Tag: book banning
Iowa's Little Tyrants Have Actually Banned Orwell's ​​​"1984," Because Sex​​​

Iowa's Little Tyrants Have Actually Banned Orwell's ​​​"1984," Because Sex​​​

Show me a book-banner, and I’ll show you a would-be tyrant. The same applies to individuals who seek to promote mandatory speech: What you’re forbidden to read; what you must say. Almost always, such efforts involve everybody’s favorite pastime: judging the intimate lives of others.

Here in Arkansas, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently went to war against what she described as “woke nonsense” supposedly belittling real women like herself, a mother of three. Arguing that “the left” has “decided ‘woman’ is a dirty word” she issued an executive order—in Iran they’d call it a fatwa—banishing from public documents a bunch of words nobody’s ever seen there.

Rather than “chestfeeding,” Sanders decreed, public documents must use “breastfeeding.” Instead of, “birthing person,” they should say “birth mom.” And so on. During her press conference, the governor became annoyed with a reporter who asked where she’d found the forbidden terms. She cited a Health Department statement warning “pregnant people” to avoid contaminated water.

Good advice, most would think.

Skeptics wondered if Sanders might be trying to distract voters from a ludicrous controversy involving the state’s purchase of a $19,000 lectern from her own PR consultants, not previously known to sell office furniture. Some have noticed that the cost—several times what a similar item sells for on Amazon—closely matches the round-trip, business class airfare from Little Rock to Paris, where the same consultants recently enjoyed the governor’s hospitality during a French air show.

But nobody knows, and the absurd controversy, also involving suspect emails and doctored invoices, goes on even as Gov. Sanders safeguards Arkansas women from “woke” jargon nobody’s ever heard.

Up in Iowa, meanwhile, that state’s aggressively “Christian” governor has signed a bill requiring public schools to remove books depicting a “sex act”—vague language that, as reported by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, has sent librarians around the state into a fear-based frenzy of book banning.

A short list of classic novels removed from school libraries around Iowa includes Ulysses by James Joyce, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Brave New Worldby Aldous Huxley, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Forrest Gump by Winston Groom.

But the one that really caught my eye was George Orwell’s 1984, the anti-totalitarian classic and the most politically influential novel of the 20th century—unless it was Orwell’s Animal Farm—and one that until quite recently was required reading on high school curricula. I’d go so far as to say that an enemy of that book is an enemy of democracy.

But yes, Orwell believed that the thing that would most horrify readers about Big Brother’s tyrannical government was its intrusion into peoples’ intimate relations. So 1984 tells the story of a doomed love affair between the protagonist, Winston Smith, a re-write man in the Ministry of Truth who alters historical documents to agree with party dogma, and Julia, a co-worker who wears the sash of the “Junior Anti-Sex League” to disguise her secret life.

Their clandestine meeting in the woods outside London is described in terms suitable for a family newspaper: “Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory,” Orwell wrote. “It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act.”

Alas, there’s a video screen in their slum hideaway so the lovers get arrested and tortured for their sins. 1984 is anything but an endorsement of eroticism.

No matter, the book is banned from Iowa schools, about as sinister and farcical a literary event as one can imagine.

Do the pious religious exhibitionists of Iowa imagine that adolescents are being corrupted by reading novels in the library? Do they not understand that most are carrying internet-capable cell phones in their pockets? If they want to read Orwell or watch pornography during study hall, that will be no problem.

Not that pious conservatives are the only literary scolds on the scene. I have recently spent the better part of two weeks enthralled by Robert Galbraith’s 941-page epic The Running Grave: A Cormoran Strike Novel, and regret only that it’s over. Show me a man who hasn’t got a crush on the British detective’s resourceful partner, Robin Ellacott, and I’ll show you a man who has never loved an imaginary woman.

Galbraith, of course, is the pseudonym of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, probably the best-selling English novelist in history. But you won’t find The Running Grave reviewed in any of the usual places, because the author has sinned against left-wing dogma on “transgender” issues and been relegated to “un-person” status among the bookish.

It all started in a dispute over whether a transgendered woman who’d committed rapes as a man should be incarcerated among biological women in a Scottish prison. Rowling thought not, and as she appears to rather enjoy public controversy, has made herself a pariah on the gender-obsessed left.

It’s always people’s sex lives, isn’t it?

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner, a former columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and co-author of The Hunting of the President.

Activists Gave Away Banned Books To Troll Moms For Liberty Conference

Activists Gave Away Banned Books To Troll Moms For Liberty Conference

On Thursday, schoolteachers and their allies held a banned book giveaway in downtown Philadelphia, next to a Marriott hotel that was hosting a far-right political summit organized by Moms for Liberty, an organization that works to censor school curriculums and remove any materials it dislikes.

Interested passersby stopped at two tables spread with books to pick up free copies of books that local chapters of Moms for Liberty have fought to remove from public school libraries and classrooms. These included Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, a graphic novel that tells the story of author Art Spiegelman’s family’s experiences during and after the Holocaust; And Tango Makes Three, a picture book that tells the true story of a penguin chick in the Central Park Zoo who was adopted by two male penguins; and The Poet X, a young adult novel about a high school girl in Harlem who discovers slam poetry.

