Opinion

KINNETT: Curating Curriculum Isn’t Book Banning

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Tony Kinnett Contributor
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that books teaching critical race theory or LGBT themes should be removed from school libraries. You can find a counterpoint here, where Nicole Turner-Smith argues that they should not be removed.

We find our children, teachers and schools in a precarious environment where the most embellished and hyperbolic language takes the day. Every argument weighs moral authority against the pragmatism of what does and doesn’t work in the schoolhouse.

Preventing schools from buying, showcasing and distributing books that encourage children to engage in racial and sexual discrimination and that promote underage (and often graphic) sexual engagement is not the definitive example of “book banning” or “restricting education” that’s screamed from the union rooftops.

Before getting into the thick of the debate on whether schools should be able to restrict books from the shelves of their public school library, it’s imperative to differentiate a public school library from the common public library, college library and private libraries. Public school libraries are provided for the exclusive use and edification of students, housed on the campus of that K-12 school, and are completely accessible to any student at any time. The books are purchased with the funding of the local taxpayer under the standard operating budget of the school district (notwithstanding gifts and grants).

While many schools have libraries per building, meaning elementary collections differ from high school, still thousands of rural schools combine their libraries into a single collection.

Books in a public school library are provided to children to encourage reading and students’ curiosity in history, literature, science, art and philosophy. The key value of any book in a school library is its educational value: does this book further the skills and development of a student in an appropriate fashion?

Public school libraries are funded directly by taxpayers in the local community (supplemented by grants and gifts) — therefore each and every book in a local school’s collection is provided and approved by the residents of that district. Political and special interest books should not be charged to the taxpayer without their consent, nor should they be paying for staff to promote those materials. The state has no business forcing citizens to support political agendas financially — especially when those books feature and promote inflammatory, discriminatory or obscene content.

Obscene content isn’t new. Books that showcase or promote and encourage sexual activity and kink have been around for centuries — but we have traditionally kept those materials out of the reach of children. Books like “Gender Queerencourage sexual exploration at young ages, pedophilia and following any hedonistic desire as a method of attaining happiness. Illustrations depicting children performing sexual acts constitutes the legal definition child pornography in most states.

School boards defending these pornographic and illicit materials in their school libraries have stopped parents from reading excerpts from these books during meetings. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will censor or ban posts that share images from graphic novels like “Gender Queer” — yet these books aren’t considered too obscene for school libraries?

These books also promote the pseudoscientific abuse of child transgenderism. Books that tell children to follow whatever their heart and mind feel that day are more akin to encouraging schizophrenia than positive development. School libraries are not a place for students to be encouraged to destroy their endocrine and reproductive systems at the behest of social fads.

Politically preening to students with the intent of misleading them isn’t beholden only to pornography and transgenderism — but with racial stereotyping and gaslighting.

Racially inflammatory language texts that tell children their moral worth and value are found only in their skin color are incredibly troubling. Many communities find stereotyping black and Hispanic children racist and divisive. Most of the country understands that blaming “white people” for every trouble pervading society to be patently false. School libraries should not be a place where students are encouraged to put aside historical and scientific fact for racist injustice.

Schools have banned books that cross the lines into obscenity and authoritative preaching for centuries. These books were not banned from society, nor were they eliminated from public libraries or bookstores. Certain books with messages that encourage children to participate in harmful ideologies have been deemed highly inappropriate for educational settings. There is no reason for hentai to line the shelves of your local school library — and if a school board finds “Mein Kampf,” The 1619 Project, or “White Fragility” to racially divide the students (as they might not yet be old enough to differentiate fact from racist fiction), they should have a right to restrict them.

The local school board, accountable to parents and the community, should decide what is and isn’t developmentally appropriate for children in their school library. Removing a book isn’t book banning, it’s a practical part of curating any curriculum. Educators and parents should work together separating the wheat from the chaff—which includes ditching garbage books.

Anthony Kinnett is a curriculum developer and coordinator in Indianapolis. He is the co-founder and owner of The Chalkboard Review and has written for National Review, The Federalist, The Daily Caller, and the Washington Examiner. @TheTonus