Editorial: Let reason, logic prevail in book debate

A recent editorial by the Toledo Blade:

Since 1982, the American Library Association and Amnesty International have teamed up to sponsor Banned Books Week during the last week in September.

Banned Books Week showcases books that have been challenged by parents, school boards, and politicians who claim they want to shield young readers from bad ideas and points of view they deem dangerous.

Some authors, like Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, and J.K. Rowling, are perennials on the list. It often doesn’t take much for religiously conservative parents to push for some books to be challenged because of the presence of wizards or gay people in a beloved children’s book.

This year the most challenged books explore anti-racist themes that have come under scrutiny because they allegedly mirror the agenda of critical race theory — the latest bogeyman of the right.

Last year, a list of books and resources put together by the diversity committee at Central York High School in York, Pa., to help parents and students understand the historical context of the George Floyd protests was banned by the school board because of pressure from parents concerned about “anti-white indoctrination.”

Books like education activist Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, a children’s book about Rosa Parks, and even a Sesame Street collaboration with CNN on racism generated the ire and suspicion of parents who question whether racism is systemic or pervasive.

Students at Central York High School and many of their parents and allies in the community protested the ban, attracting national attention. Ridicule was heaped upon the school board for failing to vet any of the challenged books or teaching materials in the year since the ban was imposed.

Earlier this week, the school district reversed the ban. The students and parents who opposed the ban had prevailed.

It seems only fitting that the York, Pa., school district’s reversing of the ban coincides perfectly with Banned Books Week.

The victory of reason, logic, and literacy reinforces the best values of a democracy committed to expanding understanding between diverse communities with intertwining histories.

Instead of being a cautionary tale about the dangers of book banning, Central York High School is now a data point about the importance of standing up for the community’s highest educational values — not its lowest.

It speaks to the intellectual integrity of the students that protests at the high school would’ve happened with or without Banned Books Week. The fact that they coincided is what makes democracy great.

— Toledo Blade, Sept. 30.