What are banned books?
In this kid-friendly podcast, Worth Noting delves into hot topics in the world currently. Host Matthew Winner dives into each topic and brings information to the front. This episode looks at the Central York School District in York, Pennsylvania’s decision to ban a list of books, and why these books are important for students.
This post has been lightly edited for clarity.
Matthew: Last October, the all-white school board of the Central York School District in York, Pennsylvania unanimously banned a list of educational resources. The books included on the list are Worth Noting.
October, 2020, a school board was presented with a list of resources for talking to educators and to kids about racism, systemic oppression, and the work of racial justice. The list was created by a specially formed committee at Central York High School and was intended for consideration with the students of that high school. But the decision unanimously passed by the school board that November banned the use of these materials at any level throughout the district.
The list was generated as part of the district’s work on a major update to their social studies curriculum, but the board members, who claimed in several statements to love diversity, unanimously agreed that including topics such as white supremacy and Black Lives Matter were evidence of “one-sided teaching”.
Talking about the past is uncomfortable for many because of the atrocities, the extremely cruel acts, that so many in our country have had to endure. Racism. Segregation. Hate crimes. Eviction. Red-lining. Residential schools. Internment. And on and on.
But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about it.
And that’s what this committee was attempting to do by providing this list of resources. And that’s also what the decision of this school board, composed entirely of white individuals, was preventing.
The books on the “Equity Book Resource List” shared by the committee were grouped by titles including characters of color as well as books by authors and illustrators of color.
By banning these books from the schools and classrooms and libraries of the Central York School District, the school board was, as many students felt, not making room for or valuing those students of color or those from otherwise marginalized backgrounds.
By silencing the voices of Black and Latinx authors, the school board was, as many students felt, attempting to silence the voices of Black and Latinx students and others.
The students protested. For weeks. They were joined by parents. And by teachers. And by, really, the entire online community.
And on September 20, 2021, the Central York School District reversed their decision. The list of books that educators had been banned from teaching are now again allowed in curricula.
This is a story of justice. And of students using their voices and demanding to be heard.
I wish that all grown-ups could do that. I wish that they… that we all, as grownups, could more fully understand how our actions might impact you.
Grown-ups are trying their best, but that does not mean that you should settle for what you’re given. Find the grown-ups that are on your side. I promise you, there are more than you think. And then use that voice. And know that we will do our best to make sure we are ready to listen.