December 9, 2021

Gretchen Eick: The New White Flight: banning books that reveal uncomfortable truths

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Gretchen Eick has been a lobbyist, an author, and a college professor. In this op-ed for the Kansas Reflector, she looks at the many book bannings being inflicted on schools across the country.

Once again, Texas is throwing its weight around like an overgrown and intimidating bully. As the nation’s biggest purchaser, Texas has long dominated decisions about what is included in social studies textbooks. Now a Texas lawmaker is targeting 850 books — the source of ideas and images that open the mind and stir empathy and intellect.

The books being challenged include Pulitzer Prize-winning books and plays by authors now part of the canon of great American literature. Toni Morrison. Margaret Atwood. Sherman Alexie. August Wilson.

Notably, many of these books address issues faced by people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ. The Dallas Morning News found that “of the first 100 titles listed, 97 were written by women, people of color or LGBTQ authors.”

As usually happens with bullies, Texas has a cohort of wannabes rushing to follow suit, admirers who want to emulate the silencing of dissent and discussion by passing their own lists of banned books. Banning books is not new. One hundred years ago and in the 1950s it was an active part of U.S. popular culture.

And it is back with a vengeance.

In Goddard, assistant superintendent for academic affairs Julie Cannizzo sent an email to principals and librarians telling them to remove 29 books from the shelves and not allow them to be checked out, KMUW reported. Her directive violated the district’s policy for challenging and removing books: “Challenged materials shall not be removed from use during the review period.”

Time Magazine had a story by Olivia Waxman earlier this month about a school board meeting in Spotsylvania, Virginia, in which the County Public School Board unanimously ordered its school libraries to begin removing “sexually explicit” books.

Like most book challenges, these began with a single parent.

Read the full op-ed here.

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