Ruth Graham points out the problems with that wonderful literary celebration currently engaging many sweet, ill-at-ease readers across the country, Banned Books Week.
Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between “bans” from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a “book ban.”
We at Brandywine Books hope you are enjoying your Banned Book celebrations. If you’re looking for suggestions, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has always been a great fire-starter. We’ve heard of some bacchants snatching books from tables at coffeeshops or smacking them out of the hands of readers on the sidewalk. Don’t let the reason for the season slip into history. Get out there and ban a book. (via Prufrock)
Alan Noble says that Springs Charter School story may be an overreaction. In fact, the school says, “We can and do provide educational books with religious perspectives, including Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.”
The school statement continues: “However, like every other public school in the State of California, we cannot legally maintain religious textbooks on our warehouse shelves for distribution to our families. Donated items are made available to our families at no cost. Any and all donated items are not incorporated onto the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse. The only materials we maintain on the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse are items we have purchased ourselves in accordance with the laws of our State.”
Noble asks, “Did the Superintendent make this clear in the letter she sent to PJI? That much is not clear, since PJI didn’t actually post her letter online.” But the Super does appear to be a practicing catholic, not a opponent of faith.
River Springs Charter Schools in California is reportedly removing all Christian books from its library shelves.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal defense organization, has been circulating the accusation that this network of California charter schools is culling its stock of Christian material, notably The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.
The school says it receives state funds and so cannot allow “sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves.” On their Facebook page, the school states, “No, we are not banning Christian novels at all. We are not allowed to provide sectarian textbooks however, so this is where the confusion comes in. So it’s yes to novels, no to textbooks as a public school.”
But attorneys with PJI say the Supreme Court has a “long-established precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message.”
Now I fully understand that “sectarian” could be defined in wild and nonsensical ways. I mean, this is California. But I have a hard time understanding how a library is supposed to operate if it can’t remove books over content issues. How did the books get in the library to begin with? If they had a volume of a decade of Playboy issues, would librarians be able to remove it based on the content?
I’m told Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico is in play here. Continue reading So What If School Library Dumps Christian Books?
The 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? Continue reading Remarkable Legacy of Banned Books Week Founder, Judith Krug
Loren Eaton talks about censorship in light of last week’s banned books celebration. Did you attend any book burnings or Protest The Read rallies? I was out of town, so I missed the usual fun.
From the Wall Street Journal article to which Loren links, complaints are as good as actual bans for the American Library Association (ALA): “For the ALA, what makes them censors is that they spoke up at all: ‘True’ patriots, presumably, would have kept quiet. Who, then, is afraid of discourse?” Indeed.
I hesitate to call Dennis Ingolfsland, of The Recliner Commentaries, a “fellow librarian,” since he’s the real thing and I’m an on-the-job-trained poseur. But I know enough to recommend this piece about the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week.”
The fact is that there are no banned books in America. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall seeing any articles in the Library Journal or American Libraries protesting that other religion and those other countries which really do ban books.
(Picture credit: Jupiter Images)
“Free access to information is a core American value that should be protected,” said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Not every book is right for each reader, but an individual’s interpretation of a book should not take away my right to select reading materials for my family or myself.”
This quote comes in an article headlining the fact that “And Tango Makes Three” was the most challenged or “banned” book last year, and I think this may highlight our argument for Banned Books Week. How does “free access to information” apply to children’s stories or any story for that matter? If parents believe a book, which the librarian believes with worth reading, should be placed in a somewhat restricted access section in order to guard young reader, do that bar anyone from access to whatever information is in it? Of course not.
But as readers of this blog have said before, the best parental guard against children reading inappropriate material is parental involvement and moral instruction. Children can understand a good bit with loving instruction. Where “And Tango Makes Three” is concerned, it may be a good idea for children to read it, ask questions about what makes a family, and receive thoughtful answers from their parents. Perhaps a book like this makes the top of the challenged list because some parents don’t want to face uncomfortable issues.
I believe we live in difficult times, and I don’t think Christians and god-fearing people will gain any ground by trying to shut out bad ideas or “information” from their libraries. We have to know the truth, love our neighbors, and speak appropriately about issues wherever we can–to speak as a humanist. To speak as a Christian, we should love our Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and then know the truth, love our neighbors, and speak appropriately.