America’s Founding Fathers were very clever men. Moreover, they didn’t trust the government further than they could throw the fattest of them. They wrote a Constitution — tattered and frayed around the edges though it currently is — that has stood the test of time and proved to be the most accurate predictor of human nature a bunch of 18th-century white males could come up with.
The essence of that document is freedom — freedom to speak, to worship, to gather, to write, and, by extension, to read. That freedom to read is under attack by left-wing and right-wing alike as books are banned from school libraries and pressure is placed on publishers not to publish controversial authors who disagree with the dominant liberal narrative.
The urge to purge school libraries began as a well-meaning effort to keep obviously adult subject matter and topics from younger school children. But how young is “young”? Kids are curious about sex and there is plenty of good literature out there that handles sexual subjects with tact and a sensitivity to the wishes of parents.
Moreover, you can’t lock your child away and prevent them from being exposed to subjects of a sexual nature, no matter how closely you govern their online activity or TV habits. Sex is ubiquitous in American society, so the question becomes what kind of exposure would be appropriate.
I don’t envy parents today — the choices they have to make, the dangers they need to be aware of. But purging books won’t protect children. Homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgenderism — you may wish these issues didn’t exist and think that by holding your hands over your child’s ears or covering their eyes you can keep information you don’t want them to have away.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And the urge to purge has gotten so far out of control as to make the idea of freedom to read and learn unrecognizable in America. Exposing older children to different ways to live, love, to interact with people is part of a well-rounded educational experience and not a deep plot to corrupt America’s youth. Nor are books that disagree with what the activist left thinks is politically correct a right-wing plot to destroy America.
At some point, far greater care has to be taken to “cleanse” libraries of books one or two parents find objectionable. A case in point is the Martin County, Fla., school district that recently removed several novels by Nora Roberts. Roberts writes “romance novels” — 225 of them to date — and compared to most romance novelists, Ms. Roberts writes tame stories, indeed.
There are, however, some references in some of her books to sex. This led one “Moms for Liberty” member, Julie Marshall, to request the school board remove eight novels by Roberts.
“All of it is shocking,” Roberts told the Washington Post. “If you don’t want your teenager reading this book, that’s your right as a mom — and good luck with that. But you don’t have the right to say nobody’s kid can read this book.”
I guess some parents want the government to do their parenting for them, policing what their kid reads while denying other parents the opportunity to disagree. This is what happens when you empower people to dictate what all children are supposed to read.
The basis for Marshall’s objections to Roberts’s books, according to parental objection forms obtained and provided to us by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, is this: “These books are adult romance novels. They have absolutely no reason to be in school libraries.”
One can debate whether “adult romance novels” belong in high school libraries, but this process is absurd. That sole objection, with no elaboration, was lodged against a bunch of books written by a single author, leading to their removal.
The left incorrectly refers to actions like this as “book banning.” It’s no such thing, but it is disturbing. At some point, a balance must be struck between the need to protect children and their right to knowledge that empowers and informs them.
I don’t know the answer. I just know that this isn’t it.