Independent Thinking Is “Imperative”: Professor Kal Alston Quoted in Inside Higher Ed

How K-12 Book Bans Affect Higher Education

Kal Alston(Inside Higher Ed | Feb. 10, 2022) Culture war battles have long been fought in colleges and K-12 schools alike, with ideological opponents clashing over free speech, academic freedom and even the politics of fried chicken chains. But a renewed battle over books has some in higher education worried about students’ college readiness as school boards across the U.S. remove challenging texts from the K-12 curriculum.

Some worry that it isn’t just high school students who will suffer but also those in lower grades, who may have their passion for reading stifled before they can fully explore the literary world …

Kal Alston, education professor and dean of academic affairs at Syracuse University, noted that some of the books being challenged have been recommended reading for Advanced Placement classes in high schools, such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved or The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

“These are texts that have been used for multiple decades in high school literature classes,” Alston said.

She worries that advocates, backed by shadowy organizations, are seizing on controversies around critical race theory—which is not taught in public K-12 schools—as a way to demand control over the curriculum and, subsequently, the narrative in U.S. education. These demands, she feels, will limit students’ exposure to new ideas and the development of critical thinking.

“I do think that were we to follow this logic of ‘parents should control the curriculum,’ we’d end up in a worse place for students coming into college, because it’s not just critical thinking that’s imperative for college student success but also independent thinking,” Alston said …

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