempts to get teachers fired this year because they made 'white male students' uncomfortable.
        • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:49PM (#45833201)

          Why wouldn't it make us uncomfortable?

          That teacher made no effort to make the distinction between the actions of people in the past, and the young white men in the room. That's a huge effin problem. Let's discuss racism, and stereotypes, and prejudice, but do it in a way that is not racist in of itself.

          Do you think it was only white men that had slaves and were racist? Puhleeeze.

          Black people can be the most racist people on the planet now. Look at genocide happening in Africa. Christians and Muslims in Syria. Racism, slavery, and those associated evils are not the exclusive domain of white men. Black people sold each other into slavery in Africa. People tend to forget that. Slaves were picked up at the coast, but it was not white men hunting them to bring them to port.

          That's what is so damn offensive about those "libs", "teachers", whatever dealing with children. I just call them arrogant racist assholes.

          I was passionate about history, but I would have been deeply hurt and offended if there was too much emphasis on white men being the problem, and not enough attention paid towards creating a distinction that the young white men in the room are not inherently evil.

          It's fucking hurtful. It creates a divide. It perpetuates the problem.

          I totally understand the thinking behind the book ban. The "white man" is unfairly demonized well after we are supposed to getting rid of this shit. Does anyone think it's a really good idea to create judgement and negative emotions in a young person solely based on the color of their skin?

          Children should not suffer the sins of the parents. I am not my parents.

          • "The "white man" is unfairly demonized"

            No. It is, in fact, pretty fair.

            • by stdarg (456557)

              No, it's not.

          • What? Black slave owners? I don't believe it! Surely this is just another lie from the white devils! ...Oh, wait a minute... [wikipedia.org]

    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      Banned in a school \= banned in the US.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:16PM (#45832471)

    Best way to make people want something is to ban it.

  • Ban or Censor? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377)
    There is a difference. Its a shame the words are interchanged just to outrage the reader.

    Lots of books should be censored from our public schools for a variety of inappropriate content. More books are being published every year, so that list should grow. Kids can get any of those books via their parents if they want. As for the particular books on the list, well, each case must be discussed separately.
    • Re:Ban or Censor? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:24PM (#45832549)

      The difference is whether or not you agree with the people doing the banning.

    • Re:Ban or Censor? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:40PM (#45832705)

      Kids can get any of those books via their parents if they want.

      Yeah, that's privilege speaking.

      The people who most rely on public institutions are the ones who are least able to replace them with their own money. Average middle-class kid and just get his mom to order the book on amazon. Average lower-class kid's mom is working 60 hours a week just to pay the rent and keep food on the table. She doesn't even have a computer to order from amazon and couldn't afford to if she did.

      • If you think I grew up in "privilege" then you could not be more wrong. Your assumption tells me more about you than any point you tried to make. Maybe there are some cases where a kid can't get the books he or she desires, but that does not impact the argument made.
        • by jythie (914043)
          Privilege is a complex and scaled topic. In this context, yes, if you are asserting that kids can just go to their parents and get the books then that is a privileged assumption since that is not a viable option to large percentage of the of the population. And this is an important part of the argument since the point is that many children really do rely on public institutions for obtaining such works, and thus removing them from public access puts up a significant barrier that children of more middle cla
          • by lgw (121541)

            "Privilege" is a hammer to beat down arguments without having to actually have an argument. It's the new "that's racist".

