Why Texas Parents Want to ‘Ban Books’
They are defending the innocence of children.
Tensions are escalating in McKinney, Denton, Keller, and a host of other North Texas school districts over book bans in school libraries. On one side are parents—many of whom are using State Rep. Matt Krause’s list of objectionable books—who want to vouchsafe their children’s innocence and remove sexually explicit material from their children’s schools. On the other side are students like Shulamith Armintor and parents like her mother, Deb Armintor, an English professor and Denton city council member, who think such books offer solace to students who identify with the experiences depicted.
Commentators more removed from the matter generally side with the parents opposed to the ban. First, book banning just sounds bad and un-American. Second, they see little point in preserving kids’ innocence anyway. Challenging the moral values of young readers still learning to read, they argue, is “exactly what literature is supposed to do.”
This debate is taking place in the larger context of Republican politicians in Texas investigating the book collections at all public school libraries, banning critical race theory in public school curricula, and encouraging parents to have a greater say in their local public schools. Partisan politics have doubtless played a large role in people’s positions.
But the parents who support the removal of these books make a stronger case. They are right to champion the innocence of children and their right to have a truly safe space to learn about the world without being corrupted by it.
Further, the objections to removing such books are logically weak. To begin, to equate removing pornographic books from a school library with undermining the very purpose of literature is to miss the crux of the debate, which is whether the books in question are appropriate for young people. People aren’t discussing the literary merits of Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye or a biography of Michelle Obama, but whether children and adolescents should be reading something like the graphic novel Gender Queer, which takes readers on a “journey of gender identity and sexual orientation” and includes “a few pages of explicit illustrations depicting oral sex.”
It is fair to ask whether Gender Queer and other such books offer any educational benefit to students. They don’t seem to learn anything from this story. They don’t even get much practice reading, since it’s a graphic novel. More importantly, narratively, some guy exploring his (their?) sexuality and gender sounds incredibly dull. It’s hard to see how the inclusion of Gender Queer amounts to anything but the school library’s endorsement of LGBTQ ideology and a sexually active lifestyle.
All the same, some might see such an endorsement as an entirely appropriate way to help LGBTQ students feel included. But this raises a few questions: Are LGBTQ students being systematically excluded at school? If they are, would having certain books in a school library really fix this problem? And is a school library, rather than a club or organization, the best means of facilitating inclusion?
Then there’s the issue of schools “picking a side,” or excluding others with different views. Any organization that celebrates LGBTQ ideology directly challenges and excludes those who condemn it, namely, conservative Christians. While their sexually fluid peers are given a place to be themselves and express their beliefs, Christian students are not-so-subtly told to hide their beliefs while in school.
That said, the critics of the book bans are right to advocate for school libraries that are inclusive, safe, and engaging. The great irony is that this all comes to nothing when the school library’s collection is politicized and caters to adult interests. For that reason, libraries can avoid controversy and actually support parents and teachers by sticking with kid-friendly, educational books.
What about the contention that children are exposed to this kind of content anyway through television and the internet? This is unfortunately true, but that doesn’t mean school libraries should try to compete. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
More to the point, the fact that kids are exposed to obscene content on television and the internet should be a cause for alarm, not an argument for capitulation. Parents have a responsibility to seek the source of their children’s problems. If the problem is at home, parents can address it themselves. But if it’s at school, parents have to work through existing processes to address the issue.
It should go without saying that children are hurt by viewing and internalizing sexually explicit content. Children lack the maturity and reasoning skills to process what they’re seeing. They are led to believe that sex and sexuality defines them and their relationships, and that validation from their equally immature peers determines everything. This creates tremendous stress for kids as they discover themselves and the world around them. It is fair to assume that the current mental health crisis among young people could be helped by a collective return to innocence.
What if a parent wishes to preserve their child’s innocence? They should keep their household screen-free and refrain from giving their kids internet-capable smartphones. This is difficult, but certainly possible. It’s also ideal, because it gives children the chance to have hobbies, explore passions, and develop a healthy curiosity about their surroundings. At least for a few precious years, they can live without the pressures and excessive stimulation of the digital world.
And yet, these efforts can be destroyed by an educator or library going “woke.” Parents who believe their children should be exposed to pornographic content or leftist propaganda lose nothing if their local schools do the same. In the past, society would have considered those beliefs child abuse. People generally understood that preserving children’s innocence was a way to preserve their health. The fact that so many parents and organizations now say the opposite speaks to the anti-child decadence of today’s world.
Even though parents protesting inappropriate books at their school libraries will be derided as anti-intellectual Bible-thumping white supremacists, they should know that they are fighting the good fight and their struggle extends far beyond a few books. Their fight is about reclaiming their rights as parents, giving their children a healthy childhood, and ultimately working with their local schools instead of against them.
Auguste Meyrat is an English teacher in the Dallas area. He holds an MA in Humanities and an MEd in Educational Leadership. He is the senior editor of The Everyman and has written essays for the Federalist, the American Thinker, Crisis Magazine, The American Conservative, the Imaginative Conservative, and the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
Editor’s Note: This piece initially referred to Shulamith Armintor as a parent and professor. We regret the error. This post has been updated.