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Tag: book banning

Poll: Most Parents Are Happy With Their Kids’ Schools, Despite GOP Culture War

Republicans are flogging a culture war focused on public schools, but it doesn’t seem to be landing with the parents of actual schoolchildren. A new NPR/Ipsos poll of parents of school-aged children finds people generally happy with their kids’ schools and teachers, and not foaming at the mouth over race and LGBTQ issues.

Education rated as the third-highest concern of parents in the poll, but 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “my child's teacher(s) have done the best they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic,” and 82 percent agreed that “my child's school has handled the pandemic well.” Republicans have largely moved on from trying to whip up rage about how schools have handled the pandemic, though, focusing more on demonizing marginalized groups and arguing that parents should be allowed to micromanage the curriculum. (Right-wing white parents, anyway.) But that’s not getting a lot of traction, either.

Three out of four of the parents polled agreed that “my child's school does a good job keeping me informed about the curriculum, including potentially controversial topics.” Small minorities said the ways their children’s schools taught about the issues being pushed by Republicans actually conflicted with their own family’s values: 18 percent for gender and sexuality, 19 percent for race and racism, and 14 percent for U.S. history.

And those numbers, small as they are, don’t mean that 19 percent of people think their kid’s school is too liberal on race and racism or 14 percent on U.S. history—the people who said the schools’ teachings clashed with their family’s values were as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. A Native American parent in Texas, for instance, told NPR, “It's more of a water-down effect ... [the teachers] kind of whitewash the way that history is taught to their kids.” That parent wants his kid taught more about the French and Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and about slavery during the Revolutionary War, NPR reports. By contrast, a white parent in Wisconsin who thinks the schools are too liberal on these issues cited her son being asked to identify his pronouns and a teacher making “snarky comments about white privilege.” Equally valid and serious concerns about the quality of education, amiright?

If you listen to Christopher Rufo, one of the right wing’s major gurus on waging culture wars in the schools, critical race theory is a “two to one issue,” a surefire winner for Republicans. Go figure, though: The main poll he cites was conducted by the right-wing Manhattan Institute. But what about Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in November after he campaigned against critical race theory? Well, recent data has suggested that Youngkin’s advantage came from senior citizens, not from the parents of school-aged children, and it’s not the first data undermining the narrative that enraged parents turned the election to Youngkin.

Demonizing LGBT people and foaming at the mouth that teaching about racism or the contributions of Black and brown people oppresses white kids by making them feel “humiliated” might energize the Republican base, but it’s not a majority message. Banning books because they have LGBT characters or depict slavery as the brutal system of kidnapping, torture, and rape that it was is not a majority message.

Republicans are attacking teachers. They’re attacking vulnerable kids. They’re trying to micromanage what all kids can learn according to their very specific values, to the active exclusion of all others. These things matter—they are actively harming people—and they’re also not the political winners Republicans are confidently portraying them to be. The media needs to internalize these things in shaping its coverage, rather than allowing the Republican operatives regularly billed as “concerned parents” in their Fox News appearances to define what the parents of schoolchildren look like or think. And equally, Democrats need to fight back, vigorously and boldly, because Republicans really are overstepping on this.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

Irked By Progressive Ideologues On Campus? Sorry, We Have Bigger Problems

Breaking News: college liberal arts departments infiltrated by liberals. Engineering schools, not so much. Profs pompous; college kids self-righteous. If these strike you as major revelations, you may have what it takes be an editor at the New York Times, brow perennially furrowed for signs of leftist groupthink in the academy.

Recently, the Times sounded the alarm yet again, publishing an op-ed column by University of Virginia senior Emma Camp, a columnist for the campus newspaper. Camp lamented that “my college experience has been defined by strict ideological conformity” to the point where “I sometimes feel afraid to fully speak my mind.” It’s a trendy complaint.

Camp provides one specific example. “During a feminist theory class…I said that non-Indian women can criticize suttee, a historical practice of ritual suicide by Indian widows.” For this implied offense against multi-culturalism—never mind that this custom has been practically unknown in India for many years—Camp felt the classroom grow tense.

