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As calls to ban books intensify, digital librarians offer perspective (archive.org)
189 points by sohkamyung 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 230 comments





A lot of the other comments on here are saying that this is banning books from curricula [1]. But I would...like to see the sources for this assertion?

All of the stories I have seen [1][2] say that the books are banned from the school library system. As far as I am aware, school libraries usually contain a wide range of books, not just whatever is required for the curriculum.

So banning a book from a school library does seem to be a fairly strong suppression of ideas. Libraries have usually been the place where you go to find ideas outside the safe circle of whatever is permitted by your (usually insipid) curriculum.

For example, I am not a fan of Ayn Rand's philosophy, but I am still glad I got to read her books from my school library, so I could make that decision for myself. School libraries curated by legislators with an agenda seem like a Really Bad Idea.

----------------------------------------

[1] This would be within limits, I guess, but still weird. Wouldn't you just use a different curriculum?

[2] https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050013664/texas-lawmaker-mat...

[3] https://www.kmuw.org/education/2021-11-09/goddard-school-dis...


Local school districts frequently do this sort of thing.

It sucks for the kids, but it is a good signal for you when you’re looking for a place to live, as the school board is controlled by provincial idiots.


Sometimes it's entire states.

That just makes it a stronger signal.

The books being on the school library or on classroom shelves connotes that the educational custodians of our children, who have literal and legal responsibility for their safety and well being on multiple levels, have approved them. Not so much to promote every idea they contain, but at least that they express things in a way that is psychologically appropriate for kids at their level of development.

What kinds of ideas cross this line of appropriateness you or I may disagree on, but the point is that it exists in a school setting, which the article seems to pretty much miss altogether.


From the Texas legislator's proposed list of banned books, I fail to see why books such as "Bioethics Beyond the Headlines" or "V for Vendetta" should be banned. Indeed, it does concern me that much of the novels are fictional works portraying the LGBT experience. I can't imagine how alienating it must be to students of that group.

As an aside, I find it amusing that Shakespeare is never banned on the grounds of sexual content. Perhaps people don't pay attention in English class?


Some parts of Shakespeare are so wordy that the sexual aspect isn't obvious enough to notice without advanced literary education, but there certainly used to be sanitized versions for school students that omitted more explicit passages on booze, lechery and so on.

|Perhaps people don't pay attention in English class?|

Funny enough, I always assumed this same thing of the people who were trying to get Mark Twain books banned for the misuse of language =)

People who don't read books are always the ones who are the most afraid of the ideas contained within them, I suppose.


Mark Twain shall definitely be banned. We don't need satire in school. And no books with racism. We have enough of the later.

To be clear, we’re talking about books that have graphic images of sex. They wouldn’t be appropriate even if they involved straight sex. Don’t use LGBT acceptance to promote sexualization of minors.

I fail to see the "graphic sex" in the aforementioned works, or others listed like "The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine." I'll take your word that there are books on the list with "graphic sex," but it's insulting to assume children cannot comprehend such topics.

Not long ago, I was 13. At that age, I read books like Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle, and A Clockwork Orange. The very fact I now have to type that I knew that sex was a natural part of life perhaps speaks to the deterioration of our educational standards. Regardless, even I understood then that the sexual perversion of those works weren't their raison d'étre. I'm grateful I had an English teacher who guided me in that respect. Likewise, I earnestly hope others have similar instructors, who don't define a work by its depictions of acts of reality, however sordid they may be.


This is an easy excuse but one I find hard to believe as being at all legitimate. Out of all the things that lead to promoting sexualization of minors I highly doubt that anyone is going to look back on their chidlhood and blame a book. I also can't help but wonder if I was somehow super sexualized as a high schooler or not. Comments like this and people talking about banning books for high schoolers makes me wonder if somehow I'm the freak. Everyone I knew when I was that age had graphic (misconception filled) images of sex already, actual pornography was pretty easy to access. I almost wish I had instead gotten this from a book, maybe there would've been less damaging misconceptions.

That said, I've been trying to find an example of a book in the "book ban" discussion that contains problematic graphic sex content. I've tried looking and so far everything has turned up pretty empty.


Blue state “book ban”: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/school-system...

Nobody thinks the book causes that sexualization. The point is that it’s an implicit sanction from parental and teacher authority.


Most are couched in the slang of Shakespeare's time, an effective filter. How many high schoolers get the Nurse's ribald joke about the very young Juliet learning to "fall backwards" once she had grown older? I didn't, not at all sure our teacher got the meaning either, or if she did, then chose not to explain it ... Check out the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet to see it played well.

Setting: Catholic high school, late 80s. Freshman English class.

We were reading out loud in class the prologue for Romeo and Juliet... and the teacher would occasionally pause the reading to explain the text.

