July 4, 2024

Charleston City Paper: Education Department’s book ban needs to go away now

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The Charleston City Paper editorial board opposes South Carolina’s oppressive and un-American book ban.

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) insists its proposed regulation banning books with “depictions of sexual conduct” from public school classrooms and libraries isn’t a book ban.

George  Orwell’s Ministry of Truth would be proud.

Of course, to understand that “Ministry of Truth” reference, you have to have read Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984,” as many of us did in high school.

Too bad South Carolina’s next generation may not be able to say the same. Because once SCDE’s Dirty Books Unit finds out what Winston and Julia were up to when Big Brother wasn’t watching, they’ll pull the classic in a skinny minute.

And no, this is not anti-censorship hysteria. Iowa schools banned “1984,” – along with “Beloved,” “As I Lay Dying” and about 3,500 other books – under a similar law in 2023. Expect the same here if SCDE’s “sexual conduct” prohibition is allowed to go into effect as scheduled on June 25.

As Greenville children’s book author and public-school mom Jessica Khoury recently told the City Paper: “Honestly, the language in this regulation is so vague, it could be used against almost any book.”

Khoury’s right. By borrowing the definition of “sexual conduct” from the state’s obscenity law, the rule effectively outlaws the tamest of sexual depictions. Even a chaste description of, say, an old-fashioned “petting session” between two fully-clothed consenting adults would be enough to get a book thrown out.

“I was looking at a sample AP Literature exam and over half the books covered would be banned under this standard,” Charleston Democratic Rep. Spencer Wetmore said in an interview. “That’s a problem.”

Unfortunately, thanks to a legislative foul-up, that problem isn’t easy to fix.

Unfortunately, that ban has now taken effect. That just means this editorial is more right than ever

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