Americans MASSIVELY AGAINST Banning School Library Books? But We Heard ... Aw F*ck It
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor is real busy reviewing dozens of books in public school libraries. O’Connor, who apparently has nothing better to do, will determine if these titles violate the state’s obscenity law. Potential offenders include John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. This might seem like a solid high-school English curriculum, but O’Connor’s not fooled. He’s gonna find the witches and BURN ‘EM!
The attorney general’s office claims there's been an increase in the number of complaints it’s received in the past year from busybody parents who can’t cope with their children’s possible exposure to reality. Conservative groups such as Reclaiming Oklahoma Parent Empowerment and the Tulsa County chapter of Moms for Liberty had persuaded O’Connor to stick his nose in at least 51 books and determine if they’re full of porn.
“Well, I think the first thing we have to decide is at what ages are our kids ready for exposure to images that many think are pornographic? And and then we have to also look at things and decide for our community standards what is pornography?” O’Connor said. “And usually if a number of parents are shocked that a given photo or diagram is inappropriate, that should be reviewed and they should look at removing the use of that book or whatever.”
There are no “photos or diagrams” in Of Mice And Men. There aren’t even any actual rodents. What is he talking about?
The pornography dodge is probably a rationale to yank challenging subject material, primarily from authors like Angelou and Morrison. Or maybe O’Connor will find Brave New World strangely erotic. We won’t judge. He should consider doing the same.
A lot of the effort seems to be, in some circles it’s considered cool to expose kids to drawings of, say, homosexual sex in a diagram. And many parents, including me, disagree with that, whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual sex.
I graduated high school 30 years ago and read most of the aforementioned titles around that time. I can confirm that there are no homosexual sex diagrams in any of them. (Conservative groups have often targeted The Bluest Eye, which has a rape scene.) Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is also on the list for review. It’s a newer title, and there was some controversy over the illustrations by artist Stephen Gammell. However, they are at most a little scary, not overtly sexual — though I suppose it’s possible to be both, like Sandra Bernhard.
The GOP’s recent book banning push doesn’t align with public sentiment. According to a CBS News poll, more than eight out of 10 voters — almost enough for Democrats to narrowly win the Electoral College — don’t support book bans. They don’t mind that school libraries contain books that discuss race, criticize US history, or mention that slavery existed.
There’s even relative alignment among racial groups: 75 percent of Black Americans and 67 percent of white Americans believe teaching about race makes students “understand what others have been through.” That’s 77 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Republicans who believe promoting empathy’s a good thing. I’m admittedly shocked that it’s this high among Republicans.
What’s most interesting about this CBS poll is how little most Americans know about the GOP bogeyman Critical Race Theory. Even among conservatives who fall asleep with Fox News shouting at them, at least 50 percent have only heard a little or nothing at all about “critical race theory.” It’s a typical rightwing strategy to make people afraid of a concept they might actually support. It’s reminiscent of how the Right demonized the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The Left shouldn’t remain silent on this issue and let conservative reactionaries like O’Connor do all the talking. We should confront it head on because we actually have the public on our side.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."