In an age of book bans and censorship, it’s time we cultivated some moral imagination.
Islamist extremists motivated to kill Salman Rushdie for his "speech" critical of their religious beliefs are only more progressive in their trajectory than are those vested in woke ideology seeking to silence those that oppose their beliefs.
Erosion of our freedom to read what we want would be detrimental to the health of our society. What is detrimental to our society in the 21st century is the number of people who have only basic language and math skills. People with only basic literacy are destined to be pushed to the edges of society because they cannot read for understanding and growth much less enjoy the pleasure of reading.
A senior official of the ACLU actually said (Tweeted) “stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on”. Of course, a UC Berkeley professor (Grace Lavery) has called for burning of books she doesn't like.
Throughout my life, book banning referred to denying people the legal right to access and read a book as prohibited by a government. In other words, obtaining or being caught reading that book from any source was illegal and punishable by law. I admit that I am old. But banning still seems like an inflammatory if not totally incorrect word to use for what is happening now. I’ve read every article at the local level that I could find online about the “banning” of the books you named. In every case, parents are simply asking that age inappropriate books removed from that particular school library. These books all remained available to upper grades (as appropriate), to check out at the local library, or for purchase. A far cry from a book ban.
To me, the best way of learning about these local disputes is to simply read the local news in these school districts. The local television and newspapers really can’t editorialize the stories because they have to simply reporting what actually happened at their school board meetings. Repeatedly, parents go to the meetings and attempt to actually read passages and show the book’s graphics to the board. In every case, they are stopped by the board because pornographic material is not allowed in the meetings. The meetings are recorded and available to the community as a public service, and the books’ contents are deemed appropriate for an adult public forum. Oh the irony!
In Forsyth County, GA, a parent became so (understandably) incensed over the hypocrisy that she sued in federal court for her First Amendment rights. Of course she won. It’s laughable but not funny.
Finally, do not think these are all white suburban moms. I’ve seen members of the LGBTQ community, inner city parents, parents of color, religious and non-religious parents speaking out on behalf of their school age children.
I’ve seen conservative Christian parents band with Muslim immigrant parents to ask for common sense to be used in selecting books for their eight year olds. When it comes to parenting, one’s values may very well supersede otherwise divisive identities.
I'm so glad we are discussing this openly. I wonder how we got here. I can shed a light from my corner of the world-- teaching adults literacy skills. In my school, teachers are discouraged by some school leaders from using books in our classrooms. Why? Because data is lost. Scores of progress and comprehension cannot be tracked unless interaction with a text is on a computer. Reading instruction has become surveillance of teachers and students. It has veered away from "cultivating humanity." This may be one drop in the ocean to be sure, but I also feel it in my own choices as I write. I fear elements of my fiction will be repulsive to some because I discuss abortion in the 19th century or I tell a story from a Black man's POV in first person. Feeling concern is okay as long as it does not stop me as I think, teach, and write, but feeling under threat is not okay.
I meant “they simply have to report “
Thanks for the thoughtful read. We need to protect all these expressive freedoms. The freedom to read strikes me as intensely important, especially to the persuasive minded. Kudos.