A more full account of the events is in https://everything2.com/user/m_turner/writeups/Shakespearean... which I wrote when it was closer to the present and more fresh in my mind.

So yes, at least one class of Generation X high school students got every joke in Romeo and Juliet.


Miss P. was a rare sort of scholar indeed to be found at the 9th grade level.

> ... wrote when it was closer to the present and more fresh in my mind.

The thought came to me -- being now at an age a few years greater than yours -- that my own collection of memories on similar events has been fading, and those from youth of course being irreplaceable.

Solution: Write them down, only those I'd want to savor again in years ahead. In the form of notes, at least. The act of writing slowly -- over the course of nearly a year now -- puts a light on others in the dusty attic.

Next step is to work up the more amusing and less private of them into anecdotes, for sharing with trusted friends.


Everything2 is an interesting (to me) entry in the Web 2.0 landscape and early crowdsourcing. The original implementation of it was in '98 - and its still around. It doesn't quite have the same rate of growth of content as it did back when I was writing - but its still there. Some of the people on there later went on to become professional writers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything2

> According to E2's "Site Trajectory", traffic has dropped from 9976 new write-ups created in the month of August 2000, down to 93 new write-ups in February 2017.

https://everything2.com/node/superdoc/Site+Trajectory and https://everything2.com/node/superdoc/Site+Trajectory+2

(It looks like its down to a small core of people)

The key is to record it somewhere. Be it Storycorps ( https://www.npr.org/series/4516989/storycorps ) or a second brain ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29188418 ). Spin up a Wordpress blog and write there (aside, one of my projects is digging through the files from a hard drive of a laptop a bit ago where I wrote using Apple's blogging / web hosting software.

Writing without care of who (if anyone) reads it - for the sheer sake of writing - feels like a dying art form at times.


I, for one, was too busy hanging my bugle in it's invisible baldric during high school English. Or making the beast with two backs.

Oh, wait.


We want the kids to use their freedom and free will, and to think for themselves - even or especially when it challenges the adults - and to learn how to do that. It's an essential skill to a democracy (and a free market), and to teach them freedom for all by giving them freedom, instead of teaching them that people should be sheparded. There are limits to what we want middle schoolers exposed to, but I think my approach is different than what you describe.

> We want the kids to use their freedom and free will, and to think for themselves

Says who? The cultures who focus on “freedom” for kids are literally being replaced by the ones that socialize their kids to do what they’re supposed to do.


What 'cultures' are you talking about? By far the most successful in human history have been modern democratic cultures which, very broadly speaking, focus on freedom.

But regardless, the kids should grow into free adults. It's self-evident, as Jefferson said and as much of the world has held to be true for centuries now (again to great success). Are you volunteering to give up your freedom? Then I'll take you up on that and say you may not post such comments (in case anyone is confused, I'm not actually telling the parent what to do).


> What 'cultures' are you talking about? By far the most successful in human history have been modern democratic cultures which, very broadly speaking, focus on freedom.

Not for kids, which is what we’re talking about here. Read Roald Dahl’s books about British education. That’s the culture that built the greatest empire in history.

“Freedom” for kids, as opposed to rigid socialization, is a mid-20th century detour. And the cultures that practice it, mainly north Americans and Europeans, are either in decline or are being replaced from the inside by immigrants from cultures that don’t.


>> Read Roald Dahl’s books about British education.

Could you please recommend a specific book for those of us who are interested?


His autobiography is great. Boy.

> That’s the culture that built the greatest empire in history.

Which created the 3rd world via colonialism. For reference the Mughal empire that generated 25% of the worlds GDP, or any of the great Chinese empires definitely didn't involve colonialism, famines and death and the creation of the poorest colonial economies in the world to demonstrate their greatness.


> Which created the 3rd world via colonialism. For reference the Mughal empire that generated 25% of the worlds GDP

C’mon, you know why people formulate this point like that, and not like, “Mughal empire GDP decreased 50% after colonialism.”

Between 1000 AD and 1600 AD, British GDP per capita doubled. During that time, Indian GDP per capita increased only 20%. Before European contact, India, China, etc., were stuck at pre-industrial revolution levels. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(P...

By the time the Brits got there, Indian GDP per capita was only half as much as Britain’s. The odds that India would have entered an industrial revolution around that same time after centuries of being stuck in the same place is low.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(P...


Your own links show Mughal GDP per capita at 700$+ in 1600, china at 800$+, a level that wasn't approached by UK until late 1800s and most of Europe until 1900s.

Britain started dominating India in the 1700s and got almost complete domination by 1819 by finishing off the last Indian hold out - the maratha kingdom.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Anglo-Maratha_War

India's economic decline coincides with colonialism and does not precede it, the opposite of what you suggest.

