The Kansas Reflector hosts opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of broadening the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Gretchen Eick is an author, educator and publisher in Wichita.
Once again, Texas is throwing its weight like an overgrown and intimidating tyrant. As the nation’s biggest buyer, Texas has long dominated decisions about what is included in social studies textbooks. Now a texas the legislator aims 850 books – the source of ideas and images that open the mind and arouse empathy and intellect.
The contested books include Pulitzer Prize-winning books and plays by authors who have now become part of the canon of great American literature. Toni Morrison. Marguerite Atwood. Sherman Alexie. August Wilson.
Notably, many of these books address the issues faced by people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. The Dallas Morning News discovered that “Of the first 100 titles listed, 97 were written by women, people of color or LGBTQ authors. “
As usually happens with bullies, Texas has a cohort of wannabes rushing to follow suit, admirers who want to emulate the silence of dissent and discussion by passing their own lists of banned books. The book ban is not new. A hundred years ago and into the 1950s, it was an active part of American popular culture.
And he is coming back in force.
At Goddard, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Affairs Julie Cannizzo emailed principals and librarians telling them to remove 29 books from shelves and not allow them to be extracted, KMUW reported. His directive violated the district’s policy on contesting and removing books: “Contested documents should not be removed from use during the review period. “
Time magazine had a story by Olivia Waxman earlier this month about a school board meeting in Spotsylvania, Va. where the county public school board unanimously ordered its school libraries to start removing books “Sexually explicit”.
Like most of the challenges in the book, these started with a single parent.
The 1776 PAC Project, a political action committee using the smokescreen of promoting “patriotism” in schools, this year funded school board candidates across the country who would challenge critical race theory. It was the code for books and teachers that include embarrassing parts of America’s past.
Ten candidates for the Kansas school board were supported by the PAC, in the Olathe, Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley and Lansing races. Seven of them won.
If you visit the PAC website, you are encouraged by a persistent pop-up to “Report a school promoting critical breed theory”. It asks for the name of the school and your email.
The flight of whites in the 20th century meant that Americans of European descent were fleeing urban neighborhoods rather than sharing them with people of color. In the 21st century, the white leak means the leak of the shelves – and the hard facts of history. The New Public Enemy, according to this new crowd of banned books, writes that challenges tired prejudices and inspires empathy for those who were previously silenced and excluded.
But healthier voices can reverse decisions to ban books. This happened in Goddard, when the school board ended up sent this letter to his staff and families:
“In September, a parent had questions about the language and graphics of a specific book in one of our school libraries that their child had consulted. The parent then followed up with the list of the same 28 books (which the district then ordered to be removed from its shelves). … Today, after the review, the recommendation of principals and librarians is to leave all books active and encourage parents to contact them directly if they have questions about nationally challenged books.
By the way, the school district does not even own some of the books on the list generated nationally by the complaining parent.
Don’t stay silent when freedoms – including the freedom to access books that tell the truth about our nation and its people – are called into question. Silence implies agreement. Let’s stop this flight of books and ideas.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of those affected by public policy or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own comment, here.