May 28, 2024

Jacki Lyden, Barry Wightman, John Norcross: Don’t think fascism could happen here? You haven’t tracked the school book bans.

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Members of Wisconsin Writers for Democracy sound the alarm in a piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I had my sanctuary at Greenland Elementary School in Oconomowoc in 1960. That was the school library. I can smell those books still, lined up like so many magical doors through which a child might enter. The words, “you may go to the shelves and browse” were like being handed a golden key. By reading, the world outside the Oconomowoc of the 1960s came to us. Harriet Beecher Stowe meant reading about slavery, so did Huck Finn, and Pippi Longstocking meant you didn’t need parents: You just needed to be a strong and independent girl.

These days, the encouragement to “go to the shelves and browse” is tainted by well-financed, organized MAGA fearmongering. Students are told that for their protection, we must purge library shelves. Restrict reading. Erase the complexity of history. We at the Wisconsin chapter of Writers for Democratic Action, a national pro-democracy volunteer effort of over 3,000 writers, readers, bookstores, and partner organizations, are working to alert book ban folk that we know it’s never about the books — it is about suppressing the liberty of others, most especially our youth. Such bans contravene core democracy.

Wisconsin Writers for Democratic Action is keeping track of each book ban. We’re doing it because we know that these book banning efforts are  about sowing distrust in the very idea of public education and all of our public institutions. These organized MAGA campaigns promote a white nationalism view of the country that sees the LGBTQ community as a scapegoat, and sees a misunderstood, seldom taught critical race theory as a bogus plot against America. Parents who do not want children to read specific books have always been able to control what their children read, in school, or at the library. As it should be. That’s not what this is about.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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