Indoctrination by Book Banning
The free speech nonprofit PEN America has released a new report this week that looks at how advocacy groups have increasingly pushed a political agenda of censorship in schools across the country. While, in the past, individual parents may have raised concerns about specific books, the last school year has seen a "concerted, organized, well-resourced push" that is "ideologically motivated and politically expedient," the New York Times’ coverage quotes PEN America’s chief executive as explaining. These lists of books to ban aren't being circulated due to genuine concerns about appropriateness, but rather to propel a platform that's being pushed by at least fifty advocacy groups. The report tracked over 1,600 banned titles in 5,000 schools serving 4 million students across 32 states. Education Week observes about twenty percent of the bans can be directly linked to the actions of a few advocacy groups, while others are likely indirectly influenced.
Oftentimes, the article says, when a book is challenged it is simply removed from a school library to avoid further controversy. Because these groups don’t represent the majority of families, they are exerting an outsized influence on what students learn. Free expression rights ought to be “the bedrock of public schools in an open, inclusive, and democratic society,” the report concludes. This phenomenon is a serious threat to those norms.
Anti-Racism Programs Needed in CT Schools
This week has seen an important conversation in the Connecticut media about how schools are struggling to address prejudice and racism–both systemic and episodic. A non-exhaustive list of examples includes use of the n-word in Regional School District 13, racist slurs and a “lynch list” in Suffield, and anti-critical race theory rhetoric in Guilford. According to the CT Mirror’s Ginny Monk, districts across the state are responding with varying degrees of commitment to cultural change. Some have issued statements about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); some treat racism merely as a type of bullying, rather than a hate crime; and others are doing the deep work of anti-racism.
According to the experts in the article, anti-racism policies should define racism and set a vision for how an anti-racist district looks, but they should also outline clear consequences for racist actions, have an accessible reporting system, and identify a process for supporting victims. A DEI director might also look for hidden biases in district policies, and conduct an equity audit as a starting point for tracking progress. (The State Department of Education published a list of helpful guides and resources in 2020.) There’s a lot of work left to do.
National Blue Ribbon Awards Go to Four CT Schools
On Friday, Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker congratulated four schools on receiving National Blue Ribbon awards from the US Department of Education:
Booth Hill School in Trumbull;
EO Smith High School in Regional School District 19;
Great Plain School in Danbury; and
Whiting Lane School in West Hartford.
The national Blue Ribbon School award recognized a total of 297 schools this year in one of two categories: "Exemplary High-Performing Schools" and "Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools.” News8 has an interesting map of the 45 states that won awards, as well as the number of Blue Ribbon Schools in each state. (Texas has the most, with 31 honorees.)
“I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential, and achieve their dreams,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a press statement. Well done!
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