Anyone even remotely connected to education right now knows how hard the last several years have been on educators. Teaching remotely or hybrid during COVID. Managing student behaviors and mental health struggles related to COVID. The impact on our own health and families.
And then: book bans.
Despite a 2022 poll showing that 70% of parents oppose banning books, there has been an escalation of book bans in the 2022-2023 school year. Small but very vocal political interest groups harass teachers, librarians, and school boards to remove books from curriculum and libraries. They often effectively censor material without even having read the books themselves.
Now it’s easier for parents to narrow curriculum to fit their worldview with states like Texas adopting pro-censorship legislation.
Illinois isn’t having it.
This week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker made history by signing legislation that would withhold funding from public libraries in Illinois that ban books.
Starting in January of 2024, libraries in Illinois must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which outlines that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval” and “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” and calls on libraries to “challenge censorship.”
The law doesn’t mean there’s no oversight, but rather reinstates power to librarians. Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who largely drove the legislation, said this: “We are not saying that every book should be in every single library. What this law does is it says, let’s trust our experience and education of our librarians to decide what books should be in circulation.”
State Representative Anne Stava-Murray, who sponsored the legislation, said this at the bill’s signing:
“While it’s true that kids need guidance, and that some ideas can be objectionable, trying to weaponize local government to force one-size-fits-all standards onto the entire community for reasons of bigotry, or as a substitute for active and involved parenting, is wrong.”
Why this matters for teachers:
It takes an immense amount of pressure off teachers and librarians to field book challenges themselves.
Librarians have taken the brunt of book bans the last few years, with some even getting death threats. During his campaign, Giannoulias said on the issue, “Many librarians have been forced to quit after being harassed and subjected to intimidation and hateful messages on social media, others have been fired for refusing to remove books from circulation.”
Now that librarians will have state protection, parent groups will have to take their harassment somewhere else.
It’s one of many instances of counter-mobilizations against censorship popping up around the country.
Recently at a school board meeting in a notably pro-censorship county in Florida, students and parents spoke out in large numbers in defense of teachers. And across the country, more parents and community members are organizing to oppose hate groups and pro-censorship groups.
It’s a model for other states to follow.
Calling upon the authority of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights makes this an easy model to replicate in other states that want to take a stand against censorship.
What are your thoughts on states banning book bans? Let us know in the comments!
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