Why Texas Parents Want to Ban Books
They defend the innocence of children.
Tensions escalate McKinney, The tone, basement, cellar, and a variety of other North Texas school districts on book bans in school libraries. On one side are the parents – many of whom consume State Rep. Matt Krause’s list of obnoxious books– who want to vouch for their children’s innocence and remove sexually explicit material from their children’s schools. On the other hand, parents like English studies professor Shulamith Armintor find such books bring comfort to students who identify with the experiences portrayed.
Commentators further from the point generally on the side of parents opposed to the ban. First, book bans just sound bad and un-American. Second, they see little point in preserving the innocence of children anyway. They argue that challenging the moral values of young readers who are still learning to read is “exactly what literature is supposed to do.”
This debate takes place in the larger context of Republican politicians in Texas examining the book collections of all public school libraries, banning critical race theory in public school curricula, and encouraging parents to have more say in their local public schools. Partisan politics has undoubtedly played a large role in people’s positions.
But the parents who support removing these books make a stronger argument. They rightly stand up for children’s innocence and their right to have a truly safe place to learn about the world without being corrupted by it.
Furthermore, the objections to the removal of such books are logically weak. First of all, the removal of pornographic books from a school library would be equated with undermining the very purpose of the literature to miss the heart of the debate, namely whether the books in question are suitable for young people. People don’t debate Toni Morrison’s literary merits Bluest Eye or a biography of Michelle Obama, but whether children and young people should read something like the graphic novel gender queer, which takes readers on a “journey of gender identity and sexual orientation” and “contains a few pages of explicit illustrations depicting oral sex.”
It’s fair to ask if gender queer and other such books provide educational value to students. You don’t seem to learn anything from this story. You don’t even get much practice reading it since it’s a graphic novel. More importantly, a guy exploring his (her?) sexuality and gender sounds incredibly boring. It’s hard to see how the recording of gender queer is anything but the school library’s endorsement of LGBTQ ideology and a sexually active lifestyle.
Nonetheless, some might see such endorsement as a perfectly appropriate way to help LGBTQ students feel included. But that raises a few questions: Are LGBTQ students systematically excluded at school? If so, would having certain books in a school library really solve this problem? And is a school library, rather than a club or organization, the best way to enable inclusion?
Then there is the problem of schools “picking sides” or excluding others with different views. Any organization that celebrates LGBTQ ideology directly challenges and excludes those who condemn it, namely conservative Christians. While their sexually flexible peers have a place to be themselves and express their beliefs, Christian students are not so subtly told to hide their beliefs in school.
However, critics of book bans rightly advocate for inclusive, safe and engaging school libraries. The great irony is that all of this comes to nothing when the school library collection is politicized and geared towards the interests of adults. Because of this, libraries can avoid controversy and actually support parents and teachers by sticking with kid-friendly, educational books.
What about the claim that children are exposed to this type of content through television and the internet anyway? That’s sadly true, but that doesn’t mean school libraries should try to compete. Two mistakes don’t make a right.
More importantly, the fact that children are exposed to obscene content on television and the internet should be a cause for concern, not an argument for surrender. Parents have a responsibility to seek the root cause of their children’s problems. If the problem is at home, parents can address it themselves. But when it’s at school, parents have to work through existing processes to address the problem.
It should go without saying that children are hurt when they see and internalize sexually explicit content. Children lack the maturity and thinking skills to process what they see. They are led to believe that sex and sexuality define them and their relationships and that validation from their equally immature peers defines everything. This creates tremendous stress for children as they discover themselves and the world around them. It is fair to assume that the current mental health crisis among young people could be helped by a collective return to innocence.
What if a parent wants to preserve their child’s innocence? They should keep their household screen-free and not give their children internet-enabled smartphones. That’s difficult though certainly possible. It’s also ideal because it gives children the opportunity to pursue hobbies, discover passions and develop a healthy curiosity about their surroundings. At least for a few precious years, they can live without the pressure and sensory overload of the digital world.
And yet, if an educator or library “wakes up,” those efforts can be wiped out. Parents who believe their children should be exposed to pornographic content or left-wing propaganda have nothing to lose if their local schools do the same. In the past, society would have viewed these beliefs as child abuse. People generally understood that preserving children’s innocence was a way of preserving their health. The fact that so many parents and organizations are now saying the opposite speaks to the anti-child decadence of today’s world.
Even when parents object to inappropriate books in their school libraries, they are ridiculed anti-intellectual, bible-bashing white supremacists, they should know that they are fighting the good fight and their fight goes well beyond a few books. Her fight is about reclaiming her rights as parents, giving her children healthy childhoods, and ultimately working with, rather than against, their local schools.
August Meirat is an English teacher in the Dallas area. He has an MA in Liberal Arts and an MEd in Educational Leadership. He is editor-in-chief of The Everyman and has written essays for the Federalist, den American thinker, crisis Magazine, The American Conservativethe Imaginative Conservative and the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.