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Blaming Book Bans On the Protection of Young Minds Is Nothing New
A movement to remove books that discuss race, sexuality, and gender from school libraries is growing in many parts of the U.S. What could the larger implications be for teachers and students? And how is this recent news actually a sign of history repeating itself?
Kal Alston is a professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Syracuse University’s School of Education. Alston is trained in philosophy of education. Her most recent publications have focused on ethics and community responsibility, the phenomenal experience of race in philosophical practice, and the connection of the Brown decision to contemporary educational experience.
Below, she talks about the current outbreak of book bans and their connections, often, to well-funded political operations. She is available for interviews.
“The latest actions of parent activists at school board meetings to ban collections of words, concepts, books, and historical facts about America’s racial past and present, inspired by cynical conservative wordsmith Christopher Rufo, focus on an empty understanding of critical race theory.
“Of course, the current outbreak over fear of emotional and political harms to white youths should they encounter a complete story of America that includes slavery and colonialization, that implicates capitalism, is not the first such incitement of local anxieties that flows across generations and communities. We are still in masks in schools fistfights; a long series of federal court cases regarding trans students’ rights in school bathrooms only ended in 2021; sex education battles reignited across the nation with the advent of AIDS in the 1980s.
“With each of these, the claim was stated as a movement for protection of young minds. In most of them, there has been a (well-funded) political operation behind the scenes not overly concerned with either students or parents, but rather with public discourse and political capital.”
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