Florida Book Censorship

There needed to be a place to comment on, and get more info on, a truly moronic Florida story from this week’s issue. This is the place.

First, let’s look at the story — you’re welcome to grab this graphic and post it on social media, forums, etc.

If you would like just the Webster’s tionary cover, you’re welcome to share that also, just below. (Or if you just wanted to see it larger, click on it to do so.)

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Illustration by Randy Cassingham, OK to share.

The story notes PEN America is keeping a list of the banned/challenged books, and I’d guess many of you want to review it. Here it is: More Than 1,600 Books Banned In Escambia County, Florida.

I know some of you will bristle at their use of “banned” when really, some portion is “under review.” But I understand their use of the stronger word: if the books have been pulled from school shelves for “investigation” then they are not available for student use. That’s effectively banned unless and until they’re returned to circulation.

A preview of two books on that list? Besides Merriam-Webster’s, I mean. Killing Jesus and Killing Reagan, both by disgraced Fox News pundit and sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, who is of course outraged. “It’s absurd. Preposterous,” he sputtered to Newsweek. “When DeSantis signed the book law, I supported the theme because there was abuse going on in Florida. There were far-left progressive people trying to impose an agenda on children; there’s no doubt about it. And the state has an obligation to protect children.”

Naturally, the more liberal media is jumping all over this delicious twist. (Screencap from Huffington Post)

Maybe so. But you know what else there is? There are far-right regressive people trying to impose an agenda on children; there’s no doubt about it. Isn’t there a similar obligation to protect children from that? Or is only one side of the radical fringe allowed to protest ideological pressure?

What we truly need is voters who think about these things, work to be thoughtful of other points of view, and come up with reasonable ideas rather than insisting their view is the only possible view, and making up really stupid things to “prove” their points, such as “gay people are pedophiles.” If you want to know the number-one group sexually preying on children, forget the Drag Queen Story Hour volunteers and start counting the convicted clergy.

Voters Who Think

Consider, for instance, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, a town of about 6,500 people. There, school board member Terri Cunningham-Swanson pushed through a book review policy for area schools. At a meeting last May, her own son spoke against her and her proposals.

“She’s made statements about being against critical race theory, which can be interpreted as also Black history,” D’Shaun Cunningham told the board, which included his mother. “She has four Black children, myself included. What these bans encourage is a lack of civility. So even within my family, there’s been breakdowns in communication but that’s what the nation is going through.”

“In all of history, it’s never the good guys banning books.” Available on Amazon* for men and women.

Gutsy kid, and he’s absolutely right. Cunningham-Swanson and her husband, if you wondered, are white. They have a total of six children.

The high school librarian resigned over the policy. “I made the difficult decision to leave the district following the events of the last board meeting when the book ‘reviews’ began,” Christine Knust said. “Why is one person’s belief system more important than others?” she demanded of the board. “What will happen next if you accomplish your mission?”

The committee which reviewed 52 challenged books only recommended removing one of them. It’s unclear which one, and from what grade level.

So… where were the voters? Waiting for their turn, which came this month in a special recall election, where 62 percent of voters gave Cunningham-Swanson her walking papers.

It would be nice if Florida’s voters would grow some cojones too, if they’re not too drunk on their political Kool-Aid.

So that’s my say: you can have yours in the Comments.

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28 Comments on “Florida Book Censorship

  1. > I know some of you will bristle at their use of “banned” when really, some portion is “under review.”

    I bristle at the use not because of that, but because it devalues *real* bans.

    A library declining for whatever reason to carry a particular book is not a ban. A library removing a book from its shelves is not a ban. You can still buy it from the bookstore or from Amazon.

    A ban is when the bookseller goes to jail for selling it. A ban is when your kid mentions to a friend that you have the book, and the police knock on your door.

    When I was a kid, I was very sad that no school library or public library carried my favorite books — Tom Swift Jr, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. But I knew that it was not because they were banned, but rather because the library had made a decision on what kind of books it wanted to carry, based on their perceived value and how they fit into the library’s collection. And yet somehow I managed to acquire a nearly complete set.

    Even the best and most inclusive library has finite shelf space and so must be selective about what books it acquires, and wants to add new books and so must periodically cull its collection. None of this is “banning”.

    By all means complain about the procedures and guidelines that a library uses to select and prune its stock. Many of them are probably biased, intolerant, and downright wrong-headed. But don’t call them “bans”.

    When a school library is ordered to remove books for ideological reasons, I call that a ban. NO ONE is suggesting that it’s impossible to order a banned book from Amazon or a local bookstore. But that’s limited to people who have the means to pay for them. -rc

    Reply
    • Perhaps you missed this, Jordan?

