Wissot: Parental control extends only to your children
School bells are ringing, are you listening? But since mid-August they are no longer allowed to be. The children in reading, writing and arithmetic were accompanied by parents on a crusade Remove books from school library shelves they consider age inappropriate and “harmful” for minors.
Parents’ efforts are paying off. A recent report by PEN America, an organization dedicated to protecting free speech “found that from July 2021 through the end of March this year, more than 1,500 books were banned in 86 school districts in 26 states.”
The report raised suspicions as to whether age inappropriateness was the sole reason for the vendetta against so many books. Content inappropriateness also seems to have been a factor. Forty-one percent of the banned books involved characters of color; 22% addressed racism; 33% contained LGBTQ themes. What kind of society have we become, where one parent decides what books another parent’s children read?
Banning LGBTQ books is very fashionable now. 1933 also book burnings in Nazi Germany, which dealt with “deviant sexuality”. The first book burning after the Nazis came to power took place at the Institute for Sexology. The institute’s library housed a collection of 20,000 books on intersex, homosexual and transgender people.
Helen Keller’s books were also burned because, according to the Nazis, stories about a disabled woman were not what the children of a master race should read. In an open letter to German students the day before their books were burned, Keller warned, “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas.”
It’s not just books being removed from library shelves. Posters in a classroom at an elementary school in Pensacola, Florida, with pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver were removed because school officials deemed them “age inappropriate.” It kind of makes you wonder how old you have to be to see a wall full of pictures of inspiring African American role models. Since Florida was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, it also causes you to speculate whether images of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson would have been treated similarly.
I believe parents have every right to direct their own children’s reading habits, but to reiterate, only for their own children. Most Americans do not advocate book censorship. In Michigan, for example, where the Dearborn Public Schools “pulled” seven books off library shelves because, as one school president said, “an evaluation of the books in our inventory,” 78.48% of Michigan residents oppose any book bans in school libraries.
At the heart of this controversy is the desire of some parents to protect their own children from reading books about racism, sexual orientation, transgender identity and post-adolescent sexuality. Like climate change deniers and election deniers, these parents exemplify contemporary denialism, a denial of inconvenient truths and indisputable facts.
The good news is that there are cures for what’s bothering these deniers. There’s homeschooling, religious education, private tutoring. Parents who don’t want their children to read about racial discrimination and contraception shouldn’t send them to public schools. Eleven percent of US households homeschool their children. The biggest downside I can see to homeschooling is that prom sucks.
I am for giving parents an irrevocable right to have their children blithely follow them down the path that leads to willful ignorance. I am not in favor of giving them the power to encourage willful ignorance of other parents’ children.
You don’t have to have children in public schools to take a stand against the actions of those parents. I’ve lived in Denver for 41 years and 50% of my property taxes go to Denver Public Schools each year. I am vehemently opposed to my tax dollars being used to support the medieval mentality of parents whose views on book censorship closely align with the Taliban.
In a pluralistic, democratic society based on majority rule, the dissenting minority always has the right to refuse participation in what they find objectionable. Don’t like a particular book in the school library? Then don’t let your child read it. Don’t like the sexualized content in movies? Then don’t let your child watch. Do you prefer a whitewashed, mythologized version of American history to one based on factual evidence? Then send your child to a school that teaches history as mythology. Do you think abortion is abhorrent? Then don’t get any and make sure your child doesn’t get any.
However, do not violate the rights of people like me who don’t mind living in a secular society with all its seedy, seedy, dirty and lewd temptations. I’ll tell you a little secret. I’ve never gone to an adult bookstore, looked at porn online, or gone to a strip club. You may think that I am sexually repressed and you are right. I would just add that it’s none of your business. It’s between me and my therapist, Dr. Ruth.
Excuse the digression, the point is that I have no desire to prevent other people from enjoying pleasures that I do not find enjoyable. Live and let live. That’s what the Amish and Mennonites do. You must be looking at our contemporary version of Sodom and Gomorrah with absolute horror. To their credit, they never show up at book ban rallies.
Let’s act more like the Amish and the Mennonites.
Jay Wissot lives in Denver and Vail. Email him at [email protected].