            Used books stores are still around. Books passed hand-to-hand (a tradition for banned books) are still around. Poor as I was growing up, I could scrape together bus fare and a couple bucks for books every couple of weeks, which goes petty far in the deeply discounted section of half-price books. I also took the bus to the library regularly, but there was better stuff in the used book

            • by jythie (914043)
              It can vary wildly. For instance in the region I grew up in, the school library was pretty much it unless your parents were willing to buy you stuff or drive you down to the 1000 square foot public library. There were no busses, used bookstores were few and far between (and, last time I looked, are completely gone now). School libraries are a bit of a last resort, there are all sorts of better options IF those options are available.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Mr D from 63 (3395377)
            Since none of these books is banned from the public library, I'd say its a bit of a needless side-track to the discussion. Kids that are brought up in challenged environments have a wide number of factors that will limit their ability to succeed in life. Ready access to a few particular books in the school library is very low on the list of things to worry about for those kids.
            • by jythie (914043)
              True, it is hardly the largest factor, esp at these small scales, but it is a good one to keep an eye on since, as you say, they such kids already have it tough, and the school should be giving them the best chance it can with the best resources available. Explicitly taking low cost resources out of the pool works counter to that goal.
            • Since none of these books is banned from the public library,

              Yes, I expected someone to bring up public libraries. Those tend to be few and far between in the neighborhoods where poor kids live. Given that mom's working 60 hours a week, she won't be taking junior to the library all that often either. Full disclosure: I have many librarians in the family.

              Kids that are brought up in challenged environments have a wide number of factors that will limit their ability to succeed in life.

              Yes, they all add up. Restricting their access to "subversive" knowledge doesn't help.

      • Libraries still exist. I used to make a twenty-minute bike ride to go to one, several times a week, before I got my driver's license (which was 1990). It didn't hurt that there was a sketchy neighborhood near it that would sell me Penthouse and Playboy when I was fourteen.
      • Re:Ban or Censor? (Score:4, Informative)

        by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:17PM (#45832989)

        If it was a money problem, public libraries would offer a convinient solution.

        The true luxury that "privileged" kids have are parents who manage to get them intrested in reading.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      I happen to agree, and as long as its still available to parents and older children i'm not so sure either term applies.

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      I don't know if by censor you mean make some redacted version of the work available or make the entire work unavailable.

      If its the latter I am not sure I agree with you but many will. On the whole there is not bright line for what is vulgar, what is culture, and what is appropriate for a given age reader but people have been searching for one almost as long as people have been writing books and its a moving target. I would argue that parents, relatives, and nannies need to spend enough time with their chi

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:20PM (#45832505)

    More people have been persecuted, hounded, ruined, tortured, burned, murdered, and just exterminated en-masse because of a book called the Bible than any other document in human history including Mein Kampf and Das Capital put together.

    Just sayin' .

    • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:36PM (#45832671) Homepage Journal

      This "Bible" book condones a hell of a lot of stuff:

      • Incest (Lot & his daughters)
      • Terrorism (see the 10 plagues)
      • Biological warfare (again, see the 10 plagues)
      • Genocide
      • Rape

      It clearly should be banned.

      • Like slavery. In the old testament it even states how to handle a slave, and in the new it does not even condamn it really. If anybody really wanted evidence that the bible are a product of human within their time, then just look at what it excplicitely support or does not bother condamning, which we find today abbhorrent. It becomes quickly clear that the bible is nowhere near the moral guidance it is purported to be.
    • by gewalker (57809)

      Highest estimate I was able to find at all related to the Bible related deaths was 17 million in a quick search.

      How about Das Capital and everything related to it? 100 million give or take.

      The 100 million deaths related to Communism being attributed to Das Kapital is certainly at least as valid as counting the Crusades and the Inquisition as being a result of the Bible -- Nothing in the Bible can accurately be attributed as a direct cause of these 2 events. Just as in the case of Das Kapital was not the dir

      • 100 million American Indians dead between Cortez and the American Indian genocide. Plus, lower population then, so greater relative percentage. If you go by percentage of population, it's a total wipe out in favor of religion. .

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by lgw (121541)

          That's a terrible comparison. Most of the deaths (as many as 90% of the population in Central America and 95% in North America - staggering numbers) were inevitable as soon as anyone, for any reason crossed the ocean.

          Your hated for religion seems an irrational compulsion - have you talked to anyone about it?

