“If a public school were to remove every book because it contains one word deemed objectionable to some parent, then there would be no books at all in our public libraries,”

Peter Scheer – Executive Director

California First Amendment Coalition

There is a dangerous movement sweeping across the country.  It began with pressures on local school boards to ban certain books, videos and other materials deemed “offensive” and which might make any students feel “uncomfortable” by primarily fundamentalist, socially-conservative and overwhelmingly Republican activists. 

These local campaigns have morphed into a national movement taking particular aim at books with themes dealing with sex and sexuality; reproductive and LGBTQ rights; slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and other topics dealing with the darker side of our nation’s history; biographies of controversial figures; science; dictionaries and other subjects these domestic morality police deem anti-Christian and anti-American.

Banning books and other materials will not make such information disappear.  Simply because small cadres of self-anointed censors believe certain books they feel objectionable are in school libraries does not equate with students running to read or check them out or even having an interest in them. 

Further, unless parents keep their children in a homebound bubble, they are going to be exposed to the ideas raised in “banned” literature and placed in uncomfortable situations through friends, classmates, television, popular music, movies and social media.

For some eliminating books from school libraries doesn’t go far enough and openly advocate having such materials removed from public libraries, privately-sector book stores, public websites and even publicly burned. 

Locally, one group has targeted Mien Kampf … which I suspect few if any of these activists have actually read.  Perhaps instead of banning Mien Kampf, it should be mandatory reading by every high school student.  From it they might be introduced to how censorship; the acceptance of “big lies”; the demonizing as “enemies” those with differing political and social views, belief systems or heritages; and blind loyalty to demagogues can so easily captivate a nation, and result in the death of its democracy.   

The blame for this frightening descent into the acceptance of censorship rests not only with conservatives but also with liberals who for years have successfully advocated to prevent mostly conservative and controversial speakers from high school and college campuses and to deny groups with whom they disagree from the ability to peacefully demonstrate.

One wonders what these advocates for censorship think might happen if a book or movie challenges current knowledge or opinions of others.  Are they so insecure that exposure to new and challenging ideas or fact-based information might encourage others to think more clearly and critically about life, science, history or politics and possibly form different opinions?  Perhaps they are worried as Joseph Stalin mused, “Ideas are more powerful than guns”.

While parents have the right and responsibility to oversee their children’s education, they do not have the right to restrict the rights their fellow citizens nor those of other people’s children!

As Claire Booth Luce observed, “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.