I had a nice, easy column on reality TV dating all set to go this week, but then a few things happened that made me reassess.
We have to talk about this new tendency, especially in the United States, to ban books.
“A report by PEN American reveals that students in 138 districts across 34 states have had more than 5,000 books removed from classroom shelves, school buildings, and local libraries.”
That from The Education Trust.
And almost all the books deal either with African American history, or with LGBTQ+ characters.
And a particularly egregious ban happened last week in Florida — it had to be Florida, right?
Do you remember Joe Biden’s inauguration in January of 2021? I watched it, pretty much in sheer relief that their democracy had prevailed.
But during the inauguration a young poet named Amanda Gorman read her poem, “The Hill We Climb”. It was beautiful, hopeful, lyrical and deep. And now banned in some schools in Florida.
“When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”
And it closes:
…”the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
And because one person, who couldn’t even in her complaint discern that the poem was written by Amanda Gorman, not Oprah Winfrey, one person complained and because of the ridiculous laws recently passed in Florida, the book was removed from some primary school shelves.
Well, that’s Florida, you say. Maybe concern yourself with what’s going on in Canada.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but bigotry has no borders.
Dateline: Brandon, Manitoba, May 22, 2023.
The Brandon School Board voted 6 to 1 to kill a call for removal of books dealing with sexuality and gender identity from school libraries.
It began with a presentation on May 8, by a local grandmother named Lorraine Hackenschmidt. In her presentation, which CBC News reports board chair Linda Ross says was filled with “errors and untruths” Hackenschmidt asked the board to remove any book “that caused our kids to question whether they are in the wrong body”.
Ross rather eloquently said, “Because it is not your experience does not mean that it is not the reality of others.”
There was such outcry about the presentation that the board meeting last week had to be moved to a gym and it was full, according to multiple news reports.
And they cheered wildly when the board denied the motion.
But, think about it. One board member actually did vote to ban books. As this insidious cancer spreads, it may not just be one board member a year from now. Maybe it’s two, then three. And then four, and then books are banned.
Think about it at the next local election. It’s something to ask anyone running for school board. What is your position on banning books?
We have a role as parents to know what our kids are reading, at school and online. We do not have a role in telling other parents what their kids should be reading.
More and more in the U.S., and apparently seeping into Canada, is the thought that freedom means doing exactly what your government tells you to do. Reading only what they allow. You are free as can be, as long as you learn only what your elected politician thinks you should know. Not professional educators, politicians.
Doesn’t sound like freedom to me.