      It is disingenuous to claim that a “library removing a book from its shelves is not a ban” when regressive politics was the ONLY reason the book was removed, especially when those bans are the beginning of the very slippery slope demonstrated by the incident in MASSACHUSETTS (not Florida).

      Heck, *I* missed that one. Do consider sending such stories to me, especially when the cases are this egregious. (More on submitting stories.) -rc

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      • The caption under one of the article’s pictures contains this: “school book search was ‘unwarranted and unauthorized by law'” which brings another question to my mind. Per what I could get from the article, the search was definitely “unwarranted” as there was no mention of a search warrant ever being obtained by the police to allow the apparently unlawful search. And, on the other hand, what was the ‘probable cause’ in lieu of a search warrant?

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    • Another problem is the fact that people may not even know that such books exist. If it is not in the library, a young person may not be aware that a book is available on the subject of interest.

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    • Well, Jordan, if everyone can go order from a bookstore, then why bother having libraries at all?

      I’m glad you were able to buy the books you wanted, but not every student can easily do the same — and that undermines the education process, no? (i.e., shouldn’t every student have access to the books their teachers feel are a necessary part of their education?)

      BTW, if you’re hung up on the term “ban,” if the school district says (in effect) “you cannot have this book in our libraries,” they are banning it from their libraries. Period. (I’d suggest you check the definition of “ban” in Webster’s but, unfortunately, it’s not available because this dictionary is “under review.”)

      Reply
    • If a child is not allowed to borrow a particular book because someone else’s parent demanded the library remove it from their shelves, it’s a ban, plain and simple.

      Yes, kids with money can get the book from Amazon, but how many kids even think about that.

      My mom thought Tom Swift was a terrible choice for me to read it (because her librarian friend said their library would not put it on their shelves). Fortunately, she did not stop me from spending my money on Tom Swift Jr., my sister from reading Nancy Drew, or my brother from reading Mad Magazine.

      No, when some parents demand that some books be removed from the shelves, that’s a ban.

      Reply
  2. I have done MULTIPLE papers on book-banning, dating back to high school. One of them was a major project; I was in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and one of our classes was “TOK” — Theory of Knowledge. Basically a two-year class on how to think (I used to bring in a LOT of “True” articles to share with the class). Our final project was supposed to apply the critical thinking skills we’d learned to a contemporary topic, and naturally I, as an avid reader and aspiring writer, picked book-banning.

    I started out my paper and presentation by highlighting several of the more ridiculous/ludicrous/extreme reasons for banning/challenging books I had found. An Alabama school district removed The Diary of Anne Frank from its libraries in 1984 because it was, and I am quoting directly here, “a real downer”. A book of Shel Silverstein’s poems was banned in at least one library because of a poem that “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them” and another that “promotes cannibalism” (the second poem in question is “Someone Ate the Baby” and anyone with half a brain would know they were satire). Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, a children’s picture book where all the characters are illustrated as animals, was banned or challenged in several places over protests that the police officers were represented by pigs. Where’s Waldo has infamously been banned because there’s a sunbathing woman in the beach scene whose top has come undone and her breast (the size of a pencil lead) is exposed. A Raisin in the Sun was banned in at least one school district for “pornography”, which leads me to wonder if they read the same version of the play I did.

    Once I got my class laughing about that, I switched gears and showed some of the more legitimate-sounding reasons — concerns about sexual content (Deenie by Judy Blume), profanity (Fahrenheit 451, Catcher in the Rye), racism (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little House on the Prairie), violence (several Stephen King books). I even got some of my classmates nodding along with the books, the reasoning. I could see that they agreed that, yes, in the interest of protecting children, those books should be restricted.

    I scored major points with my teachers — and got a great grade on the paper — when I clicked over to the next slide and hit everyone with the point that not one of those reasons was better than another.

    (I also got bonus points for including a recording of Tom Lehrer’s “Smut” in my presentation, which played while a series of quotes about the importance of access to literature scrolled across the screen, but that’s a minor matter.)

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  3. I think too many people think of banning as a binary choice. There is a middle ground which is allowing (or disallowing) specific books based on age and/or maturity. When I was in 3rd grade back in 1967 I was the first student allowed in the “big kid” part of the school library. Needless to say wonders awaited me there.

    The real issue in these things is “who decides”. There is concern on both sides of the political agendas being pushed. My view is that kids can handle far more than we adults think they can, and handle it without adopting viewpoints. It is the people with agendas that drive viewpoints.