“I saw people shift in their seats. Someone got angry, and then everyone seemed to get angry.” After the professor tried to move the discussion along, "I still felt uneasy…I was shaken, but also determined to not silence myself.”

And that’s it. From this, we are led to conclude that the University of Virginia has become a hotbed of “woke” political correctness where brave iconoclasm like Emma Camp’s is virtually unknown.

Never mind that the author herself had recently written a column urging classmates to confront their “racist” relatives over Thanksgiving dinner: “This holiday season,” she opined, “white progressives should not continue to favor their own comfort and familial peace over the tangible suffering of vulnerable people.”

Geez, I don’t know. Sounds a little woke to me. Your mileage may differ.

Look, she’s a college kid. Takes courses in “feminist theory” and expects… Well, what? Did her classmates defend ritual suicide? How? Camp doesn’t say. The professor? No clue. Where do they stand on eight-year-old brides? Female circumcision? Many remote practices are incomprehensible to contemporary minds.

If I’d been Camp’s editor, I’d have written “Be specific” in the margin and demanded particulars. Without them, her complaints ring hollow.

Nevertheless, a mighty hubbub arose in the Times comments section and elsewhere, quite as if Camp had described a real-world problem and proposed radical change. In my experience, anything touching upon the practices and prerogatives of college faculty—who have a lot of time on their hands—will draw an impassioned response.

Remember that Philip Roth wrote this novel a generation ago, titled The Human Stain. A New England professor uses the word “spooks” (as in “ghosts”) to describe two missing students he’s never seen. They turn out to be Black. Tragic folly ensues. The movie co-stars Nicole Kidman.

So it’s not exactly as if we’ve never heard of academic intolerance before. Indeed, I was present at the creation of political correctness. Back in the Seventies, I found myself the object of a departmental investigation at a New England university many years ago for failing a Black student who’d done badly on the mid-term, submitted no term paper, and failed to show for the final. Instead she dealt the race card.

Following my exoneration, a colleague commiserated that an “aristocratic Southerner” like me must find the school’s ethnic diversity challenging.

I am tall, not a big smiler, and may have appeared aloof. It’s been known to happen. Also I happen to be an Irish Catholic from Elizabeth, New Jersey who’d gone to grade school with classmates from families where foreign languages—Yiddish, Italian, Polish and Russian—were spoken in the home.

A diversity expert who couldn't spot an Irish guy in Massachusetts?

But I'd also attended the University of Virginia, on scholarship, which seemed to be what the investigation was all about. Seriously. At departmental gatherings, people patronized my “pretty little wife” to her face—accurate, but deliberately condescending. Academics only, I hasten to add. Ordinary New Englanders would ask Diane questions just to hear her Arkansas accent.

I decided to quit before they could fire me, and ended up teaching more Black kids every semester at a college in Arkansas than during three years in New England.

So my advice to contemporary students would be to avoid all courses in “theory” except in math or science. You’re just asking for politicized dogma of the kind that almost destroyed literary studies a generation ago. Look, academia attracts oddballs the way basketball courts draw tall people. There’s really not a lot to be done about it.

Except maybe to transfer to Virginia Tech or Texas A&M. It's a big country.

Meanwhile, author Camp resides in a state whose newly-elected governor has set up a telephone tip-line to report subversive school teachers. Churches in Texas are besieging librarians to banish books concerning race or sex. In Florida, armed truckers are blockading Disney World to protest its resistance to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. School board members are getting death threats.

And we’re supposed to worry about UVA English Majors? I don’t think so.

Polls Show Public Despises Book Bans, But Republicans Keep Doing Them

Banning books in schools is not popular. Banning books in schools is happening a lot these days.

On the one hand, new polling from Navigator Research shows across-the-board opposition to banning books, including from Republicans. On the other hand, state legislature after state legislature and school board after school board is doing just that, with the latest example coming out of Idaho, where a state legislator is moving to open librarians to criminal charges for allowing minors access to sexually explicit materials, and some parents are supporting that move in truly astonishing language.

