Beware School Libraries (2023 Apr)

by Barry A. Liebling

The cultural war is being fought in multiple arenas, and one that has received a lot of attention recently is the conflict regarding what books belong on the shelves of public school (should be called “government school”) libraries.

Republican elected officials in some states, notably Florida and Texas, have taken steps to reduce or eliminate sexually explicit material in elementary schools. They cite examples of books that some parents claim have content that is inappropriate for young readers, and more important, according to these concerned parents, is detrimental to the healthy development of their children.

What is the content that is deemed to be objectionable? As of this writing I have not seen any of it, but disturbed critics claim that it legitimizes, graphically describes, and encourages sexual experimentation and promiscuity among young children. Some irritated parents complain that school libraries have books that portray cross-dressing and gender transitioning as a positive trend that should be encouraged, praised, and expanded.

Note well that even as there are parents who disapprove of this erotic-themed material, there are others who maintain that it is appropriate and good for children. The woke justification for having sexually explicit books in schools is that it contributes to Social Emotional Learning (SEL), which denotes a cluster of programs designed to cultivate the leftist viewpoint and commitment in children.

Progressive-left politicians and pundits have excoriated the actions of Republicans who are attempting to remove the sexually infused literature in schools. Without irony or self-awareness, they accuse the Republicans of engaging in “book banning” and censorship. Apparently they see no problem with removing or bowdlerizing literature that they find objectionable. As examples, Mark Twain’s writing (Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn) has been condemned for being racist. The novels of James Fenimore Cooper has similarly been described as unfit for young readers because of his un-woke narrative in The Last Of The Mohicans. In some California school districts To Kill A Mockingbird was removed from the shelves because it is regarded as racially insensitive. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has been called transphobic by critics who are calling for her books to be purged from schools.

Pull back and consider what is occurring. School librarians are the most important agents in deciding what will be placed on the shelves. There is a prodigious list of books that might find their way into a school. No educational institution has enough room to accommodate everything. So librarians must always be selective in deciding what to acquire (and what to remove). While a lot of factors go into the selection process, a key element is the philosophical orientation of the librarian.

What is the predominant political theme embraced by high-ranking and influential school librarians? You can bet that most of them, especially those who have received their degrees recently, are progressive leftists. They believe they have a mission to deliver the most impactful books that push the Neo-Marxist racialist agenda to their pupils. That means taking in and disseminating material that is supportive to Critical Race Theory (CRT), Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), climate alarmism, and the general model that the world is composed of the oppressed (good people who should receive prizes) and oppressors (bad people who deserve to be punished).

Of course, not all school librarians are on-board with the woke agenda. If you search you will find librarians who are conservative, or free market enthusiasts, or not political at all. But nationwide hard-core leftists are the majority and are not inclined to retreat from their dominant position.

If you are a parent that values the best of the Enlightenment approach to education what position should you take regarding books in schools? You must recognize that government school librarians (like government school teachers) are usually not on your side. Most of them will openly push the woke agenda, especially if federal, state, and local officials give them the green light. When Republican politicians use their authority and insist that they stop (think Florida and Texas) they will do what they can to sabotage the “right wing extremists” and attempt to carry out their mission surreptitiously.

Be aware that you cannot rely on government schools, teachers, or librarians to deliver the high quality education that you seek for your children. You can walk away from government schools, which means you have to find private schools that have the proper orientation.

Alternatively, you can take actions to assure that whatever tainted reading material your child is exposed to (or required to read) in the government school, you will provide readings that present correct views. If you search the internet you will discover a huge amount of literature (much of it free of charge) aimed at children that presents counter arguments to the leftist world-view.

If you are a concerned parent, take charge and be the librarian who makes the best, truest, and most convincing books available to your children. The most effective response to the abundance of misleading, low-quality, dishonest books in government schools is not banning. Instead, the winning strategy is to collect and actively distribute books that persuasively present a valid view of the world. That is the way to defeat the woke narrative.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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