You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post about book banning. YCRT! features news and opinion roundups, personal observations, and reviews.
YCRT! News & Opinion Roundup
Books carry knowledge, and knowledge is power, which makes books a threat to authorities – governments and self-appointed leaders alike – who want to have a monopoly on knowledge and to control what their citizens think. And the most efficient way to exert this power over books is to ban them.
The Disinformation Playbook Targeting Our Public Schools and Elections (True North Research)
Since early 2021, a wave of right-wing organizations–funded by ultra wealthy donors they keep secret from the public–have sought to take political advantage of the challenges families have faced in their childrens’ education due to the Covid-19 epidemic. By design, we often don’t know the identities of these groups’ major funders, but they have significant ties to major school privatization proponents, such as billionaires Charles Koch and Betsy DeVos. Many of these dark money anti-public school groups and their affiliated Political Action Committees (PACs) also have close ties to GOP operatives.
Last week, at the start of Banned Books Week, PEN America released its annual list of books banned in schools across the United States. As usual, there were more than a few selections that defy any explanation at all — chief among them being a series of books about the adventures of girls who belong to a coding club at their school. Saturday, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani was awakened by an alert on her phone letting her know that the “Girls Who Code” book series had been banned from classrooms in the Central York School District in Pennsylvania. On Twitter, she attributed the ban to the Moms for Liberty group that has notoriously been going around pushing book bans in schools across the nation.
California Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening Merriam-Webster with Anti-LGBTQ Violence (US Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts)
Merriam-Webster actually closed its main office in Springfield, Massachusetts, and another in New York City for five business days in response to this gentleman’s threats. — Paul
“You headquarters should be shot up and bombed. It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science tranny agenda and altered the definition of ‘female’ as part of the Left’s efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality. You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.”
Even though many of the titles passed the district’s book challenge process, a school district in north Texas pulled dozens of books from its library shelves one day before the school year began. In response, concerned parents and educators are bringing attention to the conservative playbook implemented in Texas, which includes a cell phone company’s mission to take over school boards.
Related (from Twitter):
There is a Facebook group in my community scouring teacher/librarian amazon wishlists looking for “bad books” and working w/ our extremist school board to get these teachers/librarians fired. @PENamerica @Mike_Hixenbaugh @cjtackett @FReadomFighters @andimJULIE pic.twitter.com/oHFwGMMild
— Laney Hawes (@LaneyHawes) August 2, 2022
Rochester Council, and Community, Reject Bid to Ban Four LGBTQ+ Books: ‘This Is an Attack’ (Foster’s Daily Democrat)
City Councilor Jim Gray’s attempt to ban four books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics from the city library was resoundingly rejected Tuesday night. […] “I think this is nonsense,” Rochester resident Brian Carroll said. “There are so many other issues the council should be dealing with, not worrying about reading a book. Some kids might need the help they can find there. I do not believe the library trustees would place anything inappropriate on the shelves.”
Austin resident Olivia DeVore, 16, was interning at Reverie Books in the spring of 2021 as conversations on challenged or banned books in classrooms began to emerge. She wanted to create a space where other teenagers could meet and think critically about the titles challenged, and how those perspectives could be a learning tool for people to access. That spring, she launched a young adult book club based out of Reverie to highlight these perspectives. It’s a tactic other community members have taken to keep challenged books in circulation within the community, even if they’re restricted in local classrooms.
It was the first time Samuels attended the meeting as a student at the Katy Independent School District in Houston, Texas—but it wouldn’t be the last. Like in many districts around the country, school police officers had begun “investigating” LGBTQ books in school libraries in response to criminal complaints filed by concerned parents. But Samuels and other students in the district were starting to fight back.
“While we think of book bans as the work of individual concerned citizens, our report demonstrates that today’s wave of bans represents a coordinated campaign to banish books being waged by sophisticated, ideological and well-resourced advocacy organizations,” said Suzanne Nossel, chief executive officer of PEN America.
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) September 22, 2022
Often throughout US history, schools have been very contentious spaces. People fought desegregation in public schools because they feared that children in integrated schools would learn that there are more similarities than differences across people and then there would be friendships and marriages that would destabilize the social order. I think that we’re seeing another iteration of that now. There’s a fear that if kids grow up seeing that sexuality or gender expression exists on a spectrum and that there’s nothing wrong with that, we’ll have a society that just accepts that. So, schools become the first line of defense because of how informative those early years are not only for how children think but also for how society evolves.
© 2022, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.