The banning of books has been around a lot longer than some may realize. While the issue is getting a lot of attention in recent years, according to Harvard, “the first book ban in the United States took place in 1637.” As many have noticed though, this issue has become a major area of attention for school and politics, and it all started picking up around 2021.
Book banning originally started off as a “modest school-level activity to challenge and remove books in schools” according to an article from Pen America about book banning in schools.
This movement to take books out of schools is rooted in discrimination and politics. This can be seen through the specific types of books that are being called to be removed. Books that are about characters of color or LGBTQ+ characters, or even about racism, diversity, inequality, or sex education, are all being targeted by this book banning movement.
Last semester I wrote an article for Arizona Education News Service about book banning, specifically how it is affecting Arizona public schools. In the article I cited a survey from NPR, which found that no matter their political party, majority of parents were satisfied with what their children’s schools are teaching them. In reality, this book banning is coming from a few small groups across the country that have managed to make a big impact. A quote I included in the article I wrote stated, “When people are unaware of how the process actually works, when people are unaware of their curriculum, that unawareness creates a fear, and it’s so much easier to be afraid and critical of the unknown.”
This is what Arizona laws are aiming to fix, but so many people, most importantly the schools, don’t seem to entirely understand what these laws mean. HB 2439 went into effect in January and it applies directly to school libraries. “For 60 days after purchase approval, lists of ordered materials must be posted on the school’s and district’s website. Parents will be able to access a catalog of items in the school library as well as a list of books their child checks out (AZEdNews).” Along with this law, there is also HB 2495 which became law in September in Arizona, and this bars public schools from using any sexually explicit materials. While these laws seem simple enough, they were written vaguely so many schools and parents can argue to have certain books or curriculum removed, and most likely be successful.
No matter how one may feel on this topic, I think it is important to think about how this affects the people that matter the most in this scenario, the students. In the case of Board of Education Island Tree School District v. Pico, a school board removed certain books from the shelves of a library in a high school, and because of that, a few high school students brought a lawsuit against the school board. Nine books were removed at the discretion of a parent group. Steven Pico, a senior argued “We don’t just have a right to our ideas, we also have a right to be exposed to ideas.” This quote is essential to this nationwide book ban happening right now, whether you like a certain ideology or not, it is not your place or mine or anyone’s to decide that no one else can have access to it.