War on education strikes again: suppression overbears censorship

Staff Editorial: The opinion of the El Vaquero staff members

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Since January 2021, 35 states have introduced 137 bills attempting to censor school curriculums, according to National Public Radio

The United States’ current “War on Education” has made further strides than expected. From banning books on the topics of race, sexual orientation and socialism to criminalizing the word “gay,” lawmakers are pushing limits between protection and prevention. What may not align with their agendas is not the case for the entire population, and such censorship will do more harm than discussing these “controversial” topics in a safe and respectful manner. There is a fine line between protective censorship and the suppression of critical issues, and our country needs to find it.

Censorship in education isn’t new, but today’s efforts have gone too far. In January, a Seattle-area school board dropped To Kill A Mockingbird from their required reading list for its themes of racism and “white-saviors,” according to the Seattle Times. Despite being named as the “best book of the last 125 years” by the New York Times, the school board claimed their teachers “may not feel comfortable guiding their students through it.” While this type of censorship may seem beneficial at first glance, more harm is being done by eliminating thoughtful and productive conversations on real, current issues. Students need exposure to our history, both past and present. Restricting such novels leaves students confused as to why the topics are harmful in the first place, thus pushing them to form a one-sided view on a crucial issue. 

Current strides towards censorship in education will have long lasting effects on students. On March 28, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1557 into law that forbids school instruction on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarden through third grade classrooms, according to AP News. Unlike banning explicit content in entertainment to protect children, for example, suppressing conversations of basic human instinct is dangerous. Children will be more confused with their feelings, and without proper guidance and support from their teachers or peers, they will suffer mental and physical consequences, according to USA Today. LGBTQ students already have the highest suicide rate in the country, so fostering thoughtful discussions in classrooms without the presence of these bills could elevate students’ mental and physical well being. 

Sexual Orientation and gender identity aren’t the only topics currently under fire. A nationwide push to ban conversations of race in classrooms is underway, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Republican lawmakers across the states have proposed bills to eliminate teaching of critical race theory as well as concepts of white privilege and addressing systemic issues. If these efforts towards censorship pass, k-12 students from every state will be deprived of an inclusive and informative education and will lose the right to discuss personal matters of race, ethnicity and racism outside of their homes. Such blatant bills attempting to suppress racial talk in schools have no place in our classrooms, nor anywhere else for that matter. 

The basis on which the idea of censorship is built upon directly counteracts the political beliefs of those who support it. Republicans, the main advocates for censorship in education, constantly rule in favor of upholding the First Amendment’s freedom of speech more than Democrats or any other party, according to the Free Speech Center. But don’t their strides in censorship directly violate the First Amendment? Along with the passing of laws such as Bill 1557, students’ and teachers’ freedom of speech is being taken away from them, a clear obstruction of the Bill of Rights. If lawmakers care so deeply of their political stance, they need to realign their agendas and realize that they themselves are pushing limitations on their freedoms, one bill at a time. 

The idea of censorship is beneficial, but does not belong in our classrooms. Limiting discussions on race, sexual orientation, gender identity and more destroys productive and educational teaching. The best way to approach these topics in the classroom is through open, thoughtful and respectful conversations, all of which don’t bloom under suppression.