If you are going to disagree with virtually every economist that colonialism destroyed the economies of virtually every colony while siphoning off a lot of wealth to Europe, you will have to do better than post links that contradict your own statements.

By any dimension of comparison the Mughal and contemporaneous Chinese empires were superior to any colonial empires that followed - be it economic output, lack of hunger and famine, or colonial deindustrialization. The British empire was one of the largest setbacks to World GDP ever, as demonstrated by the information you yourself posted.


> We want the kids to use their freedom and free will, and to think for themselves - even or especially when it challenges the adults - and to learn how to do that.

No, history has shown that thinking is dangerous. We shall avoid that. Thanks to Netflix and Spotify the mind of the child can be occupied 24h a day. The last thing a child shall do is to challenge the establishment.

> It's an essential skill to a democracy (and a free market), and to teach them freedom for all by giving them freedom, instead of teaching them that people should be sheparded.

And who will collect our data then ? Who will fight the wars to give to reach people more ?

> There are limits to what we want middle schoolers exposed to, but I think my approach is different than what you describe.

There are no limits. Every limit can be achieved and left behind. The purpose of educational system is to destroy the mind of the child so he accepts what is given to him and never asks questions. And, when he asks questions only stupid questions are allowed. No "why"s and no critique.


Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be where people are drawing the line lately, especially in "conservative" areas.

It's hard to argue there's anything but racism (or xenophobia) going on when they ban a book such as A Big Mooncake for Little Star.[0]

[0] https://twitter.com/pacylin/status/1440318317806317569



> but at least that they express things in a way that is psychologically appropriate for kids at their level of development

Frankly, we have little real idea what's psychologically appropriate for kids. Consider that over 65% of papers in psychology fail replication. I would be very skeptical of anyone claiming they know what's psychologically good for anyone.


With that attitude, you might as well do away with teacher certification, mandatory training, and just give the job to anyone who passes a background check.

Not quite. There's no evidence that the training does anything so we can do away with that[1]. Set a subject matter test, hire the people who do best on the test and have them teach it. Primary school could be more obviously day care to its great improvement, like at Sudbury or deomcratic schools, or at Summerhill, where the students can do whatever they want as long as they're safe and stay on school grounds.

[1]It's easier to pick a good teacher than to train one: Familiar and new results on the correlates of teacher effectiveness

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S02727...

Research highlights ▶ Majoring in education is not associated with teacher effectiveness. ▶ University attended for college is not associated with teacher effectiveness. ▶ Acquiring a master's degree is not associated with teacher effectiveness. ▶ Teachers become more effective with a few years of teaching experience. ▶ Teachers may become less effective later in their careers.


> Frankly, we have little real idea what's psychologically appropriate for kids.

You must be joking. Look at parental guidance for movies and games for example. Violence is good and appropriate. Just show no blood. ( Harry Potter). Sex is not good except when in Disney movies and preferably between a prince and a princess. Scenes of normal life are borring just like story costruction. Children must learn that they have to reach the goals as fast as possible, no matter what means are employed. And did i mention violence ? Maybe they don't have it at home but it must be introduced somehow in their lifes. They also need to speak more hysterical. TV and politics have shown that if you speak in normal tone noone will listen to you.


You're probably right, but nonetheless, the original commenter's point stands about the state having literal and legal responsibility for peoples children. It makes sense to be conservative in deciding what material to put in the school library.

""In carrying out searches and other disciplinary functions pursuant to such policies, school officials act as representatives of the State, not merely as surrogates for the parents, and they cannot claim the parents' immunity from the strictures of the Fourth Amendment."" (NJ v TLO)

Meaning: schools have the right (and responsibility) to take steps necessary for the safety of children, but those rights are rather limited compared to those of parents, because they must also satisfy the limits set by constitution for all acts of the state and its representative. Banning books is an excellent example since it is almost the textbook definition of a restriction of free speech at the same time as having exceptionally weak arguments for its necessity, ostensibly to prevent psychological harms, which is a dubious concept to begin with.


> It makes sense to be conservative in deciding what material to put in the school library.

Does it? Is there actual evidence of harm from having these materials available, or is this really just pearl clutching?


> It makes sense to be conservative in deciding what material to put in the school library.

It really doesn't. School is one of the best places we can have people encounter challenging idea and works for the first time. If we coddle people on school and then they are exposed to those ideas on their own (which they will be) then they have fewer resources to aid in processing those ideas and are more likely to end up confused and misinformed.


That’s a good formula for college, once children have become legal adults and are responsible for themselves. While they’re children, it’s up to the parents to expose them to the world.

