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The Impact of Book Bans on Students; Cultural Awareness: A Look at Florida




Books in school libraries are being vetted in Florida after a new law passed last year to limit teaching on race and gender. Brian Covey Twitter



Introduction:

In recent years, the practice of book bans in schools has ignited a heated debate about the merits and drawbacks of restricting students' access to certain content. While proponents argue that book bans help protect young minds, critics contend that they hinder students' understanding of diverse perspectives and limit exposure to real-world issues. This article examines the implications of book bans in Florida, providing evidence and citing sources to shed light on the impact they have on students' cultural awareness and intellectual growth.


Book Bans and Their Effect on Cultural Understanding:

The banning of books in schools often results in students being shielded from diverse perspectives and narratives. Limiting access to books that delve into complex issues like race, activism, and history prevents students from developing a well-rounded understanding of the world. According to data from the American Library Association (ALA), Florida alone has banned over 89 books, suggesting a concerted effort to review and restrict school libraries (Source: ALA, "Frequently Challenged Books").


The Role of Race and Racism in Banned Books:

A significant percentage of banned books across the country explicitly address racial issues. The ALA reports that approximately 41% of banned books include protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are people of color, while 22% directly explore themes of race and racism (Source: ALA, "The State of America's Libraries"). By banning such books, students are denied the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by marginalized communities, particularly BIPOC individuals, within systemic and oppressive societies.


Controversial Books and Perception of Law Enforcement:

An illustrative example of a book ban controversy in Florida is the censorship of "The Hate U Give" on the grounds of alleged promotion of an "anti-police agenda." However, this young adult novel by Angie Thomas provides valuable insight into the experiences of minorities and sheds light on the complexities of policing in America. Banning such books under the pretext of avoiding a "woke agenda" prevents students from engaging with critical perspectives and developing empathy and understanding (Source: The Guardian, "Banned book: The Hate U Give").


Survey Insights on Teaching Race and Racism:

Survey data reveals contrasting viewpoints among respondents regarding discussions of slavery and racism when teaching U.S. history. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that while 93% of Democratic respondents deemed these discussions appropriate, only 71% of Republican respondents agreed (Source: Pew Research Center, "BLACK AMERICANS AND THE PANDEMIC"). These divergent opinions underscore the broader societal divide in approaches to educating students about the historical and ongoing issues related to race and racism.


Conclusion:

The banning of books, especially those that explore narratives centered around race, activism, and history, has the potential to place students at a cultural disadvantage. Restricting access to diverse perspectives limits students' understanding of the real world, impeding the development of critical thinking skills, empathy, and a broader awareness of society. It is crucial for educators and policymakers to engage in constructive dialogue considering the broader implications of these bans on students' intellectual growth and societal awareness (Source: National Council of Teachers of English, "Intellectual Freedom").


Kristin Kavanagh-Rocha

Director of Research & Development

Last Edited: 08/31/2023




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