Banned Books event to feature national expert Friedman from PEN America

Banned Books and Silencing the Classroom scheduled Oct. 3 at University Library
​Jerry Poling | September 27, 2022

A national expert on free speech and book bans will be a guest speaker Monday, Oct. 3, at UW-Stout.

Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN America, based in New York, will lead the event Banned Books and Silencing the Classroom from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the University Library, second floor north.

The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, University Library, Literature Committee, Center for Applied Ethics, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Jonathan Friedman
Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN America, will speak Oct. 3 at UW-Stout. / Contributed photo

National Banned Books Week was Sept. 18-24. PEN America, the Authors Guild and the National Coalition Against Censorship oversees Banned Books Week.

Friedman helped produce PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Guide, published in 2020. He has been lead author on many PEN America reports, including Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights, which was published this year.

The American Library Association reported Sept. 16 that through August there were 681 book challenges in the U.S. that involved 1,651 titles. That’s more than at the same time in 2021, which had the most challenges in decades. A total of 729 challenges were filed in 2021.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s both the number of challenges and the kinds of challenges. It used to be a parent had learned about a given book and had an issue with it. Now we see campaigns where organizations are compiling lists of books, without necessarily reading or even looking at them.”

Books with LGBTQ matter and about racism are frequently challenged, Caldwell-Stone said.

The UW-Stout event will be moderated by Tim Shiell, Menard Center director. Respondents will be Lopa Basu, professor of English; and Rickie-Ann Legleitner, associate professor of English, interim director of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office and adviser for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

“Having a Banned Books Week event every year is important because most people think the age of book banning is over,” Shiell said. “It’s not. Book bans and attempts to ban books still occur frequently. With MCSII’s focus being on the study, discussion and defense of civil liberties, we want people to be aware of and resistant to censorship.”

Upcoming Menard Center programs include:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Free Speech Day, with keynote speaker Chris Finan, Memorial Student Center, Cedar/Maple Room
  • Tuesday, Nov. 15, 5 to 6 p.m., Black Entrepreneurship Panel, 205 Sorensen Hall.

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