Yes and no. I would argue it's even more important to maintain a variety of voices in repressive environments like private religious schools and libraries, especially where queer kids (as one of many examples) there may not have any access to stories reflecting their own experiences. Being that repressed is far more harmful than anything fiction can do, and I speak as that literal example there.

I owe my entire current mentality to the books and literature I found on my own beyond the parent's wishes. They're good people in many ways, but having that sanctum to explore other experiences was critical.


Most people don't go to college and even if they did, you need to start teaching these cognitive skills much earlier.

> What kinds of ideas cross this line of appropriateness you or I may disagree on, but the point is that it exists in a school setting, which the article seems to pretty much miss altogether.

I doubt it. If you consider censorship bad then different justifications for it all add up to [justifications for banning books which can be repurposed as needed].

Reading Clive Barker, Stephen King and history books did me no harm as a pre-teen and I see no reason to believe reading more graphic things would do harm either. Plenty of people reject your argument as nonsense.


I don't believe the article is denying the schools' right and responsibilities in protecting children from harm. It is just assuming as much as commonly accepted.

Then, it does the same with regards to the "harmfulness" of these books. Or, more specifically, it names some books (Beloved etc) as well as concepts (health education) in a way that assumes its audience will tend to agree that these aren't harmful to children.

That it doesn't necessarily extend that belief to all books is clear from the distinction it makes when it separates some books from others that have been "caught up in this net [such as] books about health education, teen pregnancy, civics, philosophy, religion,..."


Sorry to highjack an unrelated comment but your previous one to Scott Adams was to the wrong Scott Adams. You thought he was the author of Dilbert and the one doing the AMA is actually a programmer of classic text adventure games. I couldn’t reply there because that comment was flagged/dead.

I grew up in Texas, and disagreements about the harm certain content (exactly which varies) can do to society, in or out of classrooms, could become heated in a hurry.

I believe it's appropriate to err on the side of openness, and keep context in mind. That hasn't always been popular.


I grew up in Texas too. I can remember loud parents crying about censorship for certain books. They were always just one or two at a time and everybody thought they were extreme wackos, but the school district has to avoid controversy before lawyers get involved and really screw it up.

Schools are for the socialization of children. Fundamentally a different context than other libraries.

> I am not a fan of Ayn Rand's philosophy

I've been thinking about this lately, and I'm not sure where I stand. I'm against book burning, but I feel like there are also problems with unchecked dissemination of ideas.

I think this is flawed logic in a few ways, but I'll put it down anyway:

1. Is there a difference between an undiscerning student (i.e. young, impressionable, hasn't been taught critical thinking, doesn't have sufficient experience to evaluate the validity of what they're learning) reading Ayn Rand on their own and being taught Ayn Rand by a teacher?

2. Would you consider it acceptable to teach Rand's novels non-critically as part of the curriculum (heck, why not, there are more than a few Senators that cite her books as inspiration).

The problem I run up against is how do you "objectively" decide which books to restrict. As you said, "school libraries curated by legislators with an agenda seem like a Really Bad Idea," but everyone has some sort of agenda. Everyone thinks it's obvious what should and shouldn't be taught in school, but of course it's not the same "obvious" for everyone.


I have never run up against problems caused by people reading too widely.

I have frequently seen problems caused by people who didn't read enough.


I know what you mean by this but when I hear it leads me to be believe that written language is inefficient since a large number of people find reading, even subjects they’re somewhat interested in, boring.

Well, not all writers are able to clearly express their ideas. And going into a bookstore is an exercise in masochism, most of the books are so low quality that it is a shame for the trees that they were sacrificed for such garbage.

Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

Errr.. reading too widely is a well known problem called "analysis paralysis" or "procrastination" and there are several other labels. (Curious!) people who "don't read enough" are great to have around the ones who read too much, from my pov problems stem from these groups being unwilling to work together.

"analysis paralysis" isn't caused by reading too widely. It's a form of executive function disorder, either situational or ongoing, where making a choice is aborted by incomplete evaluation of the available options. Your mind assigns an infinite penalty and non-zero chance of failure, and that blocks consideration of actual chances of success.

One of the effective solutions is to construct a risk table, in which you list out:

- each option - the costs to perform the option - the likelihood of success of the option - the value of success via the option - the penalty of failure via the option - the cost to ameliorate failure of the option

And you never assign a 0 or infinite value to any of those factors; a range of .05 to .99 is usually appropriate.

For binary choices, this can sometimes be short-circuited by flipping a coin and asking yourself if this feels worse than the alternative.


Okay, that's a great suggestion, let me go read some more suggestions on how to do something other than research things /s

You wave away my association of "reading _too_ widely" and "analysis paralysis" by sharing your preferred definition of the latter ... but that isn't really an argument against the association of the two.

I didn't say that analysis paralysis causes reading too widely. I said that they are the same, so if you want to take your definition of analysis paralysis as a given then you could say analysis paralysis can cause reading too widely.

