As we hear and see the horrific stories of oppression in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and the growing number of countries being dominated by ISIS, it’s not only the physical brutality that is disturbing, but the limitation of education and free speech that dampens hope for the future. China limits internet access. After World War II,   we hoped we’d seen the end of government suppression of ideas. Not so.

Today, in the U.S. in the year 2015, two recent polls conducted by the Newseum Institute and the Harris Poll report that the number of people who think there are books that should be banned completely has grown from 18 percent of those surveyed to 28 percent. The polls also indicated that one third of Americans do not know what the First Amendment is.

Here is the language:

First Amendment – Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It would be interesting to compare the results of these polls to those who measure how many Americans know about the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms.

The American Library Association reported that there were at least 311 books either challenged or removed in schools and libraries in 2014. Some of those books include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and others.

The list of challenged books gives us real reason to be concerned about the efforts to control the free flow of ideas.

The list of challenged books gives us real reason to be concerned about the efforts to control the free flow of ideas.

Every day, booksellers in the U.S. stand for our freedom to read. Banning books is a dangerous act that opens up a very slippery slope.

We’ll be celebrating Banned Books Week from September 27 through October 3. Read the list of frequently challenged books and the reasons why they have been challenged. Learn about the American Booksellers for Free Expression.

If we want to remain a free and open society, let the people decide for themselves what ideas and stories are worthy. Allow parents to be the ones to screen what their children read. While some unsavory, even hateful ideas will make its way into print, the greatness of the American way of life that government not limit the free flow of ideas. It’s the foundation of who we are and this freedom is worth preserving.

Spread the word. Read a banned book.

Common Core … what could be detrimental about reading class and contemporary literature? Efforts are well under way to undermine the effort to improve education, teach the ability to learn and apply critical thinking skills, and have exposure to worlds beyond your own.

Common Core picketers

Extremists are derailing the conversation about how Common Core and literature can be used to improve education

The Southern Poverty Law Center, known for their dedication to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society, addressed the challenges to Common Core in the summer issue of SPLC Report in a feature “Extremist Propaganda Distorts Education Debate.”

While booksellers and libraries are used to some parents challenging some books in schools and the effort in some states to dictate how particular topics like evolution are treated in textbooks, this latest challenge … on a national scale … is based on misinformation from major media sources.

Ignorance is still widespread, major media fail to uphold higher standards of journalism, and as a result, we see the growing inability to come together. Close the world by limiting exposure to different ideas and cultures and as a result, misinformation and fear imposed by others hold tremendous power.

Bookstores and libraries, by their very presence, stand for education, reason, and connection. The work is ongoing. The American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression is our equivalent of the SPLC, also busier than ever.