“Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”

Potter Stewart Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

Under the guise of encouraging parental involvement in the education of their children, state legislators, school board members, teachers and school administrators are being pressured, and sometimes threatened, by irate and often unhinged parents to ratify restrictive measures limiting what can and cannot be taught, what books school libraries are permitted to make available and what health precautions schools can enact.

Among their favorite targets are teaching of so-called critical race theory, sex education, LGBTQ issues, evolution, obscenity and vaccine and mask mandates. Their myopic view that banning – censoring – such materials will shield their children from controversial subjects and opinions which may differ from those of their parents is a naive delusion.

Claims critical race theory is being forced on K-12 students makes great political theater but is a false argument as the subject is almost always a collegiate course. A prohibition on teaching the truth about American history, slavery, segregation and other unpleasant aspects of our nation’s history, including language in period literature and our Constitution, doesn’t make them disappear.

Sex education is a favorite target of the Christian Right for whom abstinence is the only answer. Yet, prurient views of sex on television, in music videos, on the Internet and in supermarket tabloids permeates our society. Trained professional educators are far better equipped to inform pre-teen and teenage adolescents about a subject which most parents are uncomfortable, often ill-equipped or unwilling to address.

Legislation in many states criminalizing school teachers, guidance counselors and nurses who discuss LBGTQ issues with students can be dangerous to the mental and physical health of those students with questions relating to sexuality but who are unable or afraid to raise the subject with their parents.

Then there are the “creationists” who still haven’t accepted the facts our planet is billions of years old, life first appeared some 500 million years ago and humans have existed and evolved for the past 2 million years. While people are entitled to their own opinions and religious beliefs they are not entitled to their own facts or requiring the inclusion of such non-scientific theories in school curriculums.

As for vaccine mandates to protect students against a virus which has killed more than 920,000 Americans, one wonders how many of the currently enraged parents were “required” to have polio, Chickenpox, MMR and other shots in order to attend school when they were young. Covid and other viruses are equal-opportunity killers which take no notice of a parent’s political or religious beliefs.

Among library books targeted for purging are "Rosa”, a children's picture book and biography of civil rights activist Rosa Parks and such classics and “Huckleberry Finn” for its racially-insensitive language.

Legally, material can only be deemed obscene if it “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” Yet these self-anointed moral activists want to impose their values which often run amok of state and federal laws and the values of their neighbors.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of these censorship crusaders are affiliated with the Republican Party and/or religious-right organizations and causes. A spokesperson for one group has gone so far as to state, “My opinion is that adults shouldn’t be reading” their targeted books.

To justify their efforts, school censorship advocates have latched onto the political battle cry of countering the “trend toward socialism and return to our Republic of Constitutional Law.” Perhaps they should reread the Constitution which does not mention “socialism” (which most of them can’t properly define) nor does it address any of their ill-advised changes to public school educational programs.

Parents who have issues with a school’s education agenda are free to home school, enroll their children in private schools or, even better, openly discuss controversial subjects to which their children may be or has been exposed.

Public education is not and should not be designed to indoctrinate students but rather, in the words of Jean Piaget, "to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men and women who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.

In a democracy, censorship is never the answer!