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Book Banning, Education Restrictions, & the Right Wing's New War on Ideas

Conservatives are now engaged in a war against ideas that don't conform with their preferred narrative of culture, history, and science. Conservative Governors and state legislatures around the country are trying to obscure the horrors of the Holocaust, prevent science-based discussions of human sexuality, and gloss over the nation's history of systemic racism. Some examples:

Upon taking office several weeks ago, Virginia's new Republican Governor, Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order banning "divisive" concepts like the nation's history of systemic racism from being taught in the public schools and establishing a government tip line that parents can use to report their kid's teachers.

In Florida, conservatives are pushing a law through the legislature [the "Don't Say Gay" bill] that will ban discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, and encourage parents to sue schools or teachers that discuss such topics.

In Oklahoma, a Republican state Senator just introduced a bill to ban the teaching of anything that differs from the religious beliefs of students and allows parents to sue teachers for up to $10,000 per incident. The proposed law, named the “Students’ Religious Belief Protection Act” would also allow parents to demand the removal of any book with perceived anti-religious content such as human sexuality, evolution, and the big bang theory.

In Tennessee, a school board recently banned Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel concerning the Holocaust, because it contains "objectionable language," according to minutes of the meeting.

The New York Times recently published a piece about additional proposed book bans around the United States.

New York Times: "Among the most frequent targets are books about race, gender and sexuality, like George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”

In conservative state legislatures, 122 bills have been introduced since January to ban books or regulate what teachers can discuss in the classroom and the restrictions now even reach into higher education. The best summary of the book and teaching bans has been compiled by Jeffrey Sachs for PEN America. He has a spreadsheet of proposed legislation across 33 states. It's a thoroughly depressing document if you value knowledge and a vibrant, challenging public education environment. If passed, the restrictions will chill debate of race, history, science, and human sexuality in red state public schools.

The reason for conservative book and teaching bans isn't a mystery; the truth simply doesn't serve their interests. If students never hear about systemic racism, they won't support efforts to address the issue when they are older, and many Republicans would still prefer that society shuns gay and trans individuals as deviants, rather than affirm and respect their identities.

And, there is a second reason, more important to Republicans than simply obscuring the truth; the right-wing needs the culture war, it's really all they have left to offer Americans. It's why the GOP didn't have a national platform in 2020, why VA Gov. Youngkin never published a legislative agenda during his campaign, and why Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell won't release a list of legislative priorities if the GOP retakes the Senate in November. They are out of ideas, at least ideas that anyone wants to hear about.

So, expect much more of this nonsense as the midterm elections approach this Fall.

#education #politics

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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