About three out of five people have heard of efforts to ban books from schools, according to the polling, and 62 percent strongly oppose banning books like Maus and To Kill a Mockingbird, when the titles of such well-known books are offered. When people are asked how they feel about “a growing push to remove certain books from schools across the country that local groups deem too problematic because they include content about race, gender, or sexuality,” 65 percent oppose it, with 48 percent strong opposition. The opposition to banning books includes parents, however the question is worded.

People are particularly concerned about censoring history and preventing students from learning the nation’s history. But while the concern about book-banning that the most people disagreed with was that banning books about LGBTQ characters and experiences is homophobia, the poll still only found 30 percent of people saying that wasn’t a concern—70 percent of people were at least somewhat concerned about taking LGBTQ content out of schools.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, the push to take LGBTQ content out of libraries, including school libraries, is strong. Librarians are currently protected under a state law making it a crime to give children explicit materials—a category worded so broadly it could exclude a huge amount of the most famous art in the western world—and a state lawmaker is trying to remove that protection, saying “The increasingly frequent exposure of our children to obscene and pornographic materials in places that I as a parent assume are safe and free from these kinds of harmful materials is downright alarming.”

One parent testified at a state House hearing that her daughter had found—gasp!—a book featuring a relationship between a prince and a knight, and from there, “It escalates quickly to ‘Auntie Uncle: [Drag Queen Hero],’ middle-grade queer [books] and ‘Lawn Boy.’”

Another parent demanded the removal of Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, because, and I am not making this up, “The school does not need to teach our children how to do oral sex. That’s my job.”

In the midst of this comes a hero, librarian Erin Kennedy, to read a passage from the Bible making the point that you can make a lot of books sound problematic by taking passages out of context. Kennedy read from the Book of Ezekiel: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like those of horses, so you longed for the lewdness of your youth when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”

Unfortunately, widespread opposition to book-banning when people are telling pollsters what they think is not preventing state legislatures and local school boards from doing exactly what huge majorities of people say they don’t want. The Idaho House will soon vote on whether to make librarians criminally responsible if a kid gets ahold of a book filled with images of the paintings of Botticelli or Rubens or Modigliani, or a book letting them know that they’re not alone growing up LGBTQ, or Maus or Beloved, or, well, the Bible—at least if that kid’s parents then get upset that their child’s “innocence was violated."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Republicans Are Suddenly Banning Books--Here's Why

As Daily Kos continues to cover, Republicans are more than happy to distract the general public from failures to lead amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals filling up? Spew anti-trans rhetoric. People can’t afford groceries? Don’t let trans folks change their birth certificates! Thousands of people dying from COVID-19 every single day? Let’s burn books.

And no, that isn’t being dramatic. A truly concerning number of conservatives have jumped on the train of trying to get books banned from school and public libraries, if not outright calling for texts to be burned. Many of these books involve (or were created by) people of color and LGBTQ+ people. As reported by The Guardian, many of the people and groups pushing this anti-book mission along are connected to “deep-pocketed right-wing donors.”

As the Guardian breaks down in an excellent, thorough deep-dive, you’ve likely seen these book ban stories framed as though it’s just concerned parents or residents who are speaking up at school board meetings. In reality, groups that at first seem like they’re local, grassroots efforts seem to actually be tied to—and backed by—conservative donors who carry some serious influence.

Moms for Liberty, for example, comes up. As the Guardian discovered, Moms for Liberty groups can be found on Parents Defending Education (PDE), and the groups wrote a joint letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona last spring. What about? Critical race theory, of course. PDE’s website also encourages people to run for school board positions as conservatives.

The president of PDE? Nicole Neilly, who once worked at the Cato Institute and served as the executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum. Cato, for the curious, is a right-wing thank tank co-founded by none other than Charles Koch. Meanwhile, the vice president of PDE, Asra Nomani, has made time to rally against books on none other than Fox News.

