WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
Key thoughts on the "banning of books:" As a minor bit of background, let's think about what parents constantly do.
Also, what aunts and uncles constantly do. Also, family friends.
Parents constantly think about the books they give their children. (Also, about the TV shows they let their children watch.)
Parents consider whether the content of some book is appropriate. They also wonder if the book in question is "age appropriate."
Surely, we all understand that parents, uncles and family friends all consider such things. Well sir, school boards make the same decisions for an entire community's kids!
A given school board may decide that the content of some book is inappropriate for their district's curriculum or for their school libraries. They may decide that they like the content some book, but that it isn't age appropriate for some particular grade.
Surely, these points are all perfectly obvious. This brings us to Alex Kingsbury's presentation on the op-ed page of yesterday's New York Times.
As you can see in Kingsbury's tweet, the presentation was granted large display in print editions, right at the top of the op-ed page. As you can see, it appeared beneath this hard-hitting headline:
Only Cowards Ban Books
Only cowards ban books! Kingsbury's piece was given a large display, but it included a very short text. Between the headline and the short text, the presentation included a visual of a QR code.
Here's his presentation, in full, as you can see in his tweet:
Only Cowards Ban Books
[Visual of QR code]
Conservatives are frantically banning books about race, gender, sexuality and American history from public schools, lest students read them and develop empathy for others.
Now Oklahoma is trying to revoke the teaching certificate of an English teacher who shared this QR code with her students. It leads to the Brooklyn Public Library's free online collection of banned books.
Banning books is as un-American as it is futile in the age of the Internet. But censorship still claims victims—authors and readers and the teachers and librarians who would connect them.
We're going to say that there's a great deal of liberal / progressive Otherization on display in that short text. For starters, just notice the way the very short essay starts:
It isn't just that "conservatives" are said to be "banning books from public schools," with no documentation offered. They're said to be frantically banning such books.
This lets us see how unhinged these conservative book-banners are. Also, of course, they're "cowards."
Quickly, the sliming gets worse. Why are these conservatives "frantically banning" these books? Simple! They're afraid that, if public school students read these books, they'll "develop empathy for others!"
What an astonishing statement! It's also an ugly example of present-day liberal / progressive demonization, in which we liberals keep telling ourselves that we are the good, decent, intelligent people, while these Others are deeply immoral.
For the record, you'll note that Kingsbury cites no example of some school district "banning a book." And by the way, can we simply say this at this point:
Parents haven't "banned a book" if they decide that some book isn't right for their son or daughter. They aren't engaged in "censorship" (see Kingsbury's closing paragraph) if they make some such decision, as parents do all the time.
Similarly, school boards haven't "banned a book" if they decide that some book isn't appropriate for their district's children. They've simply decided that some other books are better.
That said, we liberals love to talk about "book banning." It's one of our favorite moves.
Stating the obvious, the gigantic majority of published books won't appear in some district's curriculum. That will be true in liberal communities and in conservative communities as well.
That doesn't mean that the books in question have been "banned." It simply means that some other limited number of books have been chosen for inclusion.
Stating the obvious, there are ugly right-wing books few liberals would want in their district's schools. There are books with horrible gender politics. Some books are quite bad about race.
Also stating the obvious, you or your Cousin Jane may disagree with the selections some "conservative" school board makes. But that doesn't mean that the board in question is "banning books," except in the growing fever swamps of our failing liberal brains.
Apparently, Kingsbury disagrees with an alleged attempt by "Oklahoma" to revoke some teacher's certificate because of a piece of conduct he fleetingly describes.
As a general matter, we would always be loath to terminate someone's employment. We'd also be disinclined to publish a sweeping piece of demonization without explaining the basic facts behind the one (1) case of alleged bad judgment to which we make fleeting reference.
Kingbury is surely a good, decent person. That said, his piece is an ugly example of tribal propaganda at a savagely polarized time.
He makes an ugly, sweeping claim about the frantic and "un-American" way conservatives are now behaving. His explanation for their frantic behavior—they're afraid that kids will become empathetic!—is right up there with calling conservatives "cockroaches."
That said, this is the way the human mind is inclined to work. Our human brains are wired to function this way.
This pattern has played out around the world since the dawn of time. This is the way our brains are wired, even here in our precious blue camps.
For the record, Kingsbury has cited zero examples of anyone "banning a book." What he's done is sell us our latest dose of Otherization on a very familiar wide scale.
Frequently, we humans behave this way, here in our blue tribe too! And as is true all over the world, we liberals have a very hard time seeing this unappealing fact about our own highly fallible group.