President Biden called on Americans Wednesday to stop placing teachers in the middle of “culture wars” as various book bans pick up heat across the country.
“American teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and lifting them up,” the president said during the annual National and State Teachers of the Year award ceremony at the White House.
“We’ve got to stop making them the target of culture wars. That’s where this is going.”
During the event, Biden accused politicians of “trying to score political points” by pushing for certain books to be banned in schools.
“Even math books,” Biden said, referring to the recent decision by the Florida Department of Education to ban 54 math textbooks from being taught due to what it called “problematic” material.
“I mean, did you ever think – even you younger teachers – did you ever think, when you’d be teaching that you’d be worried about book burnings and banning books, all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda?” the president asked.
As of March 31, there are more than a thousand books that have been banned from various libraries and classrooms across the country, according to nonprofit PEN America.
While many of these books address sexuality, racism, and LGBTQ+ issues, the list also includes well-known novels such as “The Kite Runner”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and “The Bell Jar.”
The nonprofit organization found that at least 41% of the banned books listed are tied to directives from state officials or lawmakers to investigate or remove the books.
School boards and districts cite various reasons when banning books – either pointing to excessive violence, racial insensitivity, or – in Florida’s case – the inclusion of critical race theory.
Earlier this month, Florida rejected 41% of publisher submissions of math textbooks because many included “references to critical race theory” or inclusion of Common Core.
“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement at the time.
In January, a Tennessee school district banned Art Spiegelman’s book “Maus” – a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust – due to graphic scenes and profanity.
At the time, McMinn County School Board member Tony Allman defended the decision saying “it shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids.”
“Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy,” Allman said.
That same month, a school board just outside Seattle removed “To Kill a Mockingbird” from its curriculum after various parents, students and teachers complained of racial insensitivity.