          • Get real. Americans explicitly, under the "theory" of "Manifest Destiny", wiped out the American Indians by massacring them, slaughtering their buffalo etc etc etc.

            This was again explicitly a religious doctrine- "It is Manifestly God's Destiny for us that we should extend our nation to the Pacific" So please.

            If American Indians were "inevitably" going to die because white people stood foot upon their shores , then would have been no need for the Indian Wars or the US infecting blankets with

        • by operagost (62405)
          The Bible doesn't say anything about wiping out Native Americans.
    • by russotto (537200)

      The Bible doesn't cause all that stuff (though it depicts); it's just the fan clubs that are a problem. No Bible, and they'd rally around something else; _Dianetics_, maybe.

    • More people have been persecuted, hounded, ruined, tortured, burned, murdered, and just exterminated en-masse because of a book called the Bible than any other document in human history including Mein Kampf and Das Capital put together.

      Just sayin' .

      As long as your meaning is, "They were persecuted for believing in Judaism or Christianity," or for owning a Torah or Bible, very possibly.

      Beginnings of Christian Martyrdom [eyewitnesstohistory.com]

      In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man."

      WHEN EUROPEANS WERE SLAVES [osu.edu]

      A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 – a far greater number than had ever been estimated before.

      League of Militant Atheists [wikipedia.org]
      North Korea Ranked No. 1 for Christian Persecution [cbn.com]
      Persecuted and forgotten: Egypt's Christians [www.dw.de]
      A Global Slaughter of Christians, but America’s Churches Stay Silent [thedailybeast.com]
      Christian Persecution in China Despite Supposed Religious 'Freedom' [breitbart.com]
      The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler's Force [nytimes.com]

    • Reliable citations, please.

      Also, one can do anything he wants "in the name of" some document or philosophy, regardless of whether or not it's actually consistent with it. For example, if I hear that you're not a fan of dogs, and so I kick a puppy in your name, does that suddenly make you a monster?

  • by Maquis196 (535256) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:22PM (#45832519)

    Words can hurt you, won't someone please think of the children!

  • That my freshman reading list for high school included books such as:

    Brave New World, Black Like Me, A Kiss Before Dying, 1984, Animal Farm, etc. Yes, a fairly subversive Catholic high school. Then of course during my years there we read the Greek Tragedies, one that stands out is Lysistrata, then of course The Hobbit, The Canterbury Tales, and Beowulf. Yes, read them.
  • This headline seems rather sensational since the numbers are so small. The US has roughly 100,000 public schools. The fact that only 49 of them (well, probably some of these are full districts, so the number of schools will be greater) are banning books should be celebrated. This is people fighting the good fight against highly local ignoramuses, not some big national problem. I'm glad they're doing what they're doing, but I'm more glad that it's almost unnecessary.
    • The fact that only 49 of them (well, probably some of these are full districts, so the number of schools will be greater) are banning books should be celebrated.

      The concern I would have here is that we have no way of knowing what fraction of all book bannings come to the attention of NCAC. Particularly if a ban is implemented by a single school, banning a book from the curriculum may only directly affect one or two classrooms' worth of children. Not all of those students (or even their parents) may necessarily be aware that a ban has been applied. In subsequent years, no one may have any inkling that the ban exists; the book will have silently disappeared from the curriculum. The syllabus doesn't usually include a list of the books that aren't being taught. So for those reasons, I suspect that the number given - 49 instances - represents a very significant under-reporting.

      On the other hand, that same under-reporting gives me a (small) measure of comfort with respect to the other number in the summary: the purported 53% year-over-year increase in bannings. Without ready access to more data, it's entirely possible that the increase in cases is not due to an increase in bannings (undoubtedly a bad thing) but due to an increase in awareness regarding the NCAC and their Kids' Right to Read Project which would make these incidents more likely to be reported and challenged when they do occur (which would be a good thing).