    I agree with that completely! -rc

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  4. I didn’t get involved with “banned” books but as a young teen I had a library card for the junior town library. When I exhausted its shelves I borrowed my dad’s adult library card and set to go through that set of books as well.

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    • Good for your dad.

      In my case my mom visited the librarian and explained that I had unrestricted access — and the librarian was happy with that.

      Which is all it should take if it’s someone worthy of the title Librarian. -rc

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  5. If you are going to ban books, let’s start with the bible. Incest, murder, sexual predators, child labor, fornication — the list never ends. Probably the book most in need of banning if you want to rid the library of sex and violence.

    If they don’t, it’s pretty much proof the system is rigged, eh? -rc

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    • Believe me, they’re much more concerned with sex than with violence. George Carlin pretty much laid it out with his bit on the dichotomy of America’s obsession with the two.

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  6. If you don’t believe that we have an obligation as adults and parents to protect our children from child abuse, and to foster their growth into healthy adults, then skip the rest of this comment because we have a fundamental disagreement.

    I’ve worked with a youth serving organization for many years. All volunteers and professionals in the organization are required to take Youth Protection training and certification. Among many aspects of Youth Protection, we are taught to recognize signs of “grooming” or the breaking down barriers to sexual abuse of children from adults or other youth.

    Exposure to sexual material before the child is mature enough to understand is one of the ways that a child is set up for abuse.

    Those who participate in making sexualized material available to youth may believe that they are doing so for good reasons (freedom, affirmation, etc.). They may have no predentary or pedo designs on the children themselves. Even so, their actions (allowed exposure to sexualized material earlier than the child’s developmental level), regardless of their intent, will have the (unintended) effect of breaking down barriers to sexual abuse, making it easier for abusers to victimize the child. Maybe not ALL children (there are other factors that contribute to a child at risk), but how many abused children are “too few” not do something about?

    Those who are against limiting a child’s easy exposure to sexualized material, like at a classroom or school library, may characterize this as “banning”. But what SHOULD we do to reduce the harm that clearly comes from over-sexualizing children?

    The sexually explicit materials are an emotional and developmental poison that is likely to affect children for their lifetime and beyond; those who are sexually abused often emotionally, physically, and/or sexually abuse others. And the cycle of pain and poor decisions continues, destroying families and society.

    Throughout history, the far left and far right have had agendas. But just because an initiative intended to protect children and their future society from sexual abuse isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t modify it and move forward. Life and policies should be iterative; if can be improved, then improve it.

    For those who believe that there should be zero protections, its incumbent on them to propose another solution, not just sit back and snipe at those who are trying to protect our children (however initially imperfect).

    Of course we should protect children from abuse. NO ONE is arguing that they shouldn’t, or that there should be “zero protection.” For you to then go on a long diatribe on this unfounded premise, while simultaneously ignoring the absurd overreach of banning encyclopedias and dictionaries that is the actual point of this post, makes your entire comment laughable. -rc

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  7. When their kids are trying to enter a top-notch university and they are, literally, uneducated the end result will be that they will not be able to compete. That is fine, that gives the other 49 states an edge.

    It’s still detrimental to our national economy and security. -rc

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    • It is. There is no such thing as a border when it pertains to education. The world is connected through the internet and if you aren’t up to snuff you will be left behind. I can’t think of anything the Chinese and other competitors love more than the dumbing down of the United States.

      Exactly. Why politicians (especially) don’t “get” this I just don’t understand. -rc

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  8. Thank you for linking the entire list of “banned” books. Years ago I remember my school distributing a Summer Reading List for us to consider for our beach reading, and this takes that concept to its logical conclusion. It will take me many summers but I think it will be a great source for summer reading.

    The one book on the list that stopped me cold, however, was “Messing Around with Drinking Straw Construction: A Children’s Museum Activisty (sic) Book” by Bernie Zubrowski. I may have to get the book just to see what he recommends the kids build out of drinking straws….

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  9. Censorship is just plain wrong. If you don’t like a certain book, movie, song, etc. then fine, then YOU don’t read it, don’t watch it, don’t listen to it, but you have no right whatsoever to try and prevent anyone else from reading it, watching it, listening to it, etc.

    Regarding kids in school, the same applies. You only get to decide for your own kids, not for anyone else’s kids, what they should have access to read from the school library. That’s what we hire librarians for, to make educated decisions on what is proper for school libraries, and public libraries as well, to make available for patrons. And if you insist on trying to get an item removed from a library collection, there are proper channels to go through to try and do so. NONE of these states are going through those proper channels.

