The CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, addresses the threats to our fundamental democratic values posed by educational gag orders and book bans in this episode of SideBar.
The SideBar Podcast
With a new episode airing on Saturday, February 4, 2023, the SideBar podcast on The Legal Talk Network welcomes human rights and free expression advocate Suzanne Nossel to the show. PEN America’s Chief Executive Officer is Nossel, who is also the author of “Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All”.
Can democracy and book bans coexist? Nossel discusses the threats to our fundamental democratic values posed by educational gag orders and book bans in this SideBar episode. She explains why these laws are important, places them in historical context, and offers a path forward.
Winick, President and Dean of Monterey College of Law, emphasized that Jackie and he believe that legal education and the issues of Constitutional rights should extend beyond the law school classroom and be part of our public dialogue when discussing the significance of discussing these kinds of issues on SideBar.
Gardina, Dean of the Colleges of Law in Santa Barbara and Ventura emphasized that these issues do no exist in a vaccum. It is essential to discuss the origins of these laws, their evolution over time, and their future application if we are to comprehend the context of current legal issues.
Nossel is a leading voice on issues pertaining to freedom of expression in her publications and speaking engagements. She has had a remarkable career in both the public sector and nonprofit and corporate leadership. She has held positions as Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann, Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, and Vice President for Strategy and Operations for the Wall Street Journal.
Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine. She has also written opinion pieces for dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Foreign Affairs. She has also written scholarly articles for Dissent, Democracy, and other journals. Nossel is a prestigious Harvard Law School and Harvard College graduate.
SideBar co-host Jackie Gardina explained how they were alerted by Suzanne Nossel and PEN America of the ongoing threats to free speech and expression that are affecting education from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as in public libraries. Educational censorship, which violates constitutional rights to free speech and expression, is the result of these efforts.
Co-host Mitch Winick shared how in the latest episode of SideBar, Nossel discusses the unexpected resurgence of book-banning by school boards, city councils, and in several cases, state legislatures. It is also explained that two dozen states are attempting to legislate public school curriculum in order to align it with a particular conservative and religious ideology, including Florida and Georgia.
Nossel and PEN America noted that between January and September of 2021, 54 distinct “educational gag orders” were introduced by 24 different legislatures in the United States with the intention of limiting teaching and training in K-12 schools, higher education, and state agencies and institutions. The majority of these bills prohibit a number of “prohibited” or “divisive” ideas for teachers and trainers working in K-12 schools, public universities, and workplace settings. These topics include race, racism, gender, and American history. These bills appear to be intended to restrict academic and educational debate and impose government regulations on education.
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