The Best Of Our Knowledge
The Best Of Our Knowledge
#1673: School libraries and free speech | The Best of Our Knowledge

PEN America, a nonprofit focused on free speech and expression through the written word that was founded in 1922, has been at the forefront of the debate over censorship through decades and shifting public sentiment.

Some well-known and highly regarded books ran up on trouble during the 20th century, including works like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But a more recent debate around what should be present in public school libraries has turned from protecting students from questionable language and moved to shielding readers from the realities around them.

It’s fair to question how old a student should be before accessing information on some topics. But there are school districts — according to Jonathan Friedman, PEN’s director of free expression and education — that have dispensed with processes to review books in libraries.

Among other issues with this most recent spate of book challenges, Friedman sees attention focused upon authors from marginalized communities. And he joins The Best of Our Knowledge to explain how this all might impact not just free speech, but public education as a whole.

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Pertinent links

Banned in the USA: Rising school book bans threaten free expression and student’s First Amendment rights

These are books school systems don’t want you to read, and why 

The next book ban: States aim to limit titles students can search for

Nashville debuts limited-edition ‘I read banned books’ library card

How the age-appropriate debate is altering curriculum in Tennessee and nationwide