Texas School Book Purge Heating Up, Almost To Fahrenheit 451

Texas school districts' War on Books keeps getting bigger and stupider, because nothing gets people riled up like a good old culture war driven by fear of feminism, gays, and noisy people of color who might upset Meemaw. Last week, the school district in Leander, Texas, banned 11 books from classrooms. Now, one of the state's largest districts, North East Independent School District in San Antonio, is "reviewing" more than 400 books in school libraries because they were on that list of scary books on race, sexuality, and gender cobbled together by a state rep who needed to make a name for himself, because he'd like to get elected state attorney general.

It's all a spinoff of the national rightwing freakout over "critical race theory" and trans rights and education, the latest iteration of the drive to punish public education for all the perceived ills in America. As of yet, no school librarians have been publicly stoned to death, but if that happens it'll probably be because some angry parent got the idea from one of the books banned in Leander, the graphic novel adaptation of Shirley Jackson's story 'The Lottery."

Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

Sometimes It Starts With A Dildo

In Leander, a suburb just north of Austin, the district adopted a new English Language Arts curriculum last year, and a number of parents complained to the school board earlier this year about several of the books that were included as optional reading. You read that right: Parents were mad about books that weren't actually being assigned to read, but which some tender high schooler might choose to read. You see, one of the books that students could choose was In the Dream House: A Memoir, by Carmen Maria Machado, which is about surviving an abusive lesbian relationship and includes a mention of a dildo. The horror! One angry parent showed up at a school board meeting, pulled a pink rubber sex toy from her bag, and said "This is what we're asking our children to read."

The school board launched an urgent review of all 120 books on the optional reading list in the curriculum, even though of course the curriculum had been approved by the board before it went into use. (Not that anyone would expect a school board to do homework.) Last week, the board announced that 11 books would be banned and no longer allowed in classroom libraries. No rationale for their removal was included on the list announcing their removal. Nine of the books will at least remain in school libraries in the district. Machado's Dream House, however, will not, nor will another memoir, Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson, because it too has the ghey. It must be terrible, because look, the word "Queer" is right there on the cover:

Here are all 11 of the already optional books banned in the Leander ISD (all with Wonkette-gets-a-cut linkies, because we're servicey!)

Gotta protect the kids from all those dangerous comic books, we guess, especially if there's gay or sex stuff in them. Seems to us the most dangerous dildos in Leander aren't in a book.

It's Only Censorship If You Call It Censorship

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, the North East ISD said this week that it had already been busy reviewing books in its system when state Rep. Matt Krause sent his very important letter to Texas schools demanding they search for potentially illegal books that he thought might violate Texas's cookie-cutter law banning "critical race theory" and all other bad things in schools. Krause's letter included an astonishingly arbitrary list of more than 850 titles; it really does appear to have compiled by a keyword search for books discussing abortion, feminism, gay rights, race, sexuality and sex education, among other topics. ("Pink is a Girl Color" ...and other silly things people say, for instance. Radical feminism from brainwashed pathetic commie nazi left wing liberal pigs!) Krause wanted schools to report back on how many copies of each title the schools had, what they paid for them, and where in the school — classroom, library, Soros adrenochrome sex dungeon & teachers' lounge — the books were located.

Well wouldn't you know it, North East ISD was pretty happy to raise its hand and say Lookie Mr. Krause, we're already complying! Also you forgot homework! In an email to NPR, school district spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor explained that the school district quickly found it owned 414 of the books on Krause's (absurdly arbitrary) list, out of some 800,000 books owned by the district, and that school staff were asked to review the 414 books "out of an abundance of caution and to make sure they don't contain any obscene or vulgar material." But don't worry! It's not censorship!

"For us, this is not about politics or censorship, but rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children," Chancellor wrote.

She said the process is moving quickly, with more than 100 books having been reviewed and deemed age-appropriate in a matter of days.

Most are appropriate and will remain on the shelves, she added, but some may contain content that "needs further review to ensure the books are accessible based on age appropriateness."

Chancellor also explained that the district just wanted to make sure that if some books aren't quite age appropriate, they might be moved around a bit, but certainly not banned or censored heavens no never. For instance maybe a book in an elementary school library really belongs in the middle school collection. She also suggested an absolutely non-censorish scenario in which maybe

a book at the high school level needs to be placed in a separate section that requires parental permission. [...] The idea is more of a reorganization and a reshuffle — the purpose is not to remove books.

Isn't that great? Nobody will be kept from reading about puberty, trans people, abortion, or lynching! Kids just won't have access to some books unless they get permission from a parent, and why would any kid not want their loving mom or dad to know they wanted to read The Journey Out: A Guide for and About Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Teens, for example? Absolutely no censorship happening here. And we suppose a kid could always tell his dad he needs the book for a research paper on why gay people are a threat to America, right? (To be clear, that's a title we found on Krause's list; as of yet, the school district doesn't appear to have actually moved any materials to a restricted section of the library.)

To further assist parents and keep the community safe from inappropriate ideas, North East ISD is also

forming a book review committee to determine which books may need to go in a separate section of the library and launching an electronic tool that parents can use to see which library books their children are checking out.

Again, we can't see how anyone would possibly object. Heck, it might even bring families closer together so they can have thoughtful conversations like "You checked out books about what? That's it, get the fuck out of my house!"

Happily, we can count on teens to sometimes be a lot more adult about matters than the decent church-going alleged grownups who want to protect them from reading books. NPR also notes that local high schoolers are pushing back against the attempt to restrict their ability to read freely with an online petition to keep the "Krause list" off their school libraries; in less than a week, it's already gotten over 2,500 signatures.

The kids know what this is really about, that's for damn sure:

These books serve an important place in our community, as they not only provide important educational resources on Black history, they also provide a safe haven for young LGBTQ students who take comfort in this representation. Many black and lgbtq students in NEISD are appalled and hurt by NEISD’s decision to comply with Matt Krause and suppress our harmless resources and stories.

The moms are mad, but the kids are all right.

[PEN America / NPR / Atlantic]

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