What’s in Your Child’s Library?

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By Walt Mirczak

I applaud the idea behind the Banned Book Bus featured in the October article, Not Your Mama’s School Bus. A yellow school bus filled with books is a clever mobile reading nook for kids. It is good to read about people, their experiences, their culture, where they live, and many other important things as well. Books open many worlds, philosophies, histories, and beliefs to readers.

As noted in the article, the American Library Association reported that from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2023, there were documented challenges to 1,915 book titles. Yes, parents are objecting to the sexualization of our children in public schools. To make a point, Sen. John Kennedy read excerpts during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding book bans. Kennedy read from books currently in middle school libraries across the country. From the book Gender Queer, which contains pornographic pictures, the senator read, “I can’t wait to have your c-ck in my mouth. I’m going to give you the blowjob of your life. Then I want you inside of me.” Books like Gender Queer and All Boys Aren’t Blue meet the legal definition of pornography, and many parents believe they do not belong in K-12 public school libraries.

In the article, Banned Book Bus founder Summer LaFleur explained, “The theory of reading these stories and being able to see a version of yourself or your experiences reflected in the books, but then also being able to get a sense of what other people go through that you might not have perspectives [on] or you might not have thought about.” Obscenity is not the same as self-discovery or learning about new perspectives. We have laws to protect minors from obscenity because it is developmentally inappropriate and harmful.

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Emily Drabinski, the president of the American Library Association, complains about the injustice of banning explicit materials, while simultaneously advocating for banning story hours on faith, family, and patriotism. In response to actor Kirk Cameron organizing nationwide library events, Drabinski provided tips to librarians about how to thwart these story hours, according to an article in The Federalist. Cameron organized a Christian story hour library tour reading his children’s book, As You Grow, in 14 cities. Drabinski and the ALA are restricting speech that they don’t like — conservatives’ free speech.

I care about the First Amendment and am concerned about censorship. Obscenity readily available in school libraries is not free speech. Many public libraries and places of work have an internet policy that forbids pornography. Parents are concerned about their children’s exposure to explicit sexual material and are asking that such books be shelved far away from kids browsing in the sections for minors rather than being banned.

Not all challenged books are pornographic. Public school libraries are taxpayer-funded entities. In our democratic society, we vote for policies that reflect our values and preferences, setting priorities for public school education. Just as many jurisdictions may refuse to provide bomb-building instruction or gunsmithing guides to their students, school boards everywhere should be allowed to make reasonable local value judgments concerning objectionable content contained in their libraries. Teachers and librarians are humans with biases and policy preferences; no community oversight invites viewpoint discrimination.

Challenged titles aren’t “banned” just because you can’t pick up a copy of a book during study hall. You can purchase a copy at any Barnes & Noble or have Amazon ship it to your front door by tomorrow. None of these books are truly banned, but it should be up to parents to decide if their children should read them.

~ Originally from Ohio, Walt Mirczak is a retired rocket scientist who now lives in Tahoe Vista. He has raised two children with his wife of 49 years and has two adorable granddaughters. He is a life-long conservationist, and loves hiking, biking, skiing, and kayaking, as well as reading, music, and good movies.

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