“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia.
Even though I’ve been out of the classroom for over 30 years, the older I get, the more I understand that we’re never done learning. Whenever a subject matter emerges from an article I’m reading or a documentary I’m watching that is beyond my current knowledge level, I seek a credible text or scholarly essay to support true learning.
What I mean by “true learning” is an unbiased education based on factual information and historical data, not narratives designed to sway the reader’s opinion in one direction or another, also known as propaganda.
But today, true learning is under attack as conservative politicians across America seek to control and influence the education our children experience to protect them from so-called “harmful” themes and truths.
According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans conducted from July 2021 to June 2022, 1,648 unique book titles were banned in 138 school districts in 32 states, representing 5,049 schools and nearly four million students.
From PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman, Ph.D. and Nadine Farid Johnson, “This movement to ban books is deeply undemocratic, in that it often seeks to impose restrictions on all students and families based on the preferences of those calling for the bans and notwithstanding polls that consistently show that Americans of all political persuasions oppose book bans. And it is having multifaceted, harmful impacts on students who have a right to access a diverse range of stories and perspectives, and especially on those from historically marginalized backgrounds who are watching their library shelves emptied of books that reflect and speak to them.”
Here is a list of the 1,648 unique book titles (by theme) that were banned according to PEN America:
- 674 banned book titles (41 percent) explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+ (this includes a specific subset of titles for transgender characters or stories—145 titles, or 9 percent);
- 659 banned book titles (40 percent) contain protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color;
- 338 banned book titles (21 percent) directly address issues of race and racism;
- 357 banned book titles (22 percent) contain sexual content of varying kinds, including novels with some level of description of sexual experiences of teenagers, stories about teen pregnancy, sexual assault, and abortion, as well as informational books about puberty, sex, or relationships;
- 161 banned book titles (10 percent) have themes related to rights and activism;
- 141 banned book titles (9 percent) are either biography, autobiography, or memoir; and
- 64 banned book titles (4 percent) include characters and stories that reflect religious minorities, such as Jewish, Muslim and other faith traditions.
Let’s put the notion of true learning to the test. After going through the list above several times, it’s pretty apparent how these conservative book bans are nothing short of sexist, homophobic, and racist, to name a few.
Is that the kind of true learning conservatives honestly support and want their children to witness – holding prejudices against anyone and anything different than a white, masculine Christian culture?
What book bans boil down to is this. Conservatives fear that true learning would further jeopardize their desire to live in an ideological world that no longer accurately represents the current population.
This denialism is a pathetic effort by conservatives to ignore past and present truths by preventing them from being taught to future generations – naively believing that a lack of education will help promote their archaic beliefs.
I want to make three important points about book bans and any adults supporting them.
Banning books that show America’s diversity and history is doing an incredible disservice to children. We’re sending them out into society ill-equipped to deal with the realities they will undoubtedly face in their schools, places of business, and communities.
We can ban all the books we want, but just as with every other generation before, society progresses, and we need to embrace it, not try and erase it.
As long as the internet is the primary medium for younger generations to research information on any given topic, book bans will only increase their curiosity by causing them to wonder what’s behind adults’ vocal concerns. So, in reality, banning books will probably only increase search volumes among the younger generations towards the books and subjects conservatives are trying desperately to hide.
Book bans aren’t about protecting our children. This is about nothing more than insecure adults whose definition of themselves is greatly obsolete and outdated ideals are no longer relevant in the modern day. Book bans are a pitiful attempt to reclaim that obsolete identity.
Today’s younger generation is more open-minded and tolerant than their parents and grandparents, and it’s always interesting to me that parents are not asking their children if books should be banned because it really has NOTHING to do with them. Instead, this is about a sexist, homophobic, and racist mindset by adults who can’t figure out how to live in an evolving world and how they believe controlling the narrative will help them bring to life their fantasy realities.
True Learning Means Bettering One Generation to the Next
My grandparents, who unbelievably passed away almost a decade ago, lived through the depression, wartime, and many years of social, racial, political, and economic unrest. Their perspective on living was always invaluable to me, and this is what they had to offer from their years of true learning (I’m paraphrasing here).
Parents and grandparents are responsible for guiding and encouraging their children and grandchildren to improve their lives from one generation to the next. To understand how life is an evolutionary process that demands tolerance and the ability to adjust to the changing times. Nothing stays the same, and it’s not supposed to.
The proudest a parent or grandparent can be is to see the next generation bypassing the unfavorable circumstances they’ve already lived through and embracing progress for what it is today.
Remember, “Change is the end result of all true learning.” But true learning can only occur if we properly educate our children on our factual history (both good and bad) and the ever-changing dynamics that come along with progress.
Parents and grandparents are their children’s greatest role models. Is the true learning you want to teach them to stay living in a questionable past? To propagate old stereotypes, hate, and divides that so many millions of Americans have already fought and died for?
While many conservatives believe that life was much better fifty years ago, I think it’s time you look in the mirror and realize that being a sexist, homophobic, and racist adult is not a sign of betterment.