My family moved here in 2000, shortly after the devastating fires, which gave me the privilege of attending Wadsworth Elementary School and Buddy Taylor Middle School before they were united, High School Flagler Palm Coast for a year, and finally, the privilege of being Matanzas High School’s first alumni once it was completed.
Reading has always been a retreat for me, and I devoured every novel, biographie, memoir, essay, and allegory in which I found something relatable.
Many books that were on my prescribed summer reading list for my AP English and Literature class as well as the AP language course are now being debated. At the time, I found them quite controversial myself. However, beyond the so-called pornography and violence, there is a symbolic message – a deeper train of thought and meaning for those who are cerebral enough to look beyond the imagery and read between the lines. Something, of course, that few kids in our district are actually able to do, and apparently the handsome adults who advocate for the removal and exile of such literary works from our school’s libraries aren’t either.
In 2021, only 59% of third graders were considered “literate,” based on their standardized test scores. This is not an attack on the school system, but a plea for Jill Woolbright and others who are pushing for a ban on what the College Board considers accepted material.
I implore parents and the school board to recognize that literacy is a problem these days. It doesn’t matter what books a child chooses to peruse and digest. What matters most is that they read.
The internet is capable of exposing your children to much worse than can be imagined from the images conjured up in any novel. Much worse, your child is also able to come into contact with those who distribute or even profit from such pornographic materials online, where all are connected. Reading about an event that may be related to an experience your child may have had or even may have, no matter how lewd you may interpret it, does not put them at risk, while the internet provides outlets for predators and drug rings.
If my own child chose to read a book instead of chatting on Instagram or Snapchat, playing an online game or taking selfies, I would let them. The world is a scary place, but those scary things are only found within the confines of the pages – a safe and controlled environment.
Additionally, I dedicate this article to the teachers I had in high school who challenged me with material that I would have otherwise overlooked. Those who showed me how to read between the lines of literature and rhetoric and gave me a more understanding view of the world that I believe would never have been developed without their guidance in reading “Beloved,” The Color Purple”, by Alice Walker, “Things Fall Apart”, by Chinua Achebe, and many other African American authors who would have been overlooked. Their messages are still relevant today, as unpleasant as they are.
They present these harsh realities in a safe and controlled environment conducive to higher thinking and critical thinking, a concept that our schools are, ideally, there to simulate and embody. Banning a few titles that are offensive or considered obscene will only hurt your child’s education, while the internet imposes a much more precarious situation — but you can’t ban the internet.
Perception of racism and homophobia
Years ago, a political consultant coined the saying “perception is reality,” and while we may not really know the real motives of a Flagler school board member in the attempted ban of some books in school libraries, what we do know is that all four books on the purge list are acclaimed works dealing with issues of racial and gender identity, with three of the four written by African Americans . And this is how perception comes into play.
This board member’s censorship mission begs the question: why were these particular books targeted? Given the race of authors and LGBTQ subjects, it’s not unreasonable to draw the uncomfortable conclusion that these book-purge efforts may be based on a racist and homophobic mindset. And, while it may be considered presumptuous to apply such a label, it may in fact be unavoidable because perception becomes, and truly is, reality. The board member and the school board will have to live with how these grounds for book bans are perceived, whether or not they are based on racial and homosexual bias.
Practicing true equality leads to fairness
Everyone should read the “real” stories of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. They were also poor and also unsupported by the government. They mostly educated themselves and both became very important on their own. Eventually Lincoln became president and Douglass became minister to Haiti.
No group of people is smarter or dumber than another. We are all the same when we are born. If we practice real equality, without interference or intervention, all groups will have natural equity.