If attacking books by and about marginalized people hasn’t been an obvious enough mission, the ties between these seemingly local groups suggest a much bigger trickle-down of money, values, and influence. How many parents and teachers swept into this hysteria know this? It’s hard, if not impossible, to accurately assess that. But for the students who are having valuable books taken from them, the outcome is the same.

At this point, we’ve seen Republican elected officials push anti-book bills in order to keep the work of LGBTQ folks and people of color from the hands of young readers. We’ve seen public librarians essentially threatened and harassed over keeping age-appropriate, diverse books on the shelves. We’ve seen conservative school board members try to get young readers tattled on to their parents for checking out LGBTQ+ books from the school library. It’s sick, it’s divisive, and it’s pointless.

Make sure to check out the Guardian’s full deep-dive here.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

GOP Lawmaker Hawks Book Banning Bill With Huge Fines For Librarians

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

An Oklahoma state senator is pushing for two bills that would give parents the power to remove any book in a public school library they find objectionable. Meaning any book mentioning sex or the “study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity,“ or books “that are of a sexual nature.”

Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, who is championing Senate Bill 1142, says it addresses the “indoctrination in Oklahoma schools.”

“Our education system is not the place to teach moral lessons that should instead be left up to parents and families. Unfortunately, however, more and more schools are trying to indoctrinate students by exposing them to gender, sexual, and racial identity curriculums and courses. My bills will ensure these types of lessons stay at home and out of the classroom,” Standridge said in a statement.

Standridge seems to have his ire particularly focused on books in the LGBTQ+ genre. Some titles include: Trans Teen Survival Guide, Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities, A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and The Art of Drag.

SB-1142 will give any parent the right to have a book removed within 30 days if they find it offensive. If a librarian chooses not to remove the book, they can be fired and will be unable to work for any public school for two years, McAlester News-Capital reports. Parents can also receive “monetary damages including a minimum of $10,000 per day” from school districts refusing to remove the book as demanded.

Standridge claims that families have been denouncing the sexual content of books on school library book shelves for years.

“I just think that those [books] are overly sexualized,” Standridge told the McAlester News-Capital. “I think parents and grandparents, guardians should have a say on whether their kids are exposed to those books.” He added: “At Barnes and Noble there is a section dedicated to those sexual lifestyles but that is in another part of the bookstore.”

Critics of SB-1142 say it’s simply unconstitutional and worry that banning books that uplift and support the LGBTQ+ community could have a dangerous and potentially deadly outcome.

“Studies have shown that having safe, affirming adults and peers in their life can actually reduce suicide rates among 2SLGBTQ+ students,” Laura Lang, CEO of Thrive OKC, tells Newson6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “If we limit the information given to them in this setting then we know that teens will just turn to peers or the internet where porn and predators are rampant for answers to their questions.”

Under the senator’s second proposed bill, Senate Bill 1141, public universities in Oklahoma would be prohibited from requiring students to enroll in courses “addressing any form of gender, sexual, or racial diversity, equality, or inclusion curriculum,” which fall outside of the requirements for their major.

“We are blessed in America that every citizen has access to free public education, and then has the freedom to pursue a higher education if they choose. The purpose of our common education system is to teach students about math, history, science and other core areas of learning—all of which are further expanded on in college as students pursue their fields of interest,” Standridge said in a statement.

According to the American Library Associations (ALA), the calls for book-banning have been unparalleled of late. Parents across the nation have set their targets on books they allege contain “sexually explicit” content from authors such as Toni Morrison and Alison Bechdel.

These are parents like Virginia Beach at-large school board member Victoria Manning—aka book-banning Karen, aka nonreading pro-censorship Karen -- who successfully got Gender Queer “permanently removed from shelves,” according to Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence.

“It’s a volume of challenges I’ve never seen in my time at the ALA – the last 20 years. We’ve never had a time when we’ve gotten four or five reports a day for days on end, sometimes as many as eight in a day,” ALA Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone tells The Guardian. “Social media is amplifying local challenges and they’re going viral, but we’ve also been observing a number of organizations activating local members to go to school board meetings and challenge books. We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism.”