“I have a friend who works inside the [Marriott] who told me about the free book giveaway, so let’s check it out,” said Maray, who asked that her last name and occupation be withheld. “I’ve honestly never heard of [Moms for Liberty] until now, until all of this controversy started, and I did a quick little search to see what they are about. I find it to be ridiculous.”

“These books are from real people’s perspectives, it’s not lies, so to completely ban it, I think, is actually very harmful to our youth because it’s really important for them to understand what other people go through,” she added. “It’s kind of sad.”

Maray held two books from the giveaway under her arm, which she said she was going to give to her nephew.

“Campaign for Our Shared Future is here in Philly today giving out banned and challenged books for free to families that might need them. We’re obviously here in response to the Moms for Liberty national convening,” said Heather Harding, the group’s executive director. “The books that we’ve selected, that are age-appropriate for K-12 students to read, we see that a vast majority of these titles feature characters of color, LGBTQ families and characters.”

Harding said that Campaign for Our Shared Future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that seeks to defend public schools from “anti-equity attacks.”

Moms for Liberty, which describes itself as a parental rights group, was founded in 2021, born out of conservative rage against pandemic-era school mask mandates and supposed progressive indoctrination in schools. While its founders launched the group in Florida, it quickly spread across the country, fanned by laudatory, excited coverage in conservative media, and now, according to Moms for Liberty, has 275 chapters spread across all but five U.S. states.

The group is putting on its second annual “Joyful Warriors” summit over the July 4 weekend at the Marriott in downtown Philadelphia. Many Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald J. Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are scheduled to speak at the event, as are activists associated with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and PragerU, a right-wing media organization.

Local activists have planned a weekend of counterprotests, and, as attendees trickled in to the event Thursday afternoon, a dozen city police officers stood in small circles in front of the hotel.

Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Moms for Liberty an extremist group because its leaders and members frequently espouse the conspiracy theory that far-left teachers are at work in schools grooming children for sexual abuse and indoctrinating students to adopt radical left-wing politics, and because of the close ties some of its local chapters have to far-right groups such as the Proud Boys.

Republicans rushed to the group’s defense, alleging that the SPLC has a left-wing bias.

The SPLC, however, didn’t go as far as it could have; it did not designate Moms for Liberty a hate group, a label the legal advocacy group reserves for organizations such as the Proud Boys, as well as militia and neo-Nazi groups.

Part of the SPLC’s designation is based on the group’s tactics; numerous Moms for Liberty chapter members have been accused of harassing parents, including in one case in Northwest Pennsylvania in which a chapter chair was found guilty of harassment and fined after she sent a local parent threatening messages. Electorally, the Moms for Liberty focuses on local school board races and nominating and supporting conservative candidates.

The book ban, however, is Moms for Liberty’s most notorious tactic. Across the country, the group’s chapters fight to pull books out of school libraries, particularly books that discuss issues of sexuality and race. Some Moms for Liberty chapters create lists of books that they check against school libraries’ collections in order to ferret out literature they deem inappropriate.

Polling from early June found that broad swaths of the American public oppose efforts by school boards to ban books, and a 2022 poll from the American Library Association found that only 10 percent of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of public and school libraries and librarians.

The ALA reported in March that 2022 set a record for book bans and attempted bans, with 1,269 demands targeting 2,571 titles. According to the group, that’s double the number of challenges made in 2021.

Patricia Jackson, a teacher in York County, told the American Independent Foundation in a phone interview that the school system she works in has been locked in a battle with its local Moms for Liberty chapter over attempts to ban books.

“You don’t have the right to say what another child can or cannot read,” Jackson said. “And that’s what the battle has become about — parental rights, but the parental rights of a few.”

“These folks are after the right to raise your child and the child across the street and the child next door to them, not just their children. And that is not your right,” she added. “They are redefining patriotism and what it means to be an American, and they don’t have that right either, because what it means to be American looks like them, thinks like them, and worships like them. And that is not the America of the 21st century.”

Barbara Stripling, a retired school librarian and a former president of the American Library Association, was at the book giveaway event and told the American Independent Foundation that she had little to say about Moms for Liberty.

“My main focus in being here today is to present a positive side to making diverse books accessible to all kids,” she said. “It seems like it’s an easy fix, but what we are doing when we ban a book is we’re marginalizing kids, we’re marginalizing ideas, and we’re limiting kids’ futures and their concepts of themselves.”

“I don’t have an objection to a parent limiting what his or her child can read. Where I draw the line is, you don’t have any right to tell what other children can read and think and do, and that’s where it gets dangerous for society,” she added.

Near one of the tables, Jane Cramer held two green signs protesting the summit and Moms for Liberty. Cramer, a social worker and a parent in the Pennridge School District in Bucks County, said: “We are under attack by Moms for Liberty. Our board is dominated by Moms for Liberty members.”

Cramer said that the school board had hired Jordan Adams, a speaker at the conference and a newly minted educational consultant with two months of experience, to advise the district. The Moms for Liberty-controlled board, she said, has so far passed a policy barring trans youth from using school bathrooms that match their identity and eliminated the district’s diversity initiatives.

Cramer said she and other district parents have started a letter-writing campaign to catch the attention of elected officials, such as the state’s Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro. But, she said, parents in her school feel like no one is paying attention to them.

“I’m supposed to be at a music festival today, but I came down here because I don’t know what else to do,” she said.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Most Parents Happy With Their Kids’ Schools

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

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.