I'm as opposed to censorship in public schools and libraries as just about anyone, but I don't think Fox-y hysteria on the issue does anyone good. Every year we hear that book banning is a growing problem whether there's statistical proof or not.
Here's an August 18 headline on USA Today's website:
Book battles heat up over censorship vs. selection in school
"Heat up" is a clever phrase here, since it implies that the battles are becoming more frequent. But the only statistic in the story says the reverse:
The number of book challenges, usually initiated by parents, fluctuates yearly, says [American Library Association] spokeswoman Jennifer Petersen. Reported challenges have declined from 513 in 2008 to 348 last year, but Petersen says there are many that her group never learns about.
Ah, yes, the "many that her group never learns about." The phenomenon of underreporting is every crisis group's best friend. If the number of reported challenges go up next year, we'll get unambiguous stories about the book banning epidemic with numbers to prove it. If the number keeps stubbornly keeps going down, the stories will be about untrustworthy data and people afraid to report what's going on in their communities.
Today the liberal website ThinkProgress linked to the USA Today story with its own headline:
Censorship On The Rise: U.S. Schools Have Banned More Than 20 Books This Year
Clever. "Heats up" has turned into "on the rise," but there are still no numbers to indicate an increase in book banning. The ThinkProgress write-up does have some added value in the form of a five-word vapor-quote:
While parents have traditionally launched the lion’s share of challenges, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, an attorney with the [American Library Association], says she has noticed “an uptick in organized efforts” to remove books from public and school libraries.
So there you have it. Your annual reminder to get indignant about book-banning as a growing evil in America despite its becoming less common.
BTW, don't look for more information at the American Library Association's own site. The USA Today story doesn't link to it, and I can't find a press release or anything on the ALA site that would have prompted the recent coverage.