The United States has witnessed a surge in book bans following the passage of legislation in multiple states that empowers parents to challenge educational materials they consider unsuitable for their children and holds educators accountable for content. A notable instance is the Parental Rights in Education Act, signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022, which has garnered significant attention.
Most of the challenged books deal with topics of race, gender, and sexual identity, with some Jewish-themed titles also facing criticism.
Teacher Fired for Reading Anne Frank Book Aloud
In a recent incident, a teacher in Hamshire, Texas, was fired after reading an excerpt from “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” an illustrated version of Anne Frank’s diary, to her eighth-grade class. The book had not been approved by the school district, according to Mike Canizales, the communications director and community engagement coordinator for the Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District (IDS). An active investigation on the teacher is currently underway.
The school responded to the complaints by sending an email to the parents, stating that the reading of the content would cease immediately. The graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, titled “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” was published in 2018 with the approval of the Anne Frank Fonds. This Switzerland-based institution controls the copyright to her diary.
Anne Frank and Her Diary: A Historical Perspective
Anne Frank penned her diary at the tender age of 12 while concealed in the attic of a house in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Following two years in hiding, Anne Frank was apprehended and tragically perished at the age of 16 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her diary is extensively incorporated into school curricula, serving as a pivotal piece of historical literature that imparts knowledge about Nazi persecution and the Holocaust to students.
The graphic adaptation of Frank’s diary, adapted by Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky, aims to introduce young readers to the compressed version of her diary entries. However, some parents have taken issue with certain passages, such as Frank’s feelings of attraction toward another girl and her descriptions of her own genitalia.
Book Bans Extend Beyond Anne Frank’s Diary
This incident in Texas is not an isolated one. In 2022, a Florida public high school removed the graphic edition of Anne Frank’s diary from its library following parental complaints. The book was deemed “not age appropriate” due to its illustrations, which included depictions of Frank walking among sexually explicit female nude statues.
The conservative advocacy group, Moms For Liberty, played a role in both the Florida and Texas incidents. The group, which started in Indian River and Brevard Counties, has now expanded to 44 states and has challenged books across the country.
A similar incident occurred in Texas’ Keller Independent School District last year when parents pushed for the removal of the “pornographic” graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary. However, the decision was reversed after receiving backlash from the Jewish community and media. Several outside organizations supported the campaign to keep the book on the shelves and pledged to send hundreds of copies of different versions of the diary to the school district.
Holocaust-Themed Books Face Controversy
Apart from Anne Frank’s diary, other Holocaust-themed books have also faced challenges in public schools. Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” was eliminated from a South Florida school library, while Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” was pulled from a middle school curriculum in Tennessee. Spiegelman’s graphic novel presents Jewish victims as mice and Nazis as cats and gained increased popularity after being challenged by parents.
The Anne Frank Fonds expressed concerns about the rise of ignorance, relativization, and denial of the Holocaust, particularly in the United States. Book bans and challenges have been on the rise across the country, with the American Library Association reporting 695 challenges to library materials and services within the first eight months of 2023.
List of Some Books That Are Banned in School
Books are often banned or challenged in schools for a variety of reasons, including concerns about their content, themes, or language. Here is a list of some books that have faced bans or challenges in schools:
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee – Challenged for its use of racial slurs and its portrayal of racism.
- “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger – Banned for its language, sexual content, and themes of rebellion.
- “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain – Challenged for its racial language and themes of racism.
- “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Banned for its sexual content and themes of materialism.
- “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley – Challenged for its sexual content and themes of dystopia.
- “1984” by George Orwell – Banned for its political themes and depictions of authoritarianism.
- “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding – Challenged for its violence and themes of human nature.
- “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck – Banned for its language and themes of mental disability.
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison – Challenged for its sexual content and depictions of slavery.
- “The Harry Potter series” by J.K. Rowling – Banned by some schools for its themes of witchcraft and wizardry.
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky – Challenged for its depictions of drug use and sexual content.
- “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins – Banned for its violence and themes of rebellion.
- “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker – Challenged for its sexual content and depictions of abuse.
- “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou – Banned for its depictions of sexual abuse and racism.
- “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie – Challenged for its language and themes of race and identity.
It’s important to note that bans and challenges to books in schools often generate debates about the freedom to read, censorship, and the role of literature in education. Many educators and literary advocates argue that these books offer valuable opportunities for discussion and critical thinking.
Impact of Social Media on Historical Education
As Gretchen Skidmore, the director of education initiatives at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has noted, there has been a noticeable decline in the quality of history education in recent years, coinciding with the rapid rise of social media. One troubling consequence of this shift is the emergence of questions regarding the authenticity of historical events, such as the Holocaust, which were not as prevalent or widespread two decades ago.
Social media platforms, with their immense reach and influence, can be thought of as modern agoras, where people gather, share information, and engage in discussions. However, this digital landscape also presents significant challenges, particularly when it comes to historical education. Misinformation and false claims can spread like wildfire on these platforms, leading to the distortion of historical facts and narratives. In the case of Holocaust denial, for instance, social media can amplify the voices of those who propagate false information, undermining the well-documented historical record and the memory of the millions of victims who suffered during that tragic period.
Furthermore, the spread of historical inaccuracies and conspiracy theories on social media not only perpetuates ignorance but can also contribute to the creation of new victims. By erasing or distorting the past, these platforms may inadvertently foster an environment where hate, prejudice, and discrimination can thrive. Thus, while social media has the potential to enhance historical education and awareness, it also poses significant challenges that require critical thinking, media literacy, and responsible content moderation to ensure that the lessons of history are accurately preserved and passed on to future generations.
This incident serves as a vivid example of the delicate balance schools must strike between educating students about history and literature while respecting parental concerns and sensibilities. The decision to remove and ban certain books from the curriculum is a nuanced one, requiring thoughtful consideration of diverse perspectives and values. It underscores the importance of open communication between educators, parents, and school administrations to ensure a mutually respectful and inclusive learning environment for all students. Ultimately, while the removal of a teacher from their position is a significant step, it also highlights the need for constructive dialogue and collaboration to navigate such contentious issues in education effectively.
This Site Was Inspired By An Interest in Protecting the Environment:
We had the privilege and joy of learning from Dr. Charlie Stine who instilled a love for the natural world through incredible field trips with the Johns Hopkins Odyssey Certificate program in Environmental Studies. At the time, the program was endorsed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Sadly, after Dr. Stine retired, the program was phased out. We hope that we honor his legacy by shining a bright light on environmental issues and sharing good news about the success of various conservation programs when possible.
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