A few weeks ago I wrote about the book challenge controversy where a resident of Republic, MO (who apparently has no children in the public schools there) complained about three books that were being assigned in a school class.
He protested that they taught material contrary to the Bible, which is something that should be forbidden in the public schools, America being a Christian theocracy and all. I hope that school library doesn’t have any Korans or Upanishads, or that guy will really be upset.
The challenge led to two of the three books being removed from the classroom AND the library, which was a bit on the extreme side, but at least the offended citizen could rest easy knowing that children who aren’t his own aren’t assigned to read books he dislikes.
After a bunch of protests, and no doubt quite a bit of mocking, the school board that made the original decision and crafted a policy to fit it have now changed their minds.
The revised policy is:
1) The Library will purchase books even if they are deemed age inappropriate by library policy.
2) Students may not check out those books.
Books that are deemed age inappropriate will now be kept in the library in a “secure” location, and be available for checkout only to…get this…parents or guardians.
The school board has gone from looking a little silly to looking a lot sillier, because this policy is obviously designed to accomplish exactly the same goal as the previous policy, while trying to trick people into believing otherwise.
I could almost see making the books available only if parents gave permission for their child to read books in the “secure” book section, but actually having to check the books out themselves?
The school superintendent claims that the problem is now solved.
“It’s not in our library. That’s the issue that seems to have surfaced…. [The revised policy] does keep the books there in the library, and if parents want their kids to read the book, by all means come and check it out.”
But a book not being in the library wasn’t really the issue. Outside of the “Banned Books” nonsense from the ALA, a library NOT purchasing a title isn’t a problem. Libraries don’t purchase most available books.
If anything, the issue was responding to a challenge by someone using inappropriate religious standards for judging novels. And the issue for a lot of people was removing the books, period. My issue was that the guy didn’t know the first thing about interpreting literature.
The revised policy solves a problem that didn’t really exist, except that it also doesn’t really solve the problem.
Instead the revised policy made the previous policy look almost rational by comparison.
Think of it this way. How likely is it that any parents are going to go into the school library to check out books? Heck, they don’t even have library cards for the school library.
If parents wanted to get the books for their children they would likely buy them, or just get them from the local public library, which probably has the books that had been removed.
What’s the point of buying books for a school library that no student can possibly check out? If the point is merely to say, “they’re in the library, so problem solved,” it seems like a waste of money.
Why spend good money for books that are almost certainly never going to be used? That’s what research libraries are for.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether books are age appropriate or not, and reasonable policies can be implemented to guide those decisions. This isn’t one of them.
Probably the school board thought this would be a great compromise.
“Hey, we’re still buying books we think aren’t appropriate for your children to read. Take that, conservatives! But we’re not going to let students check them out. Take that, liberals!”
Obviously, the policy is still biased toward the conservative parents. That may or not be a problem, but whatever this is isn’t a solution.
The amusing thing is watching the school board attempt to meet people’s objections without actually meeting them. I wonder if they’re slow enough to think they’ve really changed the policy to deal with the criticism they received, or if they think the critics are slow enough to think that.
I have a feeling it’s the latter.