Ranking Member Raskin Releases Report Decrying the Effects of MAGA Book Bans on Public Education as Part of Banned Books Week
Washington, D.C. (October 5, 2023)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, released a report, “Book Bans and Curriculum Gag Orders: National Trends,” showing how book bans and curriculum gag orders threaten public education, exacerbate the teacher shortage, and politicize K-12 classrooms.
“Escalating attacks on intellectual freedom by right-wing lawmakers and activist groups are an affront to public education and democracy. Today’s report shows that book bans and curriculum censorship help drive teachers out of the profession and contribute to the shortage of educators across the country. These efforts are calculated to erase history, silence diverse voices, and alter the nature of political discourse. It is time to reaffirm our fundamental commitment to First Amendment rights and the freedom of young people to read, write and become effective citizens of our democracy,” said Ranking Member Raskin.
Below are the findings of the Committee’s report:
Book bans and curriculum gag orders threaten public education:
- Curriculum gag orders and challenges to books continue to undermine teachers’ ability to share knowledge and deny students the ability to learn and grow in a pluralistic society.
- Proponents of classroom censorship assert that subjects that have been taught for decades in history, social studies, and literature relating to white supremacy, and more recently related to LGBTQI+ equality, are disguised efforts to indoctrinate students or even groom them for abuse.
- The goal of this movement is to undermine confidence in public education and to elevate publicly funded private and religious schools over public schools. Some activists groups have gone as far as directly calling for a mass exodus from the public school system.
Book bans and curriculum gag orders are rapidly increasing across the country:
- The number of proposed educational gag orders in states increased 250% between 2021 and 2022. Since January 2021, more than 300 bills that would curtail teaching about race, history, and gender in public schools were introduced in states across the country.
- Presently, 18 states have imposed bans and restrictions on teaching critical race theory or limiting even discussion of racism and sexism in public schools, and an additional 26 states have introduced related legislation or taken steps to follow suit. Furthermore, ten states have passed laws that prohibit classroom discussion about LGBTQI+ issues, and five states require parental notification of LGBTQI+ inclusive curricula.
- PEN America recently released a report documenting at least 3,362 episodes of book banning during the 2022-2023 school year.
Conservative lawmakers and activists are politicizing and polarizing classrooms, exacerbating the teacher shortage:
- Recent surveys by the American Federation of Teachers indicate the overwhelming majority of educators view political and ideological attacks on teachers and book and curriculum bans as aggravating stressors to the general difficulties of educating young people amidst pandemics, emotional and mental health crises, and the anxieties of contemporary life, including climate change.
- The effects of these stressors are worsening the shortage of teachers in the public education system. As of February 1, 2022, there were approximately 600,000 fewer teachers in the United States than there were prior to the pandemic, and 55% of educators said that they are more likely to leave education sooner than they planned because of the pandemic.
- Instead of working to reduce stressors for teachers and address the teacher shortage, some states are taking steps to further delegitimize public education. Recently, Arizona has passed legislation that gives parents vouchers for private or religious education, and Florida has even resorted to relaxing education requirements for K-12 teachers.
On April 7, 2022, the Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held its first hearing to address the threat to academic freedom at the K-12 school level posed by curriculum gag orders and book bans spreading across the country. The hearing included testimony from students and Ruby Bridges—the first child to integrate schools in Louisiana. On May 19, 2022, the Subcommittee held a second hearing to hear from teachers and parents, as well as Professor Timothy Snyder, one of the country’s foremost experts on authoritarianism.
In September 2022, then-Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin introduced a resolution recognizing “Banned Books Week” and the sweeping attacks on books in the United States. On September 27, 2023, Ranking Member Raskin reintroduced the resolution.
Click here to read today’s report.