Remarkable Legacy of Banned Books Week Founder, Judith Krug

scream and shoutThe NY Times has an eye-opening overview of Judith Krug’s crusade against content filtering in their 2009 obit. She claimed, “Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.” She eventually applied that concept to her arguments against filtering internet access for children using library computers and against the federal government looking into a person’s library borrowing record (The USA Patriot Act still allows “the Justice Department to conduct searches of library and bookstore records, in the investigation of suspected terrorist activity.”)*

Miss Krug credits her parents for inspiring her to stand up for readers of the world. That story comes at the end of the obit. With crusaders for immorality like this in the world, it’s no wonder parents want to pull books out of school libraries or pull their kids out of public schools.

How can moral parents raise moral children in an immoral world? I can’t endorse complete sheltering. I can’t endorse quiet resistance either. The best way I can think to fight this is to be involved respectfully in the schools we choose, and that’s even the second step. We must first love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind before we love these neighbors as we love ourselves, not yelling at or labeling them, but talking about the moral training we want for our children.

And more than this, we have to share the gospel in authentic ways, in ways that reveal our honest struggle to love God wholeheartedly and enjoy him forever.

*FWIW, the “library provision” of the USA Patriot Act reads:

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

5 thoughts on “Remarkable Legacy of Banned Books Week Founder, Judith Krug”

  1. “Quis custodiet ipso custodes?”

    So who who gets to decide which books are in your local library? The chief librarian? Your local town council? 51% of the local population?

    Surely responsible parenting consists of raising your kids to understand what they believe and why and be capable of discerning good and evil ideas for themselves, coupled with knowing where they are, what they’re doing and what they’re reading in an amount proportional to the degree to which you believe they are capable of doing the first thing.

    Not handing the blunt axe of censorship over to some public body, with the very real possibility it will be used against you in the future.

    Similarly with library and bookstore records. You really trust the government with laws that include phrases like “any tangible thing”?!

    The PATRIOT Act is National Security ends justify Contitution-warping means held up as patriotism. It is “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” enacted into law.

  2. “Surely responsible parenting consists …” Yes, and responsible librarians should not defend explicitly sexual or violent books against parental concerns. If our communities worked together to support commonly held values, then we wouldn’t have these problems.

    But my main point on Banned Books Week is that parents have a big voice in the raising of their kids. Librarians are not the pure gatekeepers of knowledge and experience through books.

  3. I also don’t think we are handing anyone a blunt axe. For parents to press their school libraries and board to remove a book they believe was too nasty to be approved for middle schoolers in the first place is not censorship. It’s parental involvement. I wonder if parents ever recommend books and what kind of resistance they get.

    As for the Patriot Act, I understand the Feds have never looked into someone’s library or bookstore receipts, and I don’t see what good it would do them if they did. Emails and phone calls make more sense to me, but they aren’t going to casually look at those things. They are going to have a reason for doing it.

  4. I guess you trust both parents and the government more than I do…

    I will admit that most of my knowledge of the “banned books” issue comes from the ALA, hardly an unbiased source, but unless they’re actually lying about facts (which would seem easily exposed), quite a few of the most “challenged” books in US libraries are not “explicitly sexual or violent books”, but simply politically or religiously controversial ones. For instance, the Koran has been regularly challenged every year since 9/11. Harry Potter regularly features.

    I agree that libraries should listen to parents concerns, and I agree there are age-appropriateness issues. Maybe our libraries need to mark certain books as “adult only” or “Over 14s only” or whatever. But I do think that one of the functions of literature is to broaden our horizons and expose us to ideas uncommon in our immediate surroundings. And i think public libraries have and continue to play a role in that. No, the librarian is not “in loco parentis”, and should NEVER assume that they know better than parents what is good for a child. But equally, public libraries do not “belong” to the local Concerned Parents Association, or whatever. It is primarily the parents job to censor their child’s reading, not the libraries. Certainly not in the area of political and religious differences, or differences of social/political opinion.

    And that’s my point: if my 15 year old can’t read the Koran without becoming a Muslim extremist, or Mein Kampf without becoming a Nazi, my child-rearing has been a total failure. (Actually, I’d be rather impressed if a child of mine wanted to read either at that age).

    As for the Patriot Act:

    “they aren’t going to casually look at those things. They are going to have a reason for doing it.”.

    That’s the plan. It may even be the law. You don’t think it will ever be abused? And what constitutes “reason”? And will that definition ever change?

    I just don’t trust the government with that sort of power. Not necessarily because I’m convinced this government is evil or corrupt, but because I don’t think ANY government should have unchecked powers with huge potential for abuse. My approach to government powers is based on 2 concepts:

    1. Once you have given the government power to do something, it is very, very hard to reverse that. Goverments rarely give up their powers, even when the party in power changes (and even if they said they would when they were in opposition – see Obama and warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, the Patriot Act itself etc, etc…).

    2. Therefore, the question I ask myself is not “do I trust this government with this power?” but “do I trust any conceivable future government with this power?”. Imagine the most extreme, dangerous political figure you know as President, crazed with power and with an unassailable majority in both Houses. And 3 or 4 Supreme Court appointments. Now, do you want that Government to be able to read your emails?

    Phil, I suspect (tho’ I may be wrong) that really you and I would agree on 90% of the library issue when it came to individual cases, so apologies if I seem to have vented. Its just… I come from a country where a priest was investigated for hate crimes for preaching from Romans and the Government tried to pass an “Incitement to Religious Hatred” Act that would have made it illegal to say you thought someone’s religion was evil. And where there is a CCTV camera on virtually every street corner now.

    I’m rather fond of the libertarian streak in the US character, and I tend to be something of a Bill of Rights fundamentalist…

  5. Well, on the Patriot Act, I’ve heard arguments against it, like yours here, but I don’t see it is much more than they can already do. Like I said, I don’t see what danger they can do by looking up a suspected terrorist’s library record. If they looked up a political opponent’s record in order to give that information to the press, then I think we would have a huge abuse of power scandal on our hands. Of course, I can see the lap-dog press covering for some officials and crucifying others. Still, I think the Feds can already do much worse than this library provision to a person to persecute them.

    About censorship, we agree in large part. My main point is a parent’s complaint about Harry Potter is not censorship. The parent can’t stop other kids from reading a book in their school library. I believe complaints against Huck Finn, the Koran, and Harry Potter can be discussed among reasonable adults. Some parents are reactionary and can be reasoned with. Some aren’t, but that doesn’t mean a librarian must kow-tow to them. So my biggest disagreement with ALA is their wanton use of the words “censorship” and “ban.”

    Many of these complaints are not about whether the book should exist in the library, but whether it should be on a recommended reading list or in a age-guided section of a school library. A public library is a different thing–much more broadly based. A school library should have great books for the grade school ages. I’m sympathetic when I hear of parents complaining that a recommended book for their 7th grader has sexual descriptions or vulgar language. The complaint is usually one of age-appropriateness from parents who want their school to support their family values, not push deviant behavior or give them a sex education they don’t want.

    Does that make sense? I don’t trust the government in general, but I don’t see this as a government-trust issue.

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