You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and culture war news roundups.

YCRT! Rant

What’s new about angry crowds disrupting school board meetings to protest critical race theory and subversive books? Not much, really. Sure, critical race theory is the hot new label, but it’s the same old racist, American exceptionalist drivel. Parents, religious zealots, and organized right-wing outsiders have been disrupting school board meetings for years. There’s nothing new about demands for firing and imprisoning administrators and teachers, or calling for the banning of novels, plays, and textbooks. Politicians have always ridden these culture war waves, forcing school districts to inventory course materials and eliminate un-American and licentious material.

Have school- and book-focused culture war confrontations increased in intensity? Seems like it, but it’s hard to track, because so much of it is unreported … and much of what is is hidden behind paywalls. Are more and more administrators and school boards caving to right-wing activists and book banners? Yeah, probably. Enough so that I feel the need to start paying attention again, part of which is reviving YCRT!

I’ll tell you one thing that does seem new, at least to me: death threats. Teachers and principals have no doubt gotten them in the past, but now school board members are getting them too. Issuing death threats has become the signature move of MAGA deplorables, and they show no sign of slacking off in Trump’s absence.

Did you know the Turning Point USA website features a school board watchlist? It includes a breaking news section with links to media reports of school board protests around the country. More ominously, the watchlist includes names, email addresses, and photos of school board members nationwide, broken down by state and school district. No wonder school boards have become more timid since 2016, less likely to stand up to culture war attacks from MAGA-land.

Just ask Colleyville Heritage Principal James Whitfield, currently on administrative leave after his school district caved to trumped-up charges he taught critical race theory at his suburban Dallas high school (his real offense: being Black and posting photos of himself and his white wife on Facebook).

More to come as I get YCRT! back on its feet.

YCRT! News
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Drag queens Athena Kills, center, and Scalene Onixxx arrive June 22 for “Drag Queen Story Hour” at Cellar Door Books in Riverside, California. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

In Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, an opponent of drag queen story hours has been appointed to lead the library board.

The American Independent: Right-Wing Parents Hope to Turn Schools Into Conservative “Citadels.” The article is mostly about banning books with LGBTQ themes and characters, but it doesn’t neglect the specter of drag queen story hours.

An alarmist report by PEN America states that 24 states have now imposed “educational gag orders” on how history and race are taught in schools. In fact, 9 states have enacted laws banning the teaching of undefined critical race theory. Restrictive education bills are working their way through the legislatures of 15 other states; nothing new, but perhaps more likely to pass and be signed into law in the current climate.

“A small-but-loud faction of parents and activists is making life miserable for local school officials—and shouting down the kids who speak in favor of lessons about the history and persistence of racial discrimination.” Critical Race Fury: The School Board Wars Are Getting Nasty in Texas

“Ever since I saw this list, I’ve been itching to dig into it. It’s a bizarre assortment of titles, formatted in a way that suggests it’s copy-and-pasted from library listings.” All 850 Books Texas Lawmaker Matt Krause Wants to Ban: An Analysis

“Yes, this is ? Tex?s school. Where legitim?te visu?l pornogr?phy, which is ? felony, is found in one of our libr?ries.” After Discovering ‘Gender Queer’ in the School Library Depicting Oral Sex, a Texas Mother Became Enraged

“Virginia Republicans are back with a new and improved “Culture Wars” campaign for 2021. The closing argument is once again full of racial division — but this time it is dressed up as a defense of little children.” Juan Williams: ‘Parents’ Rights’ Is Code for White Race Politics

“People have a huge connection to literature. Some people are concerned this is going to be a book banning.” Ontario School Board Reviews Every Book in Every Library To Cull Those ‘Harmful’ to Students

“This case involves exclusively books with LGBTQ+ themes, suggesting that the challenge is based on personal hostility to the content of the books, as opposed to their educational value.” New Jersey School District Omits Librarians from Review of Several LGBTQ+ Library Books

“Republicans think they have found a winning issue in this, to the detriment of learners. And Democrats haven’t found a message to respond to that.” A ‘War on Books’: Conservatives Push for Audits of School Libraries

© 2021, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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