Book Banning in 21st Century America


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First in the Beta Phi Mu Scholars’ Series published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Trusting the System
Chapter 2: Power and Knowledge
Chapter 3: Perfect Timing
Chapter 4: Moral decline
Chapter 5: Reading Should Edify the Soul
Chapter 6: Fear, Knowledge and Power
Appendix 1: Methodological Note
Appendix 1.1: General Google Alerts
Appendix 1.2: Case Specific Google Alerts
Appendix 2: Sample Request for Reconsideration
Appendix 3: Chart of Challenge Cases

At the beginning of the 21st century, an incredible assortment of media including books are readily available to anyone with a computer, tablet, smartphone, and an internet connection so what is the point of trying to ban a book from the public library or remove it from the school curriculum? This book attempts to provide some answers to this question. Unlike a lot of research in the intellectual freedom and censorship, which tends to focus on bibliography, ethics, and policy, Book Banning in 21st Century America explores the arguments of the challengers themselves. These arguments are often dismissed in both the general and professional media but by taking challengers’ justifications for their actions seriously, information professionals can be better prepared for challenges to materials in their collections.

The study presented here focuses on how book challengers employ the language of social decay and the effects of reading to exert their symbolic power as members and citizens of a particular community over its public institutions as a means of curtailing others’ access to certain cultural materials. Its primary purpose was to better understand some common aspects of the worldviews of people who challenge books in public libraries, school libraries, and classrooms. The method of analysis, rooted in social constructionism, the theory of practice, and print culture studies, focuses on the common themes within the discourse of these challengers.

The themes in challengers’ arguments center on moral decay in society, the importance of parenting, the innocence of children, and the effects of reading on both short- and long-term behavior. In particular, the study identifies the challengers’ understanding of the state of contemporary American society, their construction of the role of public institutions in this society, as well as their understanding of the practice of reading.

Available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book.