Amid rising polarization, American schools have become battlegrounds where books that discuss racism, sexuality, gender, and history are disappearing from library shelves after challenges from parents, school boards, and legislators. The organization PEN America documented 2,532 instances of individual books being banned in schools between July 2021 and June 2022. As crucibles for furthering knowledge and truth, schools offer students access to diverse ideas, stories, and perspectives. Such access enables them to see themselves represented and to better understand and develop empathy for those who are different. Summer Lopez will explain why efforts to control stories and books risk the essential role of education in instilling values like tolerance that are essential for democracy.
Summer Lopez is PEN’s Chief Program Officer for Free Expression, who oversees efforts to document and oppose book bans and education gag orders. She holds a BA from Harvard and a master’s in public affairs from Princeton.