  • People with loose morals often read books that have been banned. People with strict morals, by contrast, form censorship committees and study those books in a group setting.

  • If that continues to hold the course, then its not a huge deal. As long as parents who disagree with the content can still buy the books and let their children read them. 90% of the books in primary schools don't need to be there anyway, as they are 'fluff' and not directly related to the curriculum.

    Public libraries should retain the titles however.

  • OTT headline? (Score:5, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:50PM (#45832809)
    "53% More Banning Incidents"

    No, they're investigated 53% more requests. The linked article says nothing about how many were actually banned.
    And the majority of requests were from parents or library patrons, not school districts or state/local govts.

    49 cases. Is that idiocy? Are these idiots? Sure. But good grief....49 cases out of how many million kids and parents?

    Alternate non-OTT headline - "0.002% of parents in the US have requested a book be banned in their local school library."
    You could find a greater percentage of people complaining about just about anything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually decided to brave the comments section to post just this - the headline is wrong. This system (at least where I live in Northern California) works something like this: 1. Parent finds "objectionable material" in a book their child was assigned. 2. Parent ignores the packet they got before the school year started that tells them the reading list and letting them know that if they don't approve of any book/material for their child, they can work with the teacher for an alternative. 3. Parent goes to
  • I hear that never even made it into the libraries in the first place.

    That's a better form of censorship than letting it in, and then trying to ban it.

  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:58PM (#45832875)
    and we take their word for it.
  • Yawn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sideslash (1865434) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:10PM (#45832921)
    Schools in general act "in loco parentis", and decide what material young people should be exposed to in order to have a good education. Schools may make good or bad choices, but they do make choices. I am not surprised that a book is banned at a school library. It is no more or less appropriate than a ban on taking kids to a field trip to a strip club. I as a parent would happily ban my children from attendance at a strip club, and a school (acting, again, in loco parentis) may do the same if it decides it's best.

    Don't like that? Then homeschool your kids and be responsible for their welfare yourself.

    For what it's worth, I homeschool my own kids. I won't show slasher movies to a 3 year old. I expect an 18 year old to be prepared to be an adult. At some point in there a transformation has taken place; every child is different, but parents can and do mess it up by exposing their kids to junk when they're not ready for it. Such junk could be bad friends (learning to be racists/dishonest/etc.) or (yes, Slashdot) bad media for their age and emotional maturity.
  • The government should quietly work to have 1984 banned from schools. It will make the rest of the transition all the more less resistive.
  • ...libraries no longer know where to file it. After all, anyone reading it these days would assume it's a work of non-fiction.

    The government assumed it was an official training manual...

  • In the 2002 Census of Governments, the United States Census Bureau enumerated the following numbers of school systems in the United States:

    13,506 school district governments
    178 state-dependent school systems
    1,330 local-dependent school systems
    1,196 education service agencies (agencies providing support services to public school systems)

    School district [wikipedia.org]

    In a statistical universe this size, "49 incidents" tells me nothing.

    I need to know where these incidents took place.

    I need to know if decisions were being made on the state or local level.

    I need to know how these incidents were resolved --- and how that has changed over the years.

    A breakdown by age group, title, author and subject is essential as well.

  • Ralph Ellison's book is "Invisible Man". It's hard to take seriously the literary lamentations of someone who biffs something as basic as the titles of the books being lamented.

  • by kenh (9056) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @11:36PM (#45834665) Homepage Journal

    It appears that dropping a book from the curriculum now passes as being 'banned'?

    So when the new Norton Anthology of American Literature is published, are we now saying that the previous version/edition was 'banned'? Of course not, but if a school district decides to drop, for example Huck Finn, BUT the district keeps the book in the school library, is it considered 'banned'? By this group, the answer is yes.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @01:49AM (#45835115) Journal

    "Isabel Allende's The House of The Spirits. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. What do these titles have in common?"

    None of the authors are white?

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