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Logo Logo Nick Hodges

Some Thoughts on Book Banning

/ 6 min read

You know, I was thinking about all this book banning stuff, and a bit about why people vote for Trump. I think I understand a bit better than I did.

I think about a very normal, average Bible-believing couple. They have an eight-year-old and a four-year-old. They are middle class, Dad works as a plumber, and mom works part-time and will work a bit more when the four-year-old is in school more.

They want to raise their kids to follow God’s word, love everyone, be kind, and follow Jesus. They want their kids to “be kids” for as long as they can. They hold pretty “traditional” values, keep to themselves, and just want to live a good life.

And they know that their eight-year-old has to go to school. They don’t have any choice. The kid has to go to school. So they naturally are concerned about what happens at their school. And they see folks doing things that concern them. They are fine with, say, LGBQT people living their lives, doing their thing. It’s a free country. But, remember, their kid has to go to school.

They want their kid to be aware of the world. Aware that people are different. But their kid is eight years old. They think that they’d like their kid to be a little older before they are confronted with things like sex — hetero or otherwise. They’d like to shield their eight-year-old from many things the culture wants to expose them to.

So they look out there and see all kinds of things happening at their school library. Not the public library, the school library. The library their kid has to go into as part of the schooling he has to attend. Things that they don’t want their eight-year-old kid to be exposed to just yet. They might even see books in that library that the teacher could make their kid read that they don’t like.

Now that is a perfectly reasonable position to hold. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing for a parent to want. You might not like it or disagree with it, but it is reasonable. They don’t view it as homophobic. They don’t think that — they just want their eight-year-old to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic. They don’t want their kid to be taught things they don’t want him to know about just yet. They just want to raise their kids as they see fit, and they don’t want someone else forcing their agenda on their kids at school.

(Now, because I’m pretty sure I know what your response will be — yes, there are many who are racist and homophobic. But they are the minority. They are the ones that make the noise and end up on the news. They are the stereotype. But these folks I’m talking about here? They are the majority of the folks out there. They are the “normal” folks. Trust me, this is true.)

So these folks look out there, and they see them and their values under assault, frankly. Folks are calling them all kinds of names. Folks are calling their beliefs all kinds of insulting things. And when someone objects to a book in the library where their kid has to go, they see an onslaught of name-calling. They see people actively putting books in that library that they might not want their kid to see. They basically see them being forced to send their kid to a school that is actively trying to counter what they want their kids to know and believe.

They wonder, “Why can’t the school just teach my kid the basics? Why do they have to put that stuff in an elementary school library? Can’t they at least with until high school”?

They get it that others don’t want to be told what their kids can’t read. But in exactly the same way, they don’t necessarily want their kids to be told what they can read, either. It works both ways.

They see all that, and they get worried. They get called all kinds of bad things, and they resent it. They don’t hate anyone; they just think that there is a place and a time for everything. But the culture keeps coming at them, and frankly, they dig their heels in.

And they see a guy like Ron Desantis or Donald Trump actually “fighting” this (and I use that word purposefully), and while they may find these guys distasteful, they vote for them because they are the ones they view as standing up for them.

I think I finally get it.

So I think that one would do well to consider that these folks are not raging white supremacists and blatant homophobes, and that, instead, they are just folks who want to be left alone, who want to raise their kids, and who want the schools to teach their kids reading, writing, and do ‘rithmetic. I think that one might consider being a little less strenuous in thinking one knows what is best for their kids to be taught. Remember, that kid has to go to school, so you might want to consider that when deciding what you think their kids ought to know at what age.

One can argue about the wisdom of letting one parent cause a book to be taken off the shelf and reviewed. That’s fine. It seems like one parent being able to cause a book to be put under review might be a bit much, but there is nothing wrong with parents being concerned about a book in a library. Saying “Hmm, I wonder if that book is the best choice for an elementary school library” is a perfect reasonable thing to say. In my mind, that is called “democracy in action.”

Questioning one of the many decisions of an unelected librarian at an elementary school is not unreasonable and hardly some grand assault on free thought. We always seem to want more parental involvement in our schools, but then when parents get more involved, we call them names. That doesn’t seem right to me. And it seems to me that name-calling is just another form of bullying.

I think everyone — those on the left and those on the right — should be a bit more empathetic, a bit less strenuous in their rhetoric, and a bit more understanding in the way they approach things like what does and doesn’t go in the school library.

We all agree that there are books that definitely shouldn’t be in an elementary school library. We all agree that some books should definitely be there. So there is a line between those two things, and we shouldn’t be surprised that there is some disagreement about where exactly that line is and what books are close to, but on, a given side of that line.