The League of Women Voters (LWV) in Greenwich hosted a fascinating discussion yesterday on "Restricting Access to Books in Our Schools” led by LWV Director at Large, Ann Edwards, who was previously the Principal for Rye Middle School.
Edwards started off the discussion by talking about her personal experience reading a “forbidden book” as a child. Then she shared a list she found with the top 10 most frequently “banned" books in the country, number one on the list being the George Orwell classic 1984, a novel which we often quote in the newsletter.
Not one of the books on Edwards' top 10 list are the kind of books that we’ve talked about in the newsletter, and none of the books are truly “banned” which would involve stopping the production and sale of such titles altogether.
That’s a clear sign of how much fake news there is about the “book ban” issue and why discussions like this are so important.
The books that we've raised concerns about involve age-appropriateness, sexually-explicit content, and books rated for adults.
Surprisingly, there was more agreement among meeting participants around those issues than disagreement. Probably because protecting children from inappropriate content, like pornography in school, is a very worthy cause.
For instance, there was agreement in the room that recommended age guidelines on book jackets should be followed. If books are rated for adults, they do not belong in K-12 school libraries nor do they belong in the juvenile section of a public library. This should be “low hanging fruit” for librarians to address.
Even Edwards, who felt the book Gender Queer was “lovely” and said the book “touched her heart”, later admitted that the book was inappropriate to include in elementary school curriculum, for instance.
The book was passed around the room, opened to “that page” depicting oral sex acts and you could see the surprised looks on many people’s faces. One of the attendees was reminded of Associate Justice Potter Stewart’s opinion in the 1964 case of Jacobellis v. Ohio where he said pornography was hard to define, but he knew what fit the description of pornography when he saw it.
Speaking of seeing it, we brought a stack of sexually-explicit books so that folks in the room could better understand the kinds of books that have caused concern for parents. Most people who reviewed the examples expressed shock at the highlighted content.
Another surprise for folks in the room was that library collection development policies cite the American Library Association, a group that is led by a self-proclaimed Marxist.
But wouldn’t Greenwich be better served by having library collection development policies guided by the community so that our libraries represent the values of our own community, instead of being guided by a communist who is representing communist values?
LWV Vice-President Kristine Lowe then shared a letter from Greenwich Public Schools that revealed 10 books had been challenged in Greenwich middle schools last year and two books were removed from the middle school curriculum. For the record, not one of those challenges was initiated by Greenwich Patriots, yet we have been falsely labeled as “book banners” by the liberal media. Why is that? Shouldn’t the media set the record straight now?
We would like to thank the LWV for organizing this discussion, and agree with many participants that a follow-up session is warranted to help the community better understand the public school library collection development policy, the rationale for selecting sexually-explicit books, and how schools can justify having books that normalize pornography to children when the harms of doing so are well-known.