Censorship in Schools: Will They Hurt the Core Purpose of Learning?
What does a teacher typically do when you ask them a question? They try to answer the question and clear up your doubt. But what if the teacher is not allowed to answer the question? Where will the student go and look for the answer?
Similar situations may crop up soon if certain proposed bills become laws in multiple states in the USA. Recent stories talk about how the State governments want to ban certain words, topics, and books from being taught in schools. Some people in America are also terming this exercise to be anti-public education.
But is it an act of prudence to dictate what the children will learn in schools, or should the education department become an independent body without bias?
Censorship in Schools
Many state governments have seen a rise in the number of proposed bills restricting what can be taught in classrooms to children. Political interference is causing discomfort to many teachers. It is becoming one of the main reasons why teachers want to exit the profession.
PEN America, a non-profit organization, observed that in 2022, 36 States introduced around 137 bills that put restrictions on teaching themes, like sexuality, race, gender, or the history of the United States. Additionally, many books face bans and are out-shelved by the school and other libraries.
Texas, for instance, has banned more than 700 books from the libraries of public schools. Teachers and superintendents have been tasked with reviewing all the books to check if their content is censorship-worthy.
According to the report, many of these bills have the potential to become laws before the end of this year. In all, such statements, termed ‘censorship in education,’ have increased to 250% in the last year.
39% of the bills introduced in 2022, the report mentions, are focused on higher education and many of them also include punishments for violations. The similarity between these laws is that they come from Republican legislators.
Data: PEN America, Chart: K-12 Dive
Understanding the intent on the other end of the stick
In a diverse society like America, some people support moves like book bans and curriculum restrictions. In their view, discussing ideas like sexuality, and slavery in American history, can unpleasantly influence students.
This partially comes from parents’ concerns about school lessons as a part of SEL. It is one of the reasons why many parents are also switching to homeschooling.
Parents are concerned that teachers might be trying to influence their children and teaching them to follow the so-called ‘Un-American’ culture. In addition, parents worry when their children are encouraged to come out of the closet and accept their natural sexual orientations at a young age.
So, what can be done to counter this?
This negative perception can be avoided if parents are invited to understand what the curriculum is all about. Parents can be encouraged become active in learning their child’s syllabus and then choose if this is right for them or not. Schools should communicate healthily with parents and explain the curriculum’s intent and content. If something is found outrageous by a majority, it should be excluded.
Reactions from Americans
Since these censorship in education have come into the picture in the last year, surveys have been conducted to understand the citizen perspective.
A majority of parents supported the following topics to be taught in schools. For instance, 87 percent of parents support teaching the Civil Rights movement, 74 percent of parents support teaching the history of Slavery, and 59 percent of parents agree to teaching the concept of Systemic Racism in American institutions and society.
Student Mental Health
The students have suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted regular school life. Following this, the narrative around the teaching shortage emerged, which spoke of this phenomenon affecting the quality of education in schools. And now, we see public schools coming under the radar for teaching specific topics while omitting others. These educational hiccups can affect students’ learning interests and make them emotionally vulnerable.
Students need stability and discipline to learn. If teachers are constantly in fear that them saying something might turn into legal action against them, no actual teaching would be taking place.
Partial or Uneven Learning
Learning can be partial if students learn about one part of history and not the other part of it.
CAP Data: PEN America
It would be a rather peculiar scenario if parents have learned certain things about history and their children have learned completely different things about the past. Learning should be even and truthful. Suppose the government opposes the idea of teaching concepts like critical race theory to younger children. In that case, they should be allowed to learn this in higher classes when they start understanding the credos of a prosperous society.
It is never really possible to ban information, because even though books can be banned and teachers’ behavior can be controlled, there is a technology where only some things are filtered. Students can still learn from the internet, which by large, contains only some authentic and accurate information. Legitimate books can portray ideas in a more sophisticated and acceptable manner.