Anyway, all I wanted to communicate with my comment is that when you say that you can do "too little of X" but not "too much of X" then you are biased on X, there is always someone who takes X too far and you may not see it because you've associated those people with something totally different.

Personally I don't believe in "wasted time" or other subjective notions (in the abstract) so for me this whole discussion is lacking context (you can waste time if you have a context; some loss function, otherwise no).


Having personally read some of Rand’s fiction as a teen (from my high school library no less!) I think you’d be hard pressed to find a reason to “ban” them.

The narrative in Anthem, for example, is so hilariously over the top I’m not sure what the argument would be. It’s a Pol Pot “Year Zero” style civilization, and the randian superman subverts the established collectivist order by single handedly reinventing the lightbulb in a sewer.

Frankly anyone would be giving it more credibility than it deserves by saying it contains dangerous ideas.


I really had Atlas Shrugged in mind, which is convincing enough to regularly show up on Republican booklists (and AFAIR at least one Supreme Court judge) and has all sorts of (my opinion) problematic views on ethical egoism and the like.

> hilariously over the top

These days I'm not sure anything can be so over-the-top that no-one will take it seriously.


Well, I'm glad to have read Atlas Shrugged, although I didn't find it philosophically convincing. It would be very frustrating to not be able to read it and just be stuck wondering what the Republicans seem to cite as an important text for understanding their worldview.

I think even Rand was aware of its limitation, which is why the book has an essentially magical ending -- the heroine arrives in utopia by accident when her plane crashes there. But having to reveal the actual process of getting there is precisely the failure of utopian ideologies.

What? Her landing in "utopia" is not nearly close to the ending, nor is it magical: at all times the heroine has the option to voluntarily join this utopia and she consciously chooses to remain in the "outside world" to fight its demise.

And she doesn't magically crash there, the actual process of her getting there is narrated in what is probably a good 30 pages.

Using an analogy from a false representation of the plot to imply that the author intentionally recognizes flaws with her philosophy is definitely not the most objective review of this book, to put it nicely.

Have you even read the book?


Admittedly, I read it a long time ago, as a teenager, and it didn't resonate with anything in my own experience. I would certainly defer to your analysis.

Did I imagine the plane crash, or mix it up with some other book?


While I didn't start this with the inclination to ban Ayn Rand, I think your first paragraph has convinced me that her writings should be in a library. If you think that her worldview is ethically bankrupt (and, fwiw, so do I), how do you expect the next generation of scholars to rebut that worldview, without being intimately familiar with it? If you think that a work should be made unavailable just because it's popular with people you are politically opposed to (and fwiw, so am I) then I strongly disagree, state censorship on political grounds is utterly intolerable. It's also completely untenable. Forbidden fruit is a siren song, and the article is specifically about people providing online workarounds to brick and mortar censorshop.

Rand's novels contain realistic villains and unrealistic heroes.

All I remembered of Atlas Shrugged when I read it in high school was the sex, tbh. Had someone said subscribing to Libertarianism would get me screwed the way Rearden screwed Dagny I’d have signed up then and there.

How do you teach students critical thinking if the very works that require critical thinking are not available to these kids in the places where they have access to teachers?

To me if there are "dangerous ideas" that need contextualization, those are the very books that need to be in the school curriculum.


IMO - As a child or teenager you try out different personalities, ideas, etc, then look back, say "what was I thinking", and learn a bit about how your own mind works. Better then, when consequences are small for you and everyone else, than to delay it until adulthood.

Frankly? The best is when a child can read Ayn Rand and then be in a safe enough environment where they can discuss the ideas with adults who can greatly contextualize the discussion around that piece of literature.

I'm completely in agreement. I think I danced around this in my post. The main things that bother me, in general:

1. Undiscerning student (i.e. young, impressionable, hasn't been taught critical thinking, doesn't have sufficient experience to evaluate the validity of what they're learning).

2. Things taught non-critically. I think this even applies to the "obvious" stuff like algebra and heliocentrism. My experience with public schooling was that there was too much rote memorization and appeal to authority and not enough "learning."

If either of those are fixed (and I think they go hand-in-hand) I don't care if the curriculum/school library has Rand, an unannotated Mein Kampf, or $insert_book_promoting_an_agenda.


> Undiscerning student (i.e. young, impressionable, hasn't been taught critical thinking, doesn't have sufficient experience to evaluate the validity of what they're learning).

Ideally there would be an adult figure in all children's lives to fill this role. If nobody else, their parents or other adult figures (and yes, there are cases where there are no adults, but we can't make societal decisions on the norm based on the the edge cases).

