Removing Books A Bad Precedent

A national movement to remove certain books deemed objectionable from public school libraries has come to the lower shore with public school systems in Worcester and Wicomico counties currently fielding staged complaints over the last month. The school systems are right to be careful on this front.

Worcester County Public Schools this week is working through two book challenges from high school parents. Leaders are fully aware they have found themselves in the middle of an orchestrated national effort to get certain library books – usually involving sexuality, race or gender — removed from shelves. The book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson is targeted locally as it is across the country because it contains explicit passages about gay sex. At last month’s school board meeting, graphic passages were read from the book – available in high schools — to shock the school board into agreeing it needed to be removed from circulation. Reading the content in a public setting was deplorable, but we agree minors should not be reading this subject matter in school, although it’s clear similar content is readily available through a quick web search.

Book bans are nothing new, as many accounts about race have been targeted in the past, including “The 1619 Project.” What’s different today is these efforts are rooted in extreme politics with many using the causes to propel runs for office and a basis for critiquing current elected and appointed officials.

In a recent New York Times article, Follet School Solutions Chief Content Executive Britten Follett said, “The politicization of the topic is what’s different than what I’ve seen in the past. … in the end, the librarian, teacher or educator is getting caught in the middle.”

In Worcester County, a process is in place for book challenges, involving the school principal, a committee, the school system’s library media coordinator, the superintendent and ultimately school board. A slippery slope comes to mind, and the school system would be wise to not start removing books deemed objectionable by some. If a book or two is banned, the effort will be emboldened, and opposition will come from all sides.

This current movement is about whether to restrict choice and free speech and encourage censorship. It’s a lesson in tolerance, understanding and morality for our students. If parents don’t want their kids checking out certain books, they can manage their available selections and limit their ability to check out certain subjects. These types of controls are the appropriate course to take rather than bow to a trending national political movement.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.