The Board of Directors of Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, today issued the following statement.
The current environment of extreme polarization, demonization, and misguided attempts to shield young people from the more difficult aspects of our history has led to book bans in some schools. We vehemently oppose such bans. They are contrary to the ideals of our nation and to our obligation as educators. We must ensure that every child is equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to understand, navigate, and positively impact the world around them.
Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are fundamental American values. They are enshrined in the Constitution and should be taught and upheld in every classroom. Students become critical thinkers when they study perspectives and ideas that are different from their own. Indeed, this is an essential part of a well-rounded public education, one that prepares students everywhere to thrive in school and to become productive and engaged members of our democracy.
It is healthy for children to wrestle with challenging literature and historical facts written and presented for their grade level. Students should also consider concepts, customs, and cultures that are new to them. This is, after all, how human beings learn and grow. It is appropriate for library offerings and class reading lists to evolve over time, and to include texts that stretch the minds of students.
Yet just as people should not be “cancelled” simply because one disagrees with their perspective, schools should not ban intellectually challenging, age-appropriate books. Banning books because they might make some people uncomfortable is unAmerican. It runs counter to the mission of teaching students to become independent thinkers, fully empowered to create the life they want and do good for others.