By the Editorial Board
Republican politicians may think they have a winning problem banning controversial books from schools, but a new poll says otherwise. It says more than 80% of Americans oppose removing books from school shelves because of content involving race or other controversial issues. This means that Democrats (and Republicans, for that matter) who oppose such bans will not only do the right thing, but also do the politically savvy thing.
The trend to ban books in schools is one of the most disturbing attacks in the GOP’s culture war in recent times. While activists have targeted some material based on obscenity or violence, what they are trying to remove are much more books they fear will make students (or their parents) “uncomfortable” by reading it. accurately recounting historical facts about slavery or discussing race in the context of current events.
In other words, they don’t want students to learn facts about history or society that may not fit with hard-right ideology. The fact that this wide network has captured such serious and important works as Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, recently removed from Wentzville shelves, speaks volumes about the illegitimacy of the whole enterprise. The school board reversed that decision on Friday.
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Some Republican politicians clearly think they have a winning problem with Central America. And it seems many Democrats agree with them, judging by their reluctance to directly confront efforts to ban the books. But a new CBS News/YouGov Poll suggests that maybe Democrats should talk more about this issue, rather than just trying to dodge the topic.
The poll asked whether adult respondents thought books should be banned from schools based on specific types of content like racial discussions, depictions of slavery, critiques of United States history, or “political ideas with which you do not agree”. Between 83% and 87% of respondents said they would oppose removing books from schools based on these types of content.
In a significant rebuke to the conservative claim that learning about race in America makes white students feel guilty, only 23% of survey respondents agreed. Similarly, only 16% agreed with the conservative trope that learning about race will decrease racial tolerance. Meanwhile, 68% said teaching about race would help students “understand what others have been through.”
Numbers like that are far more skewed than the usual Democratic-Republican split among voters — meaning even many Republicans recognize that the GOP’s book ban rationales don’t hold water.
The strategy of Republican book ban efforts relies on the fact that Democrats are intimidated by fear that they will look radical or “woke” if they oppose such bans. But numbers like these indicate that, in fact, it is these ideologically-driven book bans that are unpopular among average Americans — as they should be. What could be more American, after all, than ensuring that future generations can assess the nation’s sometimes troubling past and face the often contentious present with the facts on their side and eyes wide open?