The book ban bandwagon: Jump aboard!
When Florida HB1467 passed in 2022, most of us were unaware of its far-reaching and potentially damaging eccentricity.
Among other things, according to state Rep. Anna Eskamani, the bill “[requires that] all books … be inventoried into an online database where anyone – in the world – can contest to remove books. Even folks who don’t live in FL or have kids in the school district can try to remove … books. … [t]he bill was then expanded by the Board of Education to be enforced, not just on school libraries, but on classroom libraries too.”
Eskamani is horrified, of course, and has posted all this to remind people that “elections have consequences” and that folks should “get out and vote.” I’m sympathetic and think voting is a good thing - particularly in voting for those who know how to write an airtight bill, as opposed to the nitwits who authored this thing.
Bad as this bill is, where others see oppression, I see opportunity.
I know how to use the “inter-web.” so I feel particularly empowered to take charge, in my own little citizen’s way, and partake in the merriment of the book ban fad. Why should the responsible types have all the fun? I have my own list of books no child should ever see, and I see no reason why I should not exercise my own fine-honed preferences. After all, blotting out things based on your own silly opinions – and skirting annoying and bothersome hurdles like reason, taste, history and good sense – is a wonderful tradition in public service running all the way back to the Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BC). What was good enough for Cato the Censor should be good enough for me.
Let’s ignore ideological toxins. I have bigger fish to fry. There are other, more polluting things out there between the bookends that pose an even greater threat. I nominate all the “Twilight” books – not for their “demonic” content, but because they are demonically, turgidly, unrelentingly boring in a way only Beelzebub himself would approve.
Anything Disney has to go. They are lurid and stupidly commercial as a genre, but particularly annoying are any of them that purport to draw on the classical Greek myths.
Students should be forced to read Robert Graves. I’d dump all of Willa Cather on general principles. “The Yearling” and “The Red Badge of Courage” have to go (both were memorized by generations – it’s time to find something else) and let’s rid ourselves of any Dickens that has snuck in. I was made to read “Great Expectations” as a child, myself, and still suffer from the trauma. Conrad (the horror, the horror!) would be Out. James Joyce? Out. Too confusing, even for high schoolers. And Moby Dick. Please. The legions of kids that have had to sort out Ahab’s weirdness is legendary.
Before I am misunderstood, let me make it crystal clear that I believe that parents should have an absolute right to control the stuff their kids are reading. I’m radical enough to think having textbook committees is a very good idea, since I know the only people likely to be willing to serve on them are people actually dedicated to their children’s education. I am also a believer in exterior review of books for the libraries – even classroom libraries. I very much like the way Polk County’s School Board is vetting books. That method could become a standard model for the rest of the state.
But having this process open to all lets in a potential flood of idiocy that I’m not willing to work with. Leaving it up to the random internet users as to which books may be offered in schools is a bad thing. It conjures up visions of crabby, childless old men, bent over a computer screen deciding what is or is not appropriate for someone else’s kids.
There are things that should be left to the parents, and this is one of them.
Bruce Anderson is the Dr. Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay Jr. Endowed Chair in American History, Government, and Civics and Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Florida Southern College. He is also a columnist for The Ledger.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: The book ban bandwagon: Jump aboard!