On the news recently we heard about Governor DeSantis support of Florida law HB1460 which effectively allows a “school district employee who holds a valid educational media specialist certificate” to decide which books and materials should be available for students. This whole scenario sounds very problematic and not easily definable. Does this mean one person will decide what is acceptable for each school? How will these individuals be vetted? Who is happy with this law?
I know that as a parent I too wanted to shield my children from unacceptable or harmful material. I refused to purchase the violent video games in which the player has to murder other virtual humans to win. (i.e. Mortal Kombat) but later learned my son just went to his friend’s house and played all he wanted, killing as many avatars as he could. And of course, we would not allow pornographic material knowingly into our home, but by the mid-1990s anyone with access to the internet could view just about anything online. So, I’m not sure how successful we were with that ban.
But what we, my husband and I, didn’t do, was forbid our children to read whatever books or magazines we had in our home. My daughters tell me that they did read many of the same books we read. Being a kid in the 80s and 90s there was not much else to do when you’re stuck at home in the country. Their repertoire included horror novels by Steven King, Tony Hillerman mysteries based in the American Southwest, thrillers by Michael Crichton, and Piers Anthony Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Not to mention the many romance novels with images of buxom women and bare-chested long-haired men on their covers. Maybe we were naive, allowing our children access to just about anything they could get their hands on. But I have no regrets.
When I was a child, one of 11 siblings, I learned about the wonderful world of books from my mother. And nothing was off limits. When I was in the eighth grade at St. Bernard’s Catholic School, I read a paperback my older brother passed on to me, A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins. This racy novel was way above my paygrade. But I was hooked before I finished the first chapter, when Danny, as a teenage boy, is seduced by an older woman. The dialog was peppered throughout with cuss words that I had never seen in print before and as I read, I learned not only about sex, but how gangs, then the mafia, controlled Danny, who ends up murdered in the end for defying them. When I asked Sister Maria if I could do my book report on it, presenting her with the actual book, her face turned beet red as she forbade me to even read it. Too late, I already had.
My point is that for me and my family, I don’t believe having access to all sorts of material did us any harm. In fact, I believe it helped us become who we are now; well-rounded, open-minded individuals.
Having given my spiel I want to say that I do understand that parents want to protect their children, especially in this day when everything and anything is available 24/7. If I were raising children today, I’m sure I’d be concerned and want to keep my kids in a protective bubble. But what I’d like to know is exactly what those who are for this kind of book censorship are afraid of. Would books like Gone With the Wind with its racist troupes of the enslaved characters happy just to serve their Masta or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with its liberal use of the N word, or maybe J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which was considered too vulgar for my generation of youth, due to the main character’s use of profanity (by today’s standards it wouldn’t even raise an eye brow), pass the scrutiny of the newly assigned guardians of the minds of Florida’s children?
Maybe they are afraid their impressionable tweens will read a book about a young person who is struggling with their sexual identity or maybe a character has two dads. I suppose this could be problematic if these same children are being taught at home or in Sunday School that anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual male or female is an abomination [Leviticus 20:13] or maybe they are just a sinner or as the Catholic Catechism calls them “intrinsically disordered”. Surely these parents would have to be willing to discuss this new information with their child and be able to defend their beliefs.
Another recent development in Florida, their education department has blocked a proposed AP course on African American studies, calling it “a form of political indoctrination”. I’m not sure what the proponents of this ban are afraid of. Is it a pollical statement to teach high school students, who will soon be attending a university away from their parent’s control, the full history of this country? Do they think they can prevent their adult children from ever learning the truth? Facts such as the descendants of enslaved people have always had a disadvantage due to the oppressive laws and practices of the last century, preventing them from living where they wanted with Red-Lining or stymieing their ability to accumulate wealth that would be passed on to the next generation? What are white Floridians afraid of?
If I were raised in a different family and was home-schooled and taught that the Bible was always to be taken literally and if I had no exposure to differing ideas and religions, if I was always told that evolution was a lie from the devil and that the tiny organisms that left there 450 million-year-old imprints in the limestone rocks we found everywhere in the Ohio River valley where we lived, only dated back 6,000 years when God flooded the whole earth to destroy every living creature (except marine life, the animals that made it onto the Ark and Noah’s clan) and if as an adult I never wavered from these views, wouldn’t I be afraid to hear anything different or contradictory to what I believed? And I surely would not want my children to read or hear anything different. I would want to protect my safe secure view of the world at all costs. There could never be a world where it is OK for other ways of loving and living, believing and knowing. And if I was only taught a sanitized version of our country’s history, in which Africans were brought to this continent as immigrants, even if it was forced. And it worked out for their good as those of European descent in the Americas put the Africans to work, supported them and saved their souls in the process. And if the descendants of these people have problems today it is not our fault. They are free, so why can’t they just do what we did. Work their way up the socioeconomic ladder? And if there are other versions of our history that do not back up what I already believe, then they are all politically motivated lies. And they must not be allowed to spread, especially to our children.
Follow these links to learn more about the effects of this law on teachers and the classroom: Florida teachers getting rid of books over new state law | wtsp.com
Florida school district begins ‘cataloguing’ books to comply with DeSantis-backed law | CNN Politics