As we begin to see some indications that Covid numbers are receding, we are surrounded by another epidemic. Every day, it seems, we’re seeing more fanning of the flames of book-banning. As a corollary, we see restrictive policies and proposed laws arising to prevent teachers from fostering critical thinking, respect for others, and an understanding of the complexity of our history. It seems that texts and curriculum are to be designed to prevent discomfort, to present a sanitized view of history, and to include characters that represent a limited view of human behavior. There are no easy answers to any of this, but I thought it might be helpful to share some questions; they might be of use for reflection as individuals or discussion in partnerships or groups. On the issue of book-banning, these are some question that I thought might be helpful to consider:
What do we know about the history of book-banning?
What groups have used it in the past? For what purposes?
What groups are using it now? For what purposes?
What do we see happening?
What might be happening that we do not see?
What is our role as individuals? As classroom teachers, teacher educators, librarians, authors, book-sellers, publishers?
What is our role in the communities of which we are members?
What do we need to learn?
From whom can we learn?
Where can we find support?
What is surprising us about others?
What is surprising us about ourselves?
I am hoping that these questions can serve as place to begin or to deepen our understanding of where we are, how we got here, and how to move forward. There are no easy answers. What other questions are you asking? Please share your thoughts.
Janice Ewing is a 2004 Fellow of the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project, now the West Chester Writing Project, and a current member of the advisory board. Her interests include teacher inquiry, collaboration, and mentoring. She and her colleague Dr. Mary Buckelew, are the authors of Action Research for English Language Arts Teachers: Invitation to Inquiry (Routledge, 2019).