Censorship in the Classroom

Book banning sweeps the nation

By Ellie Janszen



A recent report released by PEN America found nearly 4 million students in the United States have been affected by book bans in their schools. The report states bans occurred in 138 school districts in 32 states which represents 5,049 schools.

The banning of books within schools has been a hot topic for a while, but recently the topic has drawn even more attention.

There are multiple different reasonings as to why this is happening.

Sarah Fedirka, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of English department at UF says sometimes trying to ban a book brings it more attention.

“Banning books just does not work,” Fedirka said. “It only makes people more curious about the topics they are not allowed to read.”

Fedirka also says teachers know their students the best and should be able to make a judgment call.

Teachers and librarians are trained to monitor books that could be in the hands of students, to ensure the literacy to be age appropriate.

“Not all students in a grade are the same. One student might be mature and advanced enough for a book that another student isn’t,” Fedirka said. “I want to help my students reach the levels they can. I am in favor of teachers being allowed to make the decision based on their knowledge of their students.”

While teachers are trained both in appropriate content and child development areas, the decisions for where books will stand in a classroom typically involve the school board and district, not the teachers. This can cause frustration.

The American Library Association shows that parents are the most popular group involved in challenging books and feel a need to suppress them due to the fact that it conflicts with their personal beliefs.

This frustration translates into the classroom as teachers feel prepared enough to handle the task of book selection with their training in child development.

Nikki Schuster, a new teacher and UF graduate who is aware of the recent censorship, fearas a new generation that will not have some books she had.

“Many books are being banned for the discomfort of the topics,” Schuster said. “However, no matter what we teach in schools, students will suffer in the real world without the ability to learn things. Students should be able to face the hard truths in a safe space like a classroom.”

There is now a banned book week that occurs in September of each year from the ALA to inform people of how books unite and censorship divides.

The American Library Association explains that the banning of books is to protect others, mostly children, from difficult ideas and information.

Schuster makes it a priority in her classroom to have diverse books to ensure that her students can learn about different cultures and lifestyles. She focuses on choosing books that will best accomplish this for the different age groups she teaches.

The PEN America study shows that 41% of book bans involve LGBTQ+ themes, 40% involve protagonist or prominent secondary characters of color, and 22% involve sexual content.

“Reading and learning about tough parts of history allow the next generation to learn how to not repeat the same mistakes from history,” Schuster said.

Fedirka says no matter how difficult the subject, students still need to learn.

“At this point, whose responsibility does it become to teach these students difficult subjects,” Fedirka said. “We can’t just pretend they don’t exist.”

For more information on banned books and the censorship occurring, check out the American Library Associations, “Banned Book,” FAQ and Pen America.