Especially the parents who believe they shouldn’t be discussed at all. Especially in the classroom. Or one-on-one with a trusted teacher or school counselor.
And, by golly, those parents are going to see to it that such discussions don’t occur. They are going to keep any threatening books away from their children. And everyone else’s child. They will get them banned from classroom instruction and school libraries. And they heartily approve of a new law that prohibits discussion of sexual orientation in grades K through 3 and then any such discussion should be age appropriate thereafter.
Actually, that sounds reasonable to me. As it does to public school systems throughout Florida. As I understand it, they already follow that dictum.
Keep in mind, though, this law was pushed by our Republican controlled legislature under the urging of our Republican governor. That’s a clue that all might not be as rosy as it sounds.
And indeed, there is a major catch. What does “age appropriate” mean? Most reasonable folks think it means different ages for different kids. Teachers are used to dealing with such uncertainties.
But not the uncertainties posed by the law. Because now it will be the parents who have the power to decide. Because a second hitch is the law permits them to sue the school board if they are displeased with what is taught or discussed.
If you’re a teacher, how will you respond? I suspect with infinite caution. That means you will avoid discussions on some subjects because you know there are parents out there who would sue at the drop of a hat. True, they might not win, but in this age of conservative judges, how can anyone be sure? Plus, why subject yourself to the hassle and possible discipline?
The result? The most unreasonable and, indeed, the nastiest, parents will win, and children of other parents will suffer. Some kids, on the fringes of their sexuality, may experience mental illness when the teacher support system is denied them.
Unfortunately, all seems to be going well for our repressive parents. They’ve got this wonderful law, and they have state backing for ensuring no dangerous books will be available. There is a list circulating of well over 100 books they don’t like.
The county adjacent to mine recently was asked to pull four books, which it has done. They are Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson, and Looking for Alaska by John Greer.
I have read none of them, but I understand they all fall into the young adult genre. I have reviewed brief synopses of their plots. As far as I can tell, and from what others have reported, they all do indeed deal with young adult subjects. In particular, the subjects mentioned in the first words of this screed.
It’s those words that indicate what is probably an agenda, maybe not even recognized by those parents demanding that the books be pulled. I suspect hidden somewhere in their psyche is a prejudice against people and situations that are different from themselves. Blacks. Gays. Interracial relationships. And I suspect many of these parents have an uncomfortable relation with sex.
The books have been removed, but only temporarily while a review proceeds. That review will determine which, if any, will return, or whether they all will be banished. It will be interesting to see what happens, because it might provide a clue as to our future.
And we would be right to worry. After all, book banning is nothing new. We’ve seen it before when the Nazis turned banning into burning, And in the present day many countries restrict information allowed to their citizens. Like in Russia, China, and any number of other nations where dictators rule.
It seems reasonable. to equate knowledge limitation with dictatorial tendencies. So a major concern is where will it will lead in this country.
And speaking of this country, our prior record leaves something to be desired. When I was young, Boston was famous for banning books. Not to keep them from just kids, but from everyone. The reprehensible tomes included Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, and the play Desire Under the Sun by Eugene O’Neill. Not too shabby a list and this is just a small percentage of those achieving banishment. Many of which are familiar. The ban was overturned for some works, but not often.
One would think that being banned would be devastating for a book. But a funny thing happened. Publishers and authors loved to be able to say their book was “banned in Boston.” Because sales would soar.
Humans are funny. If you deny them access to potentially important or titillating information, and they still have enough freedom (there’s the catch), they’ll want to see for themselves what is so horrible about it. One wonders if Lady Chatterley’s Lover would have been as successful if Boston hadn’t singled it out as improper reading.
I am hopeful that most teenagers, when learning a book was taken away from them, would do what teenagers (and many others) do and hunt out the book elsewhere and dive into it.
Certainly, some subjects are inappropriate at too early an age. But the age when that is no longer true cannot be controlled by a governmental system or parents who think they know everything.
Unless we have indeed lost our freedom.