But when conservatives across the country start banning and censoring dozens of books at a time from school libraries, they’re just trying to protect the kids.
Having already turned school boards into an angry political morass, conservatives are now targeting school libraries in what experts are calling a historic and concerted book banning effort.
That includes “Maus,” a graphic novel that conveys the horrors of the Holocaust in cartoon form, with Jews depicted as mice and Nazis as cats. A Tennessee school board voted unanimously this month to ban the Pulitzer-winning book from their eighth-grade curriculum, citing “objectionable language” and nudity.
Similar campaigns are underway in school districts in at least 30 other states, a Stateline investigation found, often condemning as “pornographic” books depicting the experiences of LGBTQ and Black characters.
“We haven’t seen or heard of challenges like these probably in the last 40 years,” Shirley Robinson, executive director of the 5,000-member Texas Library Association, told Stateline. “It’s definitely become politicized.”
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has capitalized on a highly public effort to pull “pornographic or obscene” books from school libraries, following the efforts of state Rep. Matt Krause (R), who’s circulated a list of more than 800 books that purportedly cross the line.
Both politicians are up for reelection this year.
It’s unclear how Krause compiled his list, the contents of which suggest he either didn’t have a clear set of criteria or is unsettled by a puzzling range of information. The vast majority of the books were written by women, people of color and LGBTQ writers, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Yet the list also includes “The Gale Encyclopedia Of Medicine,” a five-volume set containing medical information for the layperson, and “Eyes on Target: Inside Stories From the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs,” which is available on ChristianBook.com.
One book that’s not on Krause’s list: “The Kite Runner,” a 2003 novel that was among 16 books recently put in “quarantine” by Polk County Public Schools in Florida, after a campaign by County Citizens Defending Freedom, a conservative group.
Asked why the group settled on the books they did, CCDF leader Jimmy Nelson told the Lakeland Ledger that “the books speak for themselves,” but struggled to articulate why The Bible, which also deals with adult themes, should not also be “quarantined.”
When discussing the fact that Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” depicts the brutal rape of a boy by a teenaged boy, Nelson was asked if all books containing rape should be banned.
“I’m not going to go into that with you,” Nelson said. He became irritated when it was pointed out that the Bible and William Shakespeare plays contain rape, incest and adultery, and asked if he wanted the Bible or Shakespeare removed, too.
Amusing though the hypocrisy may be at times, censoring books causes real, lasting damage to children, says the National Coalition Against Censorship.
“Libraries offer students the opportunity to encounter books and other material that they might otherwise never see and the freedom to make their own choices about what to read,” the organization said in a December statement warning of the ongoing “organized political attack on books.”
“It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world. That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead. We must fight to defend it.”