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Censorship in American Textbooks

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Democracy is founded within the principles of liberty of the individual and faith within the ability and essential rational nature of all human beings. Using these principles as the major premises of my argument, I will seek to present that censorship and book banning are impermissible because they violate the freedoms vital for preserving democracy and the liberty that accompanies that democracy.

According to the aged democratic theory, as described by leading American theorist Robert Dahl, an ideal democratic process must satisfy certain essential criteria—one being enlightened understanding. Enlightened understanding requires that the citizens are well educated. Free press and free speech are critical to civic understanding. Citizens must have open access to all ideas so that they may come to a deep understanding of critical issues. In order for the public to properly form opinions and make decisions, it must be well informed on all sides of a particular issue. Therefore, for a society to be considered democratic, it must be a free marketplace for the open exchange of ideas (Edwards 14-15).

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One of the biggest censorship that happened in American Schools took place in 1925 in the state of Tennessee. A state legislator John Washington Butler created the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act which ban the scientific theory of evolution presented in Darwin's heavily banned work, The Origin of Species in science classrooms entirely across the state. According to Kathleen Gilsinan in her case study initiative at Columbia University, Butler proscribed teaching “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and [teaching] instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With the creation of this act, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was ready to jump in and test the law constitutionally in court. So, they asked John Thomas Scopes who was substitute science teacher and a football coach at the time if he would let himself be indicted to make the case happen (Adams). With the ACLU having their test subject they were ready to test the law out. May 1925 the case became official and it would be known as Tennessee v. John Scopes and later known as the “Monkey Trail”. In the case study performed by Gilsinan, the defense lawyer argued to the floor that Act was unconstitutional due to the nature of it and it clashes with the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which stated that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In July 21, 1925 the jury convicted Scopes of violating the Butler Act and fined him a $100.

Meanwhile other states in the bible-belt region followed suite and created bans on teaching evolution in the classrooms. Textbook publishers decided not to put the theory in their textbooks to stay out of the hazard zones. Margeate Talbot mentions in her article, that there was an influx of court cases between the 1960’s onto the 70’s to make room for Darwin’s evolution in the classroom.

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Censorship in American Textbooks. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Censorship in American Textbooks.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Censorship in American Textbooks. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Censorship in American Textbooks [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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