Book banning is in vogue again.
The crazies are bullying school boards re certain books in school libraries.
Let’s begin with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled on the issue in 1982 in Island Trees School District v. Pico. The Court ruled school officials cannot ban books in libraries simply because of their content. The decision held the First Amendment limits the power of junior and senior high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content.
A New York school board received a complaint from a community group. The complaint asserted school policies re library books were too “permissive.” Nine books were involved, including Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Langston Hughes’ Best Short Stories by Negro Writers.
The complaint asserted the 9 books were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.”
In response, the school board removed the books in February 1976.
Five students, including Steven Pico, challenged the school board’s decision. The students claimed the books were removed because “passages in the books offended [the group’s] social, political, and moral tastes and not because the books, taken as a whole, were lacking in educational value.”
The Court ruled in favor of the students’ First Amendment thoughts, “holding the right to read is implied in the First Amendment.” The government in this case a public school – cannot restrict speech because it does not agree with the content of the speech.” The Court called libraries places for “voluntary inquiry” and concluded the schoolboard’s “absolute discretion” over the classroom did not extend to the library for that reason.
The decision clearly indicated that neither screaming parents at a school board meeting nor the school board itself had legal authority to question what books are in a school library.
The decision leaves today’s “interested parents” with only one recourse. Threaten school board members with violence. They are.
The result is that in many instances school board members are resigning in fear for themselves and their families. Their attitude understandably that the position is just not worth it.
The situation is similar to a local occurrence that just happened regarding the post of Supervisor of Elections for Monroe County. Key West lies within Monroe County.
The Supervisor is Joyce Griffin. She has been employed in the Elections Office for nearly 40 years. Her present post an elected one.
Griffin announced friday she is not running for reelection. The election is not till 2024. However she wants to give more than adequate notice so all will be aware.
Her reasons for not running again two fold. First, the State legislature. Recent decisions are making it difficult for election supervisors in Florida to do their jobs and permit voters to vote. Secondly, “I get death threats. We are fighting a battle without a leader.”
A personal observation. Abusive parents at school board hearings are funded by certain wealthy far right Republicans. Similar to January 6.
The school board bullies are too well organized across the country.
One such group is Moms For Liberty. Obviously funded. The group first organized in Florida in 2021. By two former school board members. Today less than a year later, the organization has 165 chapters in 53 states.
Moms’ pet projects “include beside book challenges, anti-critical race theory and anti-emotional learning in public schools, anti-mask mandates, and other legislation relating to education and COVID related policies.”
Those concerned with the sudden surge in the number of challenges to school boards, bookstores and libraries launched Banned Books Week in 1982. An annual event. Generally held in September.
Banned Books Week spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
The philosophical thrust of the Week is to make people aware the freedom to read is real. They spell out reading brings people together, whereas censorship draws people apart.
Book banning has been around as a practice for centuries. Book banning includes book burning. Derived from different political viewpoints to religious and cultural expression, the explanation for censorship attempts are vast.
Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen wrote an Opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday titled: “My Mind Was Distorted By A Book. It Changed My Life.”
Nguyen wrote, “Book banning is meant to stop people from thinking, which makes them easier to govern, to control and ultimately to lead into war.”
He also wrote, “And once a society acquiesces to banning books, it tends to soon see the need to burn people who love the books.”
Books banned on one or more occasions in the U.S from its earliest days to present times include Moll Flanders, Fanny Hill, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Elmer Gantry, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and The Grapes of Wrath.
Additionally Forever Amber, Memoirs of Hecile City, The Pentagon Papers, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, Animal Farm, The Bible, The Hebrew Bible, The Protestant Bible, Watch Tower Society Publications, and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Authors banned world wide include Judy Blume, Maya Angelou, D.H. Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Marquis de Sade, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, and James Joyce.
Also George Orwell, Joseph Heller, Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Truman Capote, William Styron, Evelyn Waugh, Norman Mailer, Theodore Dreiser, and John Updike.
Two noteworthy authors in the preceding list are Judy Blume and Ernest Hemingway. Both residents of Key West. Hemingway in the 1930s, Blume in more recent years.
Being a part of Key West, each warrants a few extra words.
Blume one the most banned writers in modern history. Amazing. Early on, she wrote primarily for young female adults and adolescents from the fourth to seventh grades. Topics focused on masturbation, menstruation, teen sex, birth control, and death.
Giselle Anatol specializes in child and young adult literature. Anatole wrote, ” When I grew up, she was everything to the young. She spoke to a lot of feelings and anxieties that young people were having at various stages.”
Our three daughters were born within 4 years. I recall walking around the house and seeing Judy Blume books lying around. I leafed through a couple. Thought my daughters should not be reading this stuff. I asked my wife about it. She said, “Mind your own business.”
Some of Blume’s works are titled Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret, Deenie, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, and Tige Eyes. Blume’s books have been translated into 35 languages and have sold 82 million copies.
Judy resides in Key West with her husband George Cooper. They operate a popular non-profit book store called Books & Books in Key West.
Ernest Hemingway seems to never be forgotten. His time in Key West every one wants to know about. His time here remains popular some 80 years after he left.
The world knows of Ernest Hemingway.
Yet three of his novels were banned at various times in certain countries: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bells Toll.
Even the U.S. government frowned upon him in 1973. One of his books was declared non-mailable.
Enjoy your Sunday!