I can't help that most the adults that complain about their children getting access to ideas they don't like are those adults that don't bother to talk to their children about their views and ideas and know to challenge them on ideas that are poorly thought out.

If you ignore your child's interests for years and then are surprised to find out they have completely opposite views from you that you disagree with, the problem is not the literature they read, it's your lack of involvement in the formation of their ideas.

If you (the general you) are involved and your child has views you disagree with but you can't provide compelling arguments to make them change their mind, at a minimum you should also be looking at your own views to see how well they stand up and not assume your own infallibility. Doesn't mean you're wrong, but don't expect that you're always right when you might be espousing the equivalent of 1+1=3 and rightly getting told to shove it.

We aren't factories pumping out clones, we're creating people, and people have their own views. The best you can do is try to help them avoid the pitfalls.


book burning is just one manifestation of restricting the freedom of thought and expression, and it sounds you aren't against that.

Fair point, and I don't have a good counter-argument.

I think my problem, if anything, isn't that there's an excess of freedom of thought and expression so much as there's not enough counter-thought and counter-expression.

So my shaky position is stuck somewhere between what I've identified as the two evils: Book burning, and the uncritical dissemination and condoning of problematic ideas. (I'm aware there's a further problem here because I'm the one deeming things "problematic").

I also think I picked the wrong place to have this conversation. After all, TFA isn't talking about Ayn Rand, it's talking about "opposition to LGBTQIA material, the history of racism, and material that may cause discomfort to readers." These aren't things I would typically label as "problematic."


It's the same situation, but you're fine with one case because you agree with it. That's the fundamental problem.

As a kid in the 70's growing up on the beach in Santa Cruz I once watched a real book burning. It was weird. Some local christian group came down a dug a huge pit. Started a bonfire and a large group of people were tossing in books and records. When I was much older I realized with all the melted records that must have really polluted that section of the beach...


That is how you raise yet another generation who mistakenly believes everything written to be sacrosanct, holds no tested and cohesive views, is easy prey to manipulators who have no qualms making people uncomfortable, and will forever defer to authority figures who tell them what is acceptable.

Do you mean banning books containing well-researched facts, which is commonly practiced in silence, or promoting fantastical fiction books about your political agenda by convincing kids that the evil censorship boogeyman is after them?

Could you give some examples of these well-researched fact containing books that are supposedly banned?

Sorry; not getting into flame wars about the unknowable details of an unrelated topic. It’s an epistemological black hole. But you can find plenty of examples from your favorite brand of fringe on a book site that truly doesn’t censor, such as z-lib. And by the way, “factual and well-researched” doesn’t imply complete truth, but probably some form of legitimate interest. For instance, there have been many books written from collected personal testimony of alien abduction, perfectly factual and well-researched from the second-person perspective, but probably not the only sources one should consult in the study of exoplanetary astronomy. There is a wide range of topics where it is the other way around too, where folklore is celebrated, and candid observation is suppressed. In fact, it seems that human nature prefers this naturally, and even scientists can only maintain objectivity within a very narrow range.

The “Banned Books” movement is clearly only about any books that have faced even minor protest from “the other side” of the political spectrum. They frame the censorship debate in terms of provocative, but otherwise meaningless fiction. Real censorship of factual and relevant information exists today, and they support it.

Who is "they" in your comment? Open Library is part of the Internet Archive which has generally been pretty effective at limiting censorship rather than promoting it..

Censorship of what "factual and relevant information"? Can you provide a concrete example?

The greatest threat to digital libraries (such as libgen, sci-hub, and the Open Library itself) isn't censorship but copyright enforcement – and technology that attempts to impose the limits of physical paper onto bits.

Were any of the recently withdrawn-by-publisher Seuss books, like "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street", widely removed from school libraries? Or is this a purely "Beloved" phenomenon?

The closest I could find about coverage on this was an article saying that some libraries reclassified the Seuss books as "reference" to prohibit checkouts because they were being stolen (e.g. https://oxfordobserver.org/5172/community/dr-seuss-enterpris...).


For everyone arguing about how the library system is being censored with this, I would like to remind people that since 2000, all libraries (including non-school libraries) have the internet censored with (almost always) Google SafeSearch locked on and many websites (particularly porn but there are others) blocked. And it's federal law.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-prot...

Is this censorship? And if so, what is the difference between internet censorship and library censorship, other than that someone printed their work instead of typing it? And why is outrage permitted for this and blocking printed books, but not for digital work?


The difference is that librarians already provide a "SafeSearch" by curating material at libraries. This is more similar to if Texas tried to mandate that Google SafeSearch at libraries should now include a ban on any LGBTQ images.

Contrary to what you might imagine, checking out and shelving books is not the only things librarians do – they also curate and trim material, a bit like cultivating a garden. Libraries are a fine-tuned system that maximizes freedom of expression and ideas in a reasonably curated manner. It existed long before the Internet, and legislators tampering with that is always alarming.


