A Florida School Has Banned the Poem Read at Biden’s Inauguration— PEN America (@PENamerica) May 23, 2023
Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb is restricted after just one parent complained about it.https://t.co/AMLRSaUSOA #BannedBooks #IStandWithTheBanned
There is some back and forth over what we count as a "ban" for purposes of conversation--so let's go with "restriction". One parent complained about this poem. One confused parent, who thought it was written by Oprah Winfrey (which right there is a bit of a red flag--no?) And so it was decided on the basis of one opinion that maybe the younger ones would be "confused" or "indoctrinated" by a poem that was read at a presidential inauguration for all the world to hear.
So, let's talk about the parent--who apologized for promoting the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a notorious anti-Semitic hoax that still has a lot of play among a certain set of conspiracy theorists. She admits she's not much of a reader. One could argue what sort of thinker she is. But the point is--she's one person.
And she has the ability as a parent to restrict her own's kids' reading. I can wonder about what sort of strange, unwell bonsai her kids' curiosity might be pruned to as a result. But my own parents pulled messy romance novels and Mad Magazine out of my sweaty little hands as a kid--it was their right. At issue is whether a very few, and possibly very cranky few at that, should have veto power over all the kids' reading.
After all, just eleven people filed most book bans across the country. Maybe these people need new hobbies, because that sounds like an industry, if not its own agenda.
I can't say age restriction is wholesale bad--I definitely question things of a sexually explicit nature being in the hands of kids and think maturity restrictions do make sense, in context. But, for example, nudity was used as a reason for banning the graphic novel "Maus" in a context that had no sexual conten. And I can see where there are challenges to LGBT+ content on the basis of "sexual references" where nothing is explicit. (I want to put out there that not all "coming of age" novels are for the people who are coming of age themselves, but for people who have also been through it.) But also, just because something is contentious doesn't mean it's wrong, as in the case of, I dunno, the grand sweep of American history.
Those decision aren't one hill to climb--but one after another. And shouldn't be lightly decided just because school officials can't be bothered to fend off random cranks.
It doesn't escape my notice, though, that Florida's Governor and recently-announced presidential candidate Ron DeSantis seems to take the side of the cranks--are we, the good, the actual parents, the concerned parties here, not a Silent Majority roused into--oh heck, let me snip his words, here:
The Left are never parents themselves, only ideologues. Books are tools of indoctrination for an agenda. Of course, he's talking to homeschool parents--but why do they even care what other folks' kids are reading since they've already appointed themselves the gatekeepers for their own kids? If people who are, say, neo-Confederates or anti-Semites or Flat Earthers or anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists or White Supremacists or Christian nationalists hi-jack the curriculum of public schools, isn't that indoctrination, too? And shouldn't parents worry about that, as well?
It's not a simple subject, and I promise you, I don't think I have all the answers--but Ron DeSantis doesn't and Daily Salinas doesn't and those eleven busybodies out there don't either. And that's why looking at things together, book by book and sometimes parents making their own decisions for their own kids (and not everyone else's) is the series of hills we can deal with, without anyone having to die on any particular one.