Photo by: Jon Tyson
Amanda Gorman, the young poet who captivated the nation with her powerful recitation at President Biden's inauguration in 2021, finds herself at the center of Florida's latest book banning controversy. A grade school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has deemed her book and inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb," unsuitable for its younger students after a parent lodged a complaint. This decision has sparked a heated debate over censorship, freedom of speech, and access to diverse literature in schools.
Controversy at the Bob Graham Education Center:
The Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, part of the Miami-Dade County school district, recently found itself in the midst of a contentious debate. The school, catering to prekindergarten through eighth-grade students, received a complaint from a parent named Daily Salinas, who objected to the inclusion of "The Hill We Climb" in the curriculum. As a result, the school administration decided to label the poem as more appropriate for middle school students, thereby limiting access for younger children.
Amanda Gorman's Disappointment and Response:
Upon learning of the decision, Amanda Gorman expressed her deep disappointment through a statement on Instagram. She revealed that she wrote the poem specifically so that young people could see themselves in a historical moment and be inspired to find their own voices in literature. Gorman also criticized the parent for confusing her with Oprah, failing to specify which parts of her poetry they objected to, refusing to read any reviews, and offering no alternatives. She emphasized the need to fight against unnecessary book bans like this one.
School's Response and Clarification:
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest school district in the nation, issued an emailed statement addressing the controversy. They clarified that while "The Hill We Climb" had been relocated to a different section of the library at the Bob Graham Education Center, no literature, including books or poems, had been banned or removed from the school's collection.
Support for Amanda Gorman and Pushback Against Censorship:
In response to the ban, numerous individuals took to social media platforms to voice their support for Amanda Gorman and her poem. Social media users shared her poem on Twitter and Instagram, expressing solidarity and showcasing the impact of her words. Additionally, many people chose to donate to PEN America, a leading free speech organization, to support their efforts in protecting literature and advocating against book censorship.
Penguin Random House's Lawsuit:
The controversy surrounding book bans in Florida has extended beyond the specific case of Amanda Gorman's book. Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the country, recently filed a federal lawsuit against the Escambia County School District in Florida. The lawsuit alleges that the district's removal or restriction of certain books from its libraries infringes upon the First Amendment rights of students and violates principles of free speech.
Increasing Concerns about Book Bans:
Florida has emerged as a focal point in the intensifying nationwide effort to ban books in schools. Last year, the state enacted three laws that targeted reading materials and educational resources to some extent. These actions have drawn attention from organizations like PEN America and other advocates who are concerned about the implications of restricting access to literature and the erosion of free expression.
The banning of Amanda Gorman's book and inauguration poem, "The Hill We Climb," at the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has ignited a passionate debate over censorship and the importance of free speech in educational settings. Gorman's disappointment and call to action, coupled with widespread support on social media and Penguin Random House's lawsuit, highlight the growing concerns about book bans in schools. As the battle for access to books continues to be restricted, it's important to us to continue providing news and updates in this space.