After last week’s announcement of the McMinn County School Board’s ban Maus, discussions of censorship and challenges to the books have reached a fever pitch in the media and the general public. It’s great – although a little late.
The problem is that too much of the discussion centers on the book itself, as well as efforts to buy the book and others that have been challenged or banned. There are screenshots of social media posts floating everywhere, one in particular shows a display of banned books on a Barnes & Noble table with the words “what every bookstore should be doing right now”. Bookstores are sharing on social media that they have disputed books and there’s no better time to buy them. In media editorials, writers poetically tell that it just builds their own playlists.
All of these completely miss the point.
The Streisand effect will not change the reality of censorship. This does not create a movement to protect First Amendment rights. It is consumerism, carefully packaged in the form of intellectualism and moral superiority. The real attack on the legal freedom granted by the US Constitution is underplayed by efforts to sell the books, and while it may put the books on bestseller lists, that doesn’t solve the problem.
Because it’s not about the books. They are just tools.
It doesn’t matter how many copies of a banned book are donated to a school or public library. It’s flashy and it’s something that I certainly helped to promote. However, the world we live in now needs more than that – it needs people on the ground. Make something to ensure that intellectual freedom remains a cornerstone of American rights.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a good intention behind it. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t change anything when the eye of the hurricane is already there. The reality is that those most affected by these book bans and challenges are the young people we see, as well as those we don’t, can’t and refuse to see. A book pulled from a school library has a huge impact on children who don’t have money, transportation, or the ability to be openly themselves or openly curious about the world. They can’t just buy the book or go to a public library. To think or say as much is an immense privilege.
What will make the change is displayed. Write the letters. Call administration. Run for board seats. Vote in local elections. Know the laws in your community and state, talk to your elected officials, then follow the money. This is a coordinated attack on intellectual freedom, significantly funded by efforts to dismantle public education (and public libraries, though less so at this particular time) more broadly. Reading challenges are a huge waste of time, energy and resources and create a distraction while even more damaging efforts are being made.
Money speaks loud, but not because you buy Maus Where The bluest eye Where Gender Queer. It’s money from political action groups and organizations with enormous legislative strength and hordes of followers eager to identify and align themselves with an ideology.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming Supreme Court case in the coming weeks. Carson v. Makin is a potential watershed moment for groups working to advance school choice, voucher programs, and homeschooling programs.
In the meantime, take action with this toolkit to tackle book bans and challenges, plus this guide to identifying fake news.
Book Censorship Update: February 4, 2022
- State Rep. Jared Patterson single-handedly targets Prosper ISD in Texas, demanding the removal of over 80 pounds.
- Schools in Polk County, Florida pulled 16 books from shelves after complaints from a right-wing conservative religious group filed complaints.
- All American Boys sparked a “debate” at a Rhode Island high school because parents don’t like the language or the anti-police sentiments.
- Gender Queer will remain on the high school shelves in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
- The Campbell County Wyoming Public Library is still working on its list of nearly 50 disputed books. Three more have been discussed and will remain on the shelves in the teen section.
- The North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional District in New Jersey retains lawn boy, Gender Queer, Not all boys are blue, fun houseand This book is gay on the shelves.
- Dear Martin will no longer be used in Tuscola High School (NC) classrooms. Judd Legum’s deep dive into this story is particularly good.
- Three books are under discussion in Hudson, Ohio. lawn boy was put back on the shelves while Gender Queer is still under review. A book, A girl on the shorehas been removed and “the responsible media specialist will be referred for follow-up […] the follow-up process could include disciplinary action against the employee”
- Not all boys are blue is being studied at the Auburn Enlarged School District in New York.
- Orange County North Carolina Schools Keep Gender Queer, out of darknessand Not all boys are blue on the shelves of school libraries.
- 8 books have been removed from school libraries in Forsyth County, Georgia.
- First note that the source of this story is a left wing blog, but there is evidence in the board meeting minutes that backs it up: Anchorage (AK) Public Library is destroyed from inside by the happy deputy director of censorship.
- Carmel Clay Indiana Schools reviews five books at the middle and high school level and four in elementary schools.
- The Billings, Montana School Board maintains two books in its libraries: lawn boy and Gender Queer.
- A host of books are challenged by parents in Baldwinsville, New York.
- This article is about the misrepresentation of book challenges in Pitt County, NC, a few books…but also that All American Boys was appropriately represented in the challenge.
- A Thread by Stephana Ferrell, one of the parents working against book challenges in Orange County, Florida, amid the school district’s letter to state lawmakers. Right now, Florida is crafting increasingly dangerous bills to weed out anyone outside the cis-het-white world of education.
- Parental monitoring technology of student library usage is being developed by Follett: This Week’s Book Censorship News, April 1, 2022
- The Censorship Story I Can’t Tell You: Book Censorship News of the Week, March 25, 2022
- What are obscenity laws? : News on book censorship, March 18, 2022
- Why didn’t the New York State Department of Education defend its state librarian? : This week’s book censorship news, March 11, 2022
- How much does a reading challenge cost? : News of the week on book censorship, March 4, 2022
- Take a step this week towards the fight against censorship: the news of the week on book censorship, February 25, 2022
- How faith-based right-wing money is waging war through book challenges: Book Censorship News, February 18, 2022
- Is a program update a book ban? : News of the week on book censorship, February 11, 2022
- Who are the Moms for Freedom? : This week’s book censorship news, January 28, 2022