What HS4CC Parents Need to Know About K-12 Book Bans

Context for this post is that Inside Higher Education’s feature story today presents the book ban controversy, and shares some reactions from The College Board (PSAT, SAT, AP, CLEP) as well as university professors. There are nuances to this topic that you need to know about so you can make an informed decision.

Link to full article (registration is required to see the article, but it is free to register)

*Sections of the full article have been removed to condense this post but everything is copied and pasted word-for-word. My comments are highlighted in yellow.**

How K-12 Book Bans Affect Higher Education

Some educators fear removing controversial books from the K-12 curriculum will harm student development and critical thinking—and rob them of the cultural capital colleges expect them to possess.


Josh Moody

February 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.

“If you want to get kids excited about reading, you let them read whatever they’re interested in, and kids are interested in the things that are in banned books,” said Kathy M. Newman, an English professor who heads the Banned Books Project at Carnegie Mellon University. ‘They’re interested in sex, they’re interested in sexuality, they’re interested in race and racial controversy.'”

Jennifer’s comments: I am unaware of any state or district that regulates reading lists to homeschool families in any way-shape-or form.

“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.”

Jennifer’s comments: HS4CC Parents who have teens attempting the AP English Literature and Composition Exam may with to review this *unofficial* AP Literature reading list assembled by Sharp School. This list includes all titles from which exam questions were drawn.

Fallout at the College Board
The controversy over the K-12 curriculum is also playing out within the ranks of the College Board. Todd Huston, the Republican speaker of Indiana’s House of Representatives, recently resigned as senior vice president for state and district partnerships at the College Board amid a Twitter campaign that called out his role in pushing Indiana legislation that would bar teachers from promoting “divisive concepts” and possibly cost educators their teaching license for doing so…

The College Board declined to provide a response to questions about how challenges to books that are recommended reading for AP classes might affect college readiness. College Board president David Coleman announced Huston’s resignation in an email to employees, which made no mention of the controversy surrounding the Indiana bill and praised his prowess as an employee and leader.

How you feel about this issue depends on what side you’re on, so the most important take-away for HS4CC families is to have information so you can make an informed decision. Teachers and professors are PEOPLE with agendas and opinions and values. The extent in which they express or promote those ideas in their classes is a wildcard. Please be sensitive to the fact that for every parent who wants one book removed, another is pressing for its inclusion. THAT isn’t he battle here- the battle here is how to see the landmines and go around them so you can move forward and get them graduated.

Here are my suggestions for how you can extract the most information in advance and earn college credit even when the context is questionable.

Dual enrollment courses (college courses taken in high school by minors for college credit) in the fields of English Composition and Literature may include highly controversial books.

  • Email the professor/teacher in advance and ask for a syllabus and reading list.
  • Use RateMyProfessor.com to try an get feedback about the teacher.
  • Google the professor/teacher – if they’ve written books or published articles you can usually read them online.
  • Read the professor/teacher’s college biography if available.
  • Recognize that the professor/teacher has academic freedom on their side and will likely be supported by the administration of the college/university at all costs.
  • Asking for special favor or permission to read alternative material is unreasonable.
  • Choosing a different class/college/teacher/professor is the fastest solution. Separately, once your teen’s education is arranged, you can decide if this is a situation you want to address.

CLEP exam (standardized exam worth potential college credit) in the fields of College Composition, American Literature, and English Literature remain relatively mild in terms of controversial content.

  • Any high school curriculum can be used to learn the content that you’ll need to take and pass a CLEP exam. THIS IS THE KEY – you control the content.
  • If your teen’s college allows College Composition in place of English 1 and or English 1 & 2, this is the most straightforward way to skip these two college classes.
  • 2 essays are required for the CLEP College Composition exam, one that allows you to argue for/against a statement, and the second requires analysis of two sources. In neither case will they be exposed to controversial content.
  • CLEP American Literature and English Literature require reading small passages from larger works, and answering multiple choice questions about those passages.

AP course/ AP exam (standardized course, a standardized exam worth potential college credit).

  • In the case of an AP course, the curriculum is directed by The College Board.
  • AP courses will require reading books from an AP course literature list.
  • The AP exam can be taken without having taken an AP course, but the AP exam supposes that the student has done the reading and work of a standard AP course.
  • AP exams are almost entirely made up of free response questions.

You may also like to read…

Adult Content in College Classes

Minors taking college-level classes?  What kinds of “adult content” will your student be exposed to in college classes? In this post, we’ll explore a few things to consider and questions to ask yourself about your teen.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit