There’s No Time to Despair over Book Bans—Just to Fight Them

From Publishers Weekly:

For those of us who cherish the freedom to read, the current wave of attacks on books in schools and libraries is disheartening. For the teachers and librarians on the front lines, it is far worse. They are being attacked for choosing books that reflect the needs of their students and patrons. They are accused of “grooming” children for sexual abuse, or indoctrinating them with allegedly anti-American ideas about race. In the face of these threats, many are considering leaving the profession they love.

The vitriol is also being directed at the parents, students, and community members courageously standing up and speaking out at public meetings against banning books.

But it would be a mistake to give in to despair. Americans have been successfully fighting for the freedom to read for over a century. In the 1920s, for example, the newly organized American Civil Liberties Union denounced efforts by super-patriots to turn schools into a vehicle for their propaganda. It also challenged a ban on the teaching of evolution in Tennessee with the help of a science teacher named John Scopes.

Publishers, booksellers, and librarians joined the fight against book-banning efforts in 1953, after Sen. Joseph McCarthy led a campaign to purge books by 75 “communist authors” from libraries operated by the U.S. State Department. The American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council responded by issuing a statement, “The Freedom to Read,” in which they declared such a freedom as “essential to our democracy.” Even President Dwight Eisenhower joined the fight. “Don’t join the book burners,” he said.

The next two decades saw significant advances in protecting free speech, as the Supreme Court struck down laws that Southern states were using to suppress the civil rights movement, while also expanding artistic freedom and broadening protections for protesters. But book banning surged again in the 1980s, when conservative groups sought to silence authors like Judy Blume, who wrote about sex and the other complex issues facing young people. The number of book challenges in schools and libraries shot up to more than 1,300 a year.

Once again, publishers, librarians, and booksellers successfully fought back. The ALA launched Banned Books Week in 1982 to counter claims that libraries were harming children. Libraries and bookstores mounted displays of challenged books to give people a chance to see what the book banners were attacking. The most significant achievement of this period was the adoption by many schools and libraries of a formal process for evaluating challenged books.

Previously, there had been nothing to stop a school official from simply pulling challenged books off shelves. Today, most school districts require a written complaint. When a complaint is filed, the school responds by forming a review committee that usually includes a professional (a librarian or teacher), a parent, and sometimes a student.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG worked in a large university library as one of many jobs to work his way through college.

From that experience and interactions with a great many academic and public librarians over the years, he treated all with courtesy. Some were “professionals” per the OP and others who worked full-time were not particularly intelligent or well-educated. Some even expressed personal opinions with which PG did not agree.

The OP made PG cringe for two reasons:

  1. Joe McCarthy died in 1957. However, some individuals can’t resist digging him up, likely because nobody like him has gained high public office since then.
  2. The OP mentions “a professional (a librarian or teacher)” implying their employment makes them an authority on what books should and shouldn’t be in a library accessible to children attending public schools. This is an example of a long-recognized logical error, commonly called “appeal to authority.”

From Logically Fallacious:

Appeal to Authority

argumentum ad verecundiam

(also known as: argument from authority, ipse dixit)

Description: Insisting that a claim is true simply because a valid authority or expert on the issue said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered. Also see the appeal to false authority .

Logical Form:

According to person 1, who is an expert on the issue of Y, Y is true.

Therefore, Y is true.

Example #1:

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and perhaps the foremost expert in the field, says that evolution is true. Therefore, it’s true.

Explanation: Richard Dawkins certainly knows about evolution, and he can confidently tell us that it is true, but that doesn’t make it true. What makes it true is the preponderance of evidence for the theory.

Example #2:

How do I know the adult film industry is the third largest industry in the United States? Derek Shlongmiester, the adult film star of over 50 years, said it was. That’s how I know.

Explanation: Shlongmiester may be an industry expert, as well as have a huge talent, but a claim such as the one made would require supporting evidence. For the record, the adult film industry may be large, but on a scale from 0 to 12 inches, it’s only about a fraction of an inch.

. . . .

Appeal to Authority: Insisting that a claim is true simply because a valid authority or expert on the issue said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered. Also see Appeal to False Authority.

Link to the rest at Logically Fallacious

PG has known some highly-educated and intelligent individuals who held one or more opinions that could not be supported logically or with a preponderance of any reliable evidence.

1 thought on “There’s No Time to Despair over Book Bans—Just to Fight Them”

  1. The other difficulty is that there are, shall we say, very different opinions about what is actually best for children.

    Furthermore, considering some of the data that we have regarding the prevalence of sexual abuse in schools by teachers and staff, the notion that teachers and staff are introducing kids to concepts like queer identity way earlier than they should be not out of misguided idealism but for nefarious purposes is not nearly as far-fetched as the OP wants it to be.

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