> Libraries are a fine-tuned system that maximizes freedom of expression and ideas in a reasonably curated manner.

Is there a difference between the freedom of expression of children and of adults? If so, wouldn't parents have a right to limit the freedoms of their own children according to their families moral and religious beliefs?

I wonder if maybe the issue is that in a school setting, the librarians are operating as if the children are their only charges?

I'm entirely ignorant on these points and don't have children, so this is just a question from that perspective: Are librarians doing enough to announce their editorial decisions and to explain them to parents? Should they be required to?

Should libraries share with parents the list of books their children have checked out? Should libraries allow parents to curate a list of books they do not want their children to checkout? Is there a better middle ground here?


Parents should teach their children to use “good judgement” according to their family values with regard to what books they choose to check out from the library. Creating some kind of list system (with all the additional overhead involved) seems silly to me.

Would the legislators intervening be permissible in your view if the legislators believe that the librarians are doing a poor job at curation?

An example of this is the right's claim that many of these banned books are almost pornographic in nature and inappropriate for almost any age. From the right's perspective, the legislators are intervening because the librarians are failing at their curation and safety job.


Yes, that would be a perfectly reasonable legislation. The burden would be on the legislators to clearly articulate their viewpoint, and provide reasonable justification for why those materials are inappropriate for any age.

Currently, some of the 850 "suspicious titles" they are "looking into" include books like We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures [1]. This does not lead me to conclude that their chief concern is safety and curation.

----------------------------------------

[1] https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050013664/texas-lawmaker-mat...


Safety? Absolutely! But safety of what? Their own ideas and ideals at the cost of everyone else's.

>> An example of this is the right's claim that many of these banned books are almost pornographic in nature.

I'm pretty sure illustrations of people having sex and an illustration of a younger child giving an older child oral sex falls into that category:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FBdP1kYXoAA_c0T?format=jpg&name=...

People lost their minds when a woman read several pages from the book "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe.


What’s the context of those images? It seems perfectly appropriate for highschool.

I've seen people downplaying the contents book using arguments like "these kids are already looking at porn, so who cares?" Whatever, I don't have an issue with that. Been there, done that.

But how about this one? What if you're one of the many kids who want to but can't get laid in high school? Seeing teenage sex normalized by the school itself could lead to all kinds of additional insecurities.


If you’re a teenager who is having an emotional, strongly negative response to seeing fictional acts of sexual behavior in a comic because you can’t have actual sex, that is a perfect opportunity for you to reach out to adults in your life so you can have a clearly sorted talk about how to have a healthy relationship with sex and intimacy.

It takes two to tango.

Precisely, and being comfortable with yourself not having sex is very important. It affirms others have their own agency not to have sex with you and also can teach you ways to love yourself without depending on the dopamine of sex. If you have a strong, overwhelming, negative emotional response to other people having sex, just because you’re not having it then that’s a real issue that can be addressed through whatever support network you have to work on whatever you have in yourself that the actions of strangers having a good time doing something unrelated to you somehow harms you.

Does it normalize it? Lots of art contains sex, even explicit sex and representations of rape. Having some event be part of somebody’s story does not automatically promote that activity.

It's a common philosophical question applied to this topic: The logically easy philosophical definition is always the extreme - in this case, absolutely no restriction - and there are always objections using false equivalencies and slippery slopes ('if you violate the extreme in this way, you can violate it in any way').

Real life is not about logical extremes. Nothing in the US Bill of Rights is unlimited, for example. You have freedom of speech, to bear arms, and of religion, but you can't slander someone, own an anti-aircraft weapon, or sacrifice humans to the gods.

At the school library, we may not want people watching pornography. That's different than political censorship.


I don't want them watching porn at the public library either. It ruins the experience to have to witness a homeless person jacking off at a computer station, and not something I want my taxes paying for.

What does it have to do with homeless people? I thought we were talking about school libraries, which generally don't have adult visitors?

Also, do you have anything to back up yet another ugly stereotype about groups of people who are 'other'?


It wasn’t a good comment, but will confirm sketchy things happening at libraries in our area. Pretending they don’t happen, or being upset at their mention is not helpful either.

> Pretending they don’t happen, or being upset at their mention is not helpful either.

Is that happening?


I have seen a number of things in the last decade or so in that department that I’d prefer not to. Laws became suggestions at some point, not sure why.

The difference is that you can't accidentally click a popup that takes you to a porn website in a book. If you want to talk about specific things that are blocked by that safe filter that you think shouldn't be, that could be a discussion worth having. But anyone who has ever used the internet should know that you absolutely need some kind of filter on a school's internet connection.

