“Banned” Books Week has passed, but PEN America still continues to push inaccurate rhetoric, claiming books that parents raise questions about, including books that contain sexually explicit, pornographic material, are “banned” from schools. 

Just a few days ago, the singer Pink joined with PEN America to give away “banned” books at Florida concerts. One of the books is “Beloved,” which was on Green Apple Books’ Banned and Challenged Book List of 2023. These books are not actually banned. They are still widely available at bookstores and online even if they are rightly restricted from school libraries because of their inappropriate content for young children. 

Pink recently claimed that the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” was “banned” from Florida schools. This is false. In fact, some progressive teachers are seeking to prohibit the classic book from school classrooms while they promote sexually explicit books.      

Teachers from Washington State’s Mukilteo School District have sought to restrict “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The complaint originally came from the teachers who claimed that students needed protection from the book because it was “outdated and harmful.” The teachers argued in favor of removing the book from classrooms because of student complaints, including: “the novel did not move her, because it wasn’t written about her— or for her” and “the plot is not even good.”

This is not new. Several school districts have challenged Harper Lee’s book since 1977. Just last year, a Seattle-area school board voted to remove it from student reading lists. Similar efforts have taken place in Burbank Unified School District in California. 

Other books, such as “Of Mice and Men,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and some Dr. Seuss stories, have been challenged over the years. And the largest teachers union in the United States, the National Education Association (NEA), included no classic literature on its 2023 Summer Reading List.

Leaders should take care to analyze what is appropriate for students to read at each grade level. But the solution is not to sanitize or cover up real history just because it may be “outdated” and “harmful.” The restrictions on classic novels are fundamentally different from restricting pornographic material.   

Christopher Rufo acknowledges this difference when he contrasts the Washington teachers’ challenge with the efforts of parents pushing back against sexually explicit books:

Leaders from the Left have denounced the alleged banning of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

Last year, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Randi Weingarten criticized “Florida’s banned book list,” which she declared included “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She subsequently learned that the list was fake and apologized.

President Biden’s campaign video even mentioned banned books, featuring a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the top book on the stack. 

Would Weingarten and Biden have the same response if they knew the real culprit of restrictions on classic novels: progressive teachers?

Independent Women’s Forum will be exposing inappropriate and ideologically indoctrinating books found in K-12 schools through the “Book Bans” Debunked blog series. If you want to see the books in your children’s school library, search here. This is the fourth piece in the series.