Censorship and Education: Is Texas Going Too Far?

Censorship and Education: Is Texas Going Too Far?

Dani Prohaska, Social Justice Editor

In Texas, a new state law has issued a list of 850 books that are being banned from school library shelves. These books contain common themes of LGBTQ+ youth, race, and gender.

Debates and conflict about education, race, and gender have been apparent in Texas in recent history, but this issue has become so large that the state is attempting to ban classics of American literature.

The issue began in June when Texas legislators passed a law changing how teachers would provide instruction and teach on race and gender. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, aimed for school library shelves, in which he directed education officials to investigate “criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography” (New York Times).

State Representative Matt Krause, a Republican, emailed the book list to superintendents of schools, questioning the morality of the books. Why he did this is unclear, however, parents accused a school librarian of “poisoning young minds” at a school board meeting in San Antonio the following evening.

A few days later, Carrie Damon, a middle school librarian, was asked if district libraries held pornography. Damon replied, “No, no, honey, we don’t buy porno” (New York Times). In September of this year before the book list was sent out, Damon celebrated “Banned Books Week,” an annual free-speech event, with her Latino students by talking about the beauty and power in literature.

Some of the books being questioned are We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy and Between the World and Me by Ta-Neishi Coates, The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, and V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (The Atlantic).

The curriculum itself is also coming under fire in the state. Krause requested that school leaders give him information on books that contain content such as “human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey of a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” (NPR).

Something particularly noteworthy is the debate about books on the Holocaust. When a curriculum official made the suggestion that they teach both sides of the Holocaust, the Texas Teacher Association claimed that it was an “overreaction,” however, there is a Holocaust history book on the list called Life, Death, and Sacrifice: Women and Family in the Holocaust by Esther Hertzog.

The future of literature in Texas is still uncertain, but it is clear that these debates on censorship and diversity in education will not be stopping anytime soon.