Photo: Marco Verch, Creative Commons License 2.0

A Texas state representative who would very much like to be elected state attorney general is doing his part to whip up the culture war frenzy around public education by "investigating" whether schools have any copies of books that might upset rightwing parents. State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Did We Have To Say?) sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency and to superintendents of multiple school districts to let them know that, as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, he absolutely needs to know whether the schools have any copies of some 850 books on a weird 16-page list.

What's more, the schools are asked to identify how many copies they own, how much they paid for the books, and where they're located on campus, like the school, the library, or in the liberal kinky gay pervert sex dungeon that all schools now have by order of George Soros.

The letter doesn't actually say what would be done with the information once schools submit it. Krause doesn't say the books would have to be removed or any teachers fired or executed, at least not just yet, so our headline and image are lying to you, at least for the moment. That said, it is still early in the campaign season.


The books on Krause's list cover a wide range of topics that might upset rightwing parents, particularly in light of Texas's new law banning the teaching of "critical race theory," the academic discipline that isn't actually taught below the college level, but which has become a catch-all phrase for any mention of racism in American history or politics, particularly if it suggests America itself might be less than perfect.

Like any number of such laws passed this year around the country, it forbids any educatin' that might make students "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," which has led some schools to stop saying much of anything about the Civil Rights Movement except that Martin Luther King was a very good man who wanted equality for all people, not that anyone had been denied equality in our great nation anyway.

Naturally, as the Tribune notes, the list includes some excellent books, but that's only because literary critics hate America.

His list of titles includes bestsellers and award winners alike, from the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Confessions of Nat Turner" by William Styron and "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates to last year's book club favorites: "Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot" by Mikki Kendall and Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents."

Somehow, the list missed Wilkerson's brilliant The Warmth of Other Suns, which discusses the Great Migration and the million petty indignities that white supremacy in the South imposed on Black people. Can't imagine how Krause missed that one, since it's all about how institutional racism shaped American history.

It didn't miss Michele Norris though.

Oh, but the list isn't limited to books about race. Apparently generated in part by a keyword search, the list includes books on sex education, teen sexuality, abortion, teen pregnancy, feminism, and of course LGBTQ matters of any sort. Weirdly, John Irving's The Cider House Rules is on there, too. (Update: Several commenters not it has 'bortion in it. Not one of the Irving novels I've read.) And for shits and giggles, a 1999 YA novel titled The Year They Burned the Books, which is presumably on the list not to see if we're looking for astounding irony, but because there are gay high school characters, and that is evil.

And for good measure, it also goes after graphic novels, demanding to know whether schools have such dangerous comics as Y: The Last Man, Alan Moore's V For Vendetta, or the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (just to show how scattershot the list is, the actual novel-novel version of the book isn't on the list).

But never mind that some titles didn't make the list, because Krause also expects schools to do Maoist self-criticism and search their holdings for "any other books or content" that might belong on his list, if they "address or contain" any of these topics:

human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Note the callback at the end to the text of Texas's stupid law.

Oh, and all the schools in the state have to report back by November 12, although again, it's not at all clear what Krause plans to do with the information or what will happen to schools that have any of the listed or self-reported items.

But we can guess! Krause's very serious investigation will no doubt result in an official report on all the dangerous illegal race/sex/gay books in Texas schools, and that will be grist for his primary campaign against incumbent AG Ken Paxton, who is himself terrible, not to mention still under indictment for securities fuckery.

Not surprisingly, schools aren't exactly thrilled about being asked to do extra busy work to help some rightwing asshole run for office, not even if he says it's a very important matter of complying with the law. A spokesperson for the Round Rock Independent School District, Jenny Caputo, told the Texas Tribune by text that

it will "take significant staff time to gather the information to reply to this request." The district's legal team is still reviewing the request. [...]

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said in a statement that the investigation is a "witch hunt" and that nothing in state law gives lawmakers the right to go after educators.

"This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children's education," she said.

But it's also a bid to draw attention to a Republican who wants to run against Paxton from the right, so don't expect it to go away soon. There are very important questions about what Krause can say the schools are doing to our innocent young people, so educators and students will just have to comply, don't you see? Or perhaps not, since as attorney Jim Walsh pointed out to the Tribune, Texas's dumb law doesn't actually require the removal of school materials. At least not yet.

Also too, NBC News notes that Mr. Krause didn't respond to its request for comment about how the books on his list were chosen, or whether he has actually read any of them.

We have a suggestion! It's not on the list, but maybe he should check out Fahrenheit 451.

[Texas Tribune / NBC News / Photo: Marco Verch, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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