Since librarians love to pretend there’s censorship in America so they can feel righteous about fighting it, let’s take a look at another contrast between something that’s clearly censorship and something that’s clearly not.
But first, let me say that while I like it when people use the library, I don’t like it enough to get a mohawk. Call me crazy if you wish.
So back to some more talk about “censorship.”
Out in Fargo, North Dakota, they’re hosting a traveling exhibition from the National Holocaust Museum: Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings.
If you want to think about a place where censorship really took place, think about Nazi Germany. The government suppressed books and encouraged their burning. Now imagine that while piles of books were being set on fire, you courageously jumped into the pile to either put it out or maybe get burned to death. Either way, you’re a champion against censorship!
One of the posters from the WW2 era says, “10 years ago, the Nazis burned books, but free Americans can still read them.”
And guess what? Free Americans can still read them today! Yay! And you know why? Because no governments censor books in this country. That should have been obvious.
I’ll change my story on this if anyone can come up with examples of any supposedly censored books that aren’t widely available in America. Go ahead. Try. John Peter Zenger is laughing at your efforts.
Let’s move up to the present day for the sort of thing librarians sometimes like to call censorship, where in Cape Henlopen, Delaware they had what must have been one of the oddest school board meetings ever.
The school board voted to remove “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” from the ninth grade summer reading list, supposedly because of all the profanity, because ninth graders will have never encountered profanity before.
That prompted a high school student there to confirm to the board that in fact high school students use profanity all the time. I’m sure that wasn’t true when the school board members were all in high school. Back in the day high school students would use no words not acceptable in a 1950s sitcom.
It also prompted a mother to complain that instead of worrying about some swear words in a book, they should worry that her daughter was afraid to use the school restrooms because she was afraid of finding people smoking pot and having sex. That’s quite a high school they have there. Sounds like some sort of restroom monitor might be in order.
To its credit, the OIF, in a letter to the school board, didn’t actually call the move “censorship,” but I’m sure someone there was thinking it. Instead, there’s a string of dubious arguments and an insistence that the real problem was that the board didn’t follow the written procedures for removing a book from the reading list.
That last argument basically boils down to “librarians know better than you,” so it’s probably not going to persuade the school board.
They’re probably also not going to be persuaded by this one: “We strongly encourage you to follow the guidance provided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has held that public school officials may not remove books from school library shelves simply because of their disagreement with the views or ideas expressed in the books.”
Unless a “reading list” is the same thing as “library shelves,” that entire paragraph doesn’t make any sense in context. Probably a form letter.
There’s also a bit about the importance of independent reading: “Preserving the right to access diverse books like The Miseducation of Cameron Post is especially important in the context of independent reading. Independent reading is a vital part of the learning process that allows for choice and exploration beyond the curriculum.” It goes on and on.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that this is true. If so, then the school board should find some books like that one and then assign them. There’s no argument anywhere that will prove this particular book is crucial for independent reading.
That’s one problem for the “banned” books crowd. No matter what the book, there’s never a reason why that particular book has to be saved, rather than any of the millions of books the library didn’t buy instead of that one. That, and every “banned” book is widely available in bookstores and libraries.
But once again a single book removed from a single high school reading list has made the national news, possible because the World Cup is over.
You can call it “censorship” if you like. That way you can feel as courageous as those Americans protesting Nazi book burnings.
It won’t be censorship, since the government isn’t suppressing them and the books are widely available, and the courage will just be in your head, but maybe that’s what some people need to get through the day.