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  10. “… if they’re not too drunk on their political Kool-Aid.”

    It has been my experience that the typical Floridian is not only drunk on the political Kool-Aid, but pathologically addicted. There are a few sane people remaining here, but most are eagerly chasing the Kool-Aid truck to demand their daily gallon.

    There are currently only two families on my street flying various far-right fascist flags in addition to or in place of the American flag. The count used to be higher, but several neighbors have recently moved and another is currently recovering from a long illness. I’m sure his flag will be back soon.

    Thanks to my neighbors, I now know that the modern Nazi party has abandoned the swastika and uses a symbol called the flash-bang in its place. The flash-bang is a white lighting bolt on a blue background. It looks very similar to the symbol used by the Tampa Bay Lightnings professional sports team, but the sports team has a white oval around their lightning bolt, while the Nazis have a perfectly round white circle.

    I would like to leave this state, but even if I had the money to do so I’m not sure where i would go.

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  11. How many of the ridiculous submissions (Guinness, Dictionary, etc) are attempts to make the entire process look ridiculous by the group that wants to inundate the kids with sexual concepts 24/7 rather than teaching them the basics of education that will actually make them productive members and not drains on society?

    Your question is a good one, but your follow-on is JUST as ridiculous as what you propose the problem is. There is not a single group that “wants to inundate the kids with sexual concepts 24/7 rather than teaching them the basics of education.” Not one. -rc

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    • There are none so blind as those who will not see.

      “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” It’s as simple as prove it or shut up. -rc

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      • Apparently Jimmy expected you to “see” for yourself. In fact, there have been and are dozens of organizations worldwide which PUBLICALLY promote grooming and pedophilia. A /brief/ Wikipedia search showed “evidence” which you can check:

        NAMBLA, IPCE, Newgon, AMBLA, DPA, GRED, CSC.

        Keep in mind these were PUBLIC groups; the number of clandestine organizations can’t be counted.

        “Groups” that promote pedophilia, as vile as they are, have not been shown to desire “to inundate the kids with sexual concepts 24/7 rather than teaching them the basics of education.” Jimmy took an extreme position, and I told him to prove it. He failed to do so and, really, so did you — thankfully. -rc

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  12. First, to Jonathan in Worcester, MA: Considering the obvious lack of thinking by the obliviots responsible, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was targeted just because it says “Messing Around” in the title!

    I myself have always been not only an avid reader, but a fast one (not speed-reading, just very focused — to the point that I’ve learned not to read on the bus as I tend to miss my stop). My local library had a four book maximum for children, to which I quickly received an exemption, as my family only made it into town once a week or so. 😉 That library unfortunately had a limited selection of books for ‘young adults’ at the time — not due to bans, as far as I know, they just had limited space and were more focused on children’s books and reference materials. The librarians still tried to find me books I might enjoy as a pre-teen, even if they were in the ‘adult’ section, including Sherlock Holmes mysteries and books by Douglas Adams and Stephen King — which I mention because they are all on the above list.

    When I began Grade 9 (a few decades ago, I’ll admit) and discovered my High School’s extensive library, I was in heaven — but of course I no longer had as much free time for reading. So for one of my first book reports, I chose a book I had noticed but hadn’t found time for (300+ pages — but mom, it’s homework!), which my English teacher ‘suggested’ might be too big and ‘too old’ for me. She didn’t stop me from reading it, just offered to talk with me about it afterwards – she is still one of my favourite teachers. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper, though I’m sure anyone looking for books to ban would have snatched it out of my 14-year-old hands due to the violence and rapes, if not the controversial societal topics it explores. (It’s not on the above list, surprisingly.) I won’t say the story is particularly pleasant, but it was engrossing, and it certainly made me think — which is the whole point of education, isn’t it? If I had found any of it to be too disturbing or distressing, I obviously could have stopped reading it and changed books (and taken up my teacher’s offer to talk about it), but it was entirely my choice.

    Come to think of it, two of the main themes the book explores are whether violent tendencies are caused by “nature or nurture”, and what level of control can/should be exercised by those in charge “for our own good” (with or without our knowledge) — both of which seem particularly relevant to this topic! Maybe I should find it again…?

    Forget the violence and rapes. You say it made you think?! Definitely one for the ban list! -rc

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  13. Not surprised. It’s always the “Rule for Thee, not for Me” crowd that gets us into this type of situation. Cancel Culture was invented by the Righteous Right; they need to suck it up or GTFO.

    Reply

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