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On Banning Books

I wrote this a few months ago, without publishing it. It hasn’t become any less relevant lately, so I’ll leave it here.

It could be a little cleaner and more concise.

I’ve never understood the point. Why? Isn’t the old adage about the positive correlation between banning things and the demand for and allure of those things true?

My school district, and its superintendent – Tim “I own this” Forson – just banned another 23 books. Until today, I didn’t appreciate one of the major effects.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” ― Joseph Brodsky

I was always of the opinion that, while restricting information is generally a negative, parents have competing interests that must be accounted for. The internet is a massive wealth of information, but many parents use parental control software to restrict their children from content they don’t want them to see. What’s so different about parents' rights in school? Further, how much of a difference does banning books really make, when every book you could ever want is available through the internet – ecommerce, ebook, and the like? (Public libraries, both online and off, are also invaluable resources — at least, until they come for those, too.)

Think of the teachers, the children, the librarians!

But book banning does diminish access, and it does make a difference. School librarians must purge their shelves; teachers in my district can no longer teach the lessons these books hold; and if, say, a certain English teacher were leading his class on a deep analysis of, oh, I don’t know, The Kite Runner, well now he can’t.

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” ― Judy Blume

So it’s not just about access. I have access to ~any book I want, and so does most everyone else; but I might’ve never read Persepolis, or The Great Gatsby, or The Kite Runner, among others, on my own, and I almost certainly wouldn’t have the level of appreciation for and understanding of their ideas that I do now. This is about exposure to ideas: ideas that some people, some parents, and certain Ron DeSantises might not like.

Maybe I should be more deliberate with what I read, and maybe I should try to seek out as much meaning as I can; there’s an immense collection of analysis online, and, I’m sure, self-study literature curriculums. But that’s not the point. We need exposure to other ideas; we need to realize that “America’s not always the good guy”; we need to think critically about life and identity and sexuality, socialism and Marxism and the American Dream.

That exposure starts in the classroom.

This is a drum that the right loves to beat – “they’re coming for your guns; they’re coming for your gas stoves”… but now, they’re coming for our books.

And as for the allure factor, I guess I have a new reading list, courtesy of the Department of Education (School Board?).

“Torch every book. Burn every page. Char every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible. And therein lies your real fear." ― Ellen Hopkins

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