Escambia County, situated in northwest Florida, has recently enacted restrictions on or removed a minimum of 16 books from public school libraries and classrooms. The banned books encompass a wide range of literary works, including the debut novel of a Nobel Prize laureate and a beloved coming-of-age bestseller from the 1990s.
Among the contested books is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which not only achieved success as a novel but also gained popularity as a hit movie. Last autumn, a local high school teacher raised objections to this book and over a hundred others, prompting Christian activists to voice their concerns at multiple school board meetings.
One such activist, Aaron Schneier, a parent from Pensacola, defended the removal of books, arguing that it does not constitute censorship to exclude explicit or sexually provocative literature from school settings. School board member Kevin Adams supported the removal of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” from the optional 12th-grade novel study, emphasizing the need to establish standards of conduct and manners for students that align with his personal values.
Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN America, expressed the organization’s commitment to defending free speech. Over the past two years, PEN America has meticulously documented more than 4,000 cases of book bans or removals. Escambia County’s situation was deemed particularly egregious, prompting the decision to file this lawsuit. The plaintiffs involved include affected parents, students, Penguin Random House as an affected publisher, and other concerned individuals. They collectively advocate for the intervention of the judicial system to uphold constitutional rights.
Among the plaintiffs is Ashley Hope Perez, an acclaimed writer whose bestselling book, “Out of Darkness,” depicts a love story between a Mexican American girl and an African American boy. Perez humorously remarks that her book is “super banned,” having faced bans in numerous locations, including Escambia County. She observes a recurring pattern wherein books like hers become targets for removal by groups such as Moms for Liberty, which offer pre-prepared talking points. Perez further highlights the lack of substantive engagement with the content of these books, often accompanied by repetitive typographical errors.
While Perez prefers open discussions over legal battles, she recognizes the necessity of utilizing the tools of democracy during this critical moment. She emphasizes that young people seek narratives that are not sanitized but rather provide opportunities to explore challenging issues and imagine lives different from their own.
In response to the mounting pressure, the Escambia School Board announced a temporary halt to book challenges, extending indefinitely. NPR’s attempts to obtain comments from the school board went unanswered.
The joint efforts of Penguin Random House, PEN America, and the coalition of plaintiffs underscore a broader fight against book banning, advocating for the preservation of intellectual freedom and the exploration of diverse perspectives.
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First things first: I appreciate the need for peer review and understand why we have academic journals. I’m not the person you need to convince that any work any scientist or academic publishes needs to be scrutinized with as many eyeballs as possible.
My issues lie in how that work is disseminated to large audiences to be put into action and influence the world.
Thanks to the way most academic publishing works, it’s almost impossible for anyone other than another academic to read your work if it’s published.
It’s hard to overstate what a scam academic and scientific publishing is. It’s run by an oligopoly of wildly profitable companies that coerce academics into working for free for them, and then sell the product of their labors back to the academics’ employers (often public institutions) for eye-popping sums.
As I begin my doctoral studies in the fall of 2022, I hope to have more experience with academic publishing myself. I mean, that’s part of the academic process.
Over the years, my articles, tweets, presentations, podcasts, etc., have been viewed or heard by multiple tens of thousands of people from all over the world. I’ve made that work freely available to others for a long time (thanks, Creative Commons) and seen many take advantage of what I’ve “published” in one form or another.
Sadly, any work I may produce and publish in the academic tradition may never see the light of day.
In K-12 education, we talk a lot about having students create work for an authentic audience; work that will be seen and critiqued by people outside of their school environment.
Shouldn’t we try and do the same with academic publications?
Universal truth: COVID-19 changed education forever. The pandemic affected every area of education. Weaknesses were exposed, kids were left unconnected for months, systems failed, administrators panicked, students felt abandoned, and teachers just had to do more and more every day.
As a result, teachers are leaving. And I mean leaving in a hurry.
For months on end, teachers have been in survival mode, doing their best to meet the same expectations that were in place pre-pandemic and dance the world’s most epic dance from virtual to in-person learning (multiple times for some).
Students still had to take tests and meet all graduation requirements while learning how to talk with each other behind masks and appreciate short outdoor mask breaks a few times per day.
And the teachers had to keep going. They’ve had to deal with administrators who pressured them to try new things (some necessary and some not so much) and adopt more technology in less time than at any other point in educational history.
Three minutes. That’s all the time Lanee Higgins, a Baltimore County Public Schools teacher, had to herself during a typical day of coronavirus-era remote learning. On her computer screen were middle-schoolers, scattered across the county, running through their lessons — while at home, Higgins, age 29, was trying to maintain her authority over her classroom and her life. Sometimes her potty-training toddler, refusing to nap, would wander into the frame when her entrepreneur husband wasn’t there to corral him. When she just couldn’t hold on anymore, Higgins would announce a three-minute break. She’d leave her students staring at the screen while she scurried off to use the bathroom or steal some time to just think.
Teacher shortages were already a reality pre-pandemic but now the shortages are reaching critical numbers. Stress was listed as the primary reason why teachers left the field before the pandemic and the pandemic only made it worse.
And now, as we near the end of the 2021-2022 school year, over half of all teachers are thinking of leaving.
Teachers are tired. They’re tired of changing mandates from state and local officials. They’re tired of dealing with politicians who have little to no respect for the work teachers do every day. They’re tired of misinformed parents who accuse teachers of indoctrinating their students.
Trust me, we’re not indoctrinating any students. If we were, they’d be much better at following directions for turning in their work by now.
We figure out how to support teachers. While a pay increase would be welcome, it’s certainly not all about the money. Even when you understand that from 1999 to 2021, teacher salaries decreased in 27 states, thanks to inflation.
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