What books should be in a public school library? That issue has erupted into a serious battle with librarians and teachers caught in the middle as special interest groups fight to include books supporting their causes. In contrast, others are intent on banning books in public schools.
A research group known as PEN America found 2532 instances of banning books in 32 states in the previous school year (2020-21). They also counted 50 groups fighting to ban books. The American Library Association estimated 1600 different books targeted for bans or restrictions in the same period.
A group called “Moms for Liberty” was founded in 2020 to fight the use of certain books and now has 100,000 members in 38 states. Legislatures in Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida have passed laws calling for criminal charges when authorities deem books promoted to children are “pornographic, obscene, or inappropriate.” However, we have not seen a consistent definition of these words.
The books being targeted fall into two general subject areas. One is race, and the other is LGBTQ issues. Teens or perhaps preteens can deal with those issues, but they should not be forced on kindergarten or first-grade children. Some targeted books have passages about masturbation, oral and anal sex, and sexual assault. Such subject matter is not what a small child should be confronted with at school without preparation at home.
The issue of race is quite different. Describing each race as having a built-in bias or set of properties is foolish. Not all white people are racial bigots. Not all people of color are poor or uneducated. Schools must teach the history of racial issues in America without polarizing our culture with sweeping generalities.
The reaction of many Christian parents has been to remove their children from public schools and either home-school or send them to private schools. The challenges parents face will only get worse because our country has rejected Christian values. Our books have been banned in the past because they promoted faith in God and the validity of biblical Christian values. Atheists have led an effort to forbid our books on science and faith because they contain positive support for belief in God.
Christianity opposes racism and teaches sexual morality, but banning books will not solve today’s problems of racism and immorality. The Church and home must be involved in teaching children proper sexual conduct and preparing them for the challenges they will face. For Christian parents, Proverbs 22:6 applies here: “Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown, they will still do right” (CEV). That teaching must be by example as well as by words.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
Reference: The Week for October 21, 2022, page 11.