I love books. The ones I have, the ones I’ve read, even the ones I haven’t read yet, because if they are worthwhile, there’s a gem of truth, a bit of humor, or a moment of clarity within the pages, maybe all in the same paragraph.
Some are trashy, of course, offensive, disgusting, maybe even heretical. I pass on those. I’m even OK with libraries not trying to buy every book that comes out. The local public library is not the Library of Congress after all.
A few years ago, the public library in Ocala found itself at the center of a storm of controversy over a book involving sex with vegetables. The publicity, I’m sure, raised sales for the author. I didn’t read it. In fact, I wanted to avoid the produce section of the grocery store.
Still, it is jarring to go to a bookstore and see a “banned book” section, and to see news stories about school librarians being accused of everything from being pedophiles to Puritans.
Rick DeSantis, Florida’s popular Republican governor, denounced “woke indoctrination in our schools” as part of his re-election platform.
He has opposed the teaching of Critical Race Theory, which teaches that institutions are inherently biased. He supported the Parental Rights Education Act, which liberal critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, because it opposes sexual orientation and gender identity teachings in the early grades. Curriculum and and books, must be “age appropriate,” DeSantis said, and parents have a right to know what’s going on.
Some teacher unions and librarians have been in an uproar over this and similar issues across the country.
People need to take a deep breath
What’s wrong with age-appropriate? Kids from kindergarten through high school spend all their free time figuring out who they are. And aren’t parents supposed to help their children navigate through the messiness of life? Hopefully, within the context of their faith?
Of course, some parents are insane, like those who think 5-year-olds should be able to decide for themselves what their “pronoun” should be. Human brains aren’t fully developed until they are 25 years old. Some, apparently, are never developed with common sense.
The last thing teachers need to do is deal with kids’ sexuality and gender identity. They’re up against the wall as it is trying to teach reading, writing and arithmetic.
Reading is a crucial life skill. Unfortunately, it is becoming a lost art. When I taught middle school for a year, I was shocked to find out that most of the kids not only weren’t keen on reading, but they were proud of the fact. I dragged them to the library every chance I got.
Are special interest groups trying to influence children, including the “woke” crowd? LGBTQ groups have powerful lobbyists and have turned an “alternative lifestyle” into a civil right. Some of these groups are actively recruiting, including U.S. medical schools.
Bullying and hate should never be tolerated. “Inclusion,” the word of the day for the Gen Z crowd, is a different concept with bigger implications, some good, some bad, some impossible, especially when someone is trying to force a viewpoint on someone else.
The subject of race comes with its own incendiary pitfalls.
Slavery is a stain on U.S. history. To not teach students, when it is age appropriate, about the nation’s struggle with racism, would be a travesty. But what to teach, and how?
When famed historian Stephen E. Ambrose asked a fellow teacher what she taught her students about Thomas Jefferson, she replied that she didn’t mention him at all. He owned slaves, she explained. But how do you teach American history without including the greatest author on equality and freedom? Teach with context, with irony if you will, but teach it. Same with the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the civil rights struggle.
The Rev. Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail is important, but so is the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
The idea of context is also lost on those who would ban “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain because Huck uses the “N-word,”
People who might object to the book miss the point. Huck, an ignorant, poor, white waif, realizes that his companion, Jim, is not just an “N-word” slave, but a human being, and a good one.
“And I got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time, in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and I see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and I said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now…. “
Isn’t that the greatest anecdote for dispelling racism? Seeing others as human beings instead of objects of hate and ridicule?
It’s easy to tear down a statue, wave a sign, or call for a book to be banned from a school bookshelf. It’s harder to do your homework, explore new ideas and take responsibility as a parent in your child’s education.
Trying to put a stop to ideas flies in the face of freedom of expression, and it may be your idea that someone tries to ban next.
On some of the ban lists is the most important book ever written: The Holy Bible. Christianity itself is under attack, but that is an essay in and of itself.