When I was in school, the only things online that I wanted to access that were blocked were flash games.


The British government has a vague law on books which incite terroism... Of course they couldn't actually write an actual list because the book at the top of the list would be problematic.

What book would that be?

which would be...?

Yes it would be the Quran, Plenty of Islamic terrorists have cited from it. But of course if you were to ban it then you get into a quagmire of religious freedoms.

Well, clearly op was insinuating the quran.

> material that may cause discomfort to readers.

The world is going to discomfort them more often than not so they better train also by reading all kind of books or competitors (in the broadest possible meaning) will eat them alive while they rest inside a comfortable bubble.


Unless they scream loud enough, and the world adapts to a few idiots.

eg: jazz hands instead of clapping


I didn't know about jazz hands https://abcnews.go.com/International/universitys-move-replac... (2018)

Did they actually adopt the rule nationwide or was it discarded?


I'll admit that the one that puzzled me was the school district that banned "Catch-22".

“I remember one day we tricked two dumb high-school girls from town into the fraternity house and made them put out for all the fellows there ...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Aardvark

I read Catch-22 in high school, and that bit felt plenty disturbing at the time.


Are you suggesting you’d have been better off if they had banned it?

This is likely why: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22#Anti-capitalism

I mean, really there's a lot in there that the people banning these books would probably find offensive. Questioning the MIC, questioning God, questioning capitalism...


That's wild, I took almost the opposite message from that scene. Since the bombing run is seen as inevitable Milo engineers the situation to guarantee a minimum of actual damage is done in order to protect his profits.

Trying to find an angle to discredit Archive.org is a pretty low-brow move. As long as they continue to host works by George Lincoln Rockwell and his ilk, they will stand their ground for you and me.

With respect to the distinction between books that are part of the curriculum and books in the school library, I think it's worth raising that kids are just reading less overall over time (perhaps 2020 being an exception). The proportion of kids who are going to the library and finding something unrelated to their classwork is shrinking. I suspect that the impulse to ban books is caused by the same cultural incuriousness that ironically makes book banning less impactful than proponents would hope. This is _especially_ true for most of the books on those banned lists. Those one of the linked lists includes such barn-burner titles as "The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine", "Medical Ethics: Moral and Legal Conflicts in Health Care", "Race and the Media in Modern America". Kids aren't casually stumbling across these in the school library and deciding they're worth perusing. If some kid _is_ reading about medical ethics in high school, I'm guessing they're gonna find information about their topics of interest regardless. There are a bunch of books about teen pregnancy and abortion -- but I'm gonna guess that most of the time the teen pregnancies don't happen because someone first read a book literally titled "Teen Pregnancy" and decided they liked it. Similarly "A Baby Doesn't Make the Man: Alternative Sources of Power and Manhood for Young Men" probably isn't actually changing teen behavior. What ever intern in some state legislator's office drummed up suggestions for books to ban must have been pretty lazy.

I'm not saying we shouldn't care about these efforts. But arguing over which books should be ignored in the library reference section is probably less important than figuring out how to get the kids to actually enjoy reading despite being raised in an environment with tiktok etc. And when you get it figured out for kids, tell me, b/c these days I mostly only get through a novel while traveling.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/29/children-r...

https://openlibrary.org/collections/texas-challenged


Not going to hold my breath for Archive.org or the ALA's "curated collection" of books banned from Amazon.

"Books whose authors are no longer able to give a talk on college campuses without multiple threats of physical violence against them". Curated, of course.

So any LGBT authors and any femenists?

No, I don't think so.

If you meant to use those as examples, please tell me who are these LGBT and feminist authors who cannot freely give talks at American campuses these days?

Other than, you know, team TERF.


Sure, but to be fair, it's a pretty broad category these days, and not limited to just those categories.

In case anyone else was confused about the multiple comments on this post talking about "books banned from Amazon", it's about Amazon choosing not to sell books that characterize gender identities and sexual orientation as mental illness.

Anyone know where there's data on challenges over time?

I could only find these two things:

https://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/co...

https://bookriot.com/statistics-of-censorship/

I have a feeling something more comprehensive and precise is out there but I don't know where to look. The ALA has a "field report" but they charge for it and I'm not even sure if it would have the content I'm looking for.

Most of the data I can find is on the most frequently challenged books, and the reasons for doing so.


Are "graphic novels" really expected to be given the same treatment as actual books? It's not like school libraries typically have movies for kids to check out and watch at home.

If they did have movies, it's likely that anything "R" rated would be "banned" by educators—and I doubt anyone here would care.

The graphic novels being "banned" can't be posted to Instagram or Facebook or network TV because: pornographic…but we're supposed to pretend it's a "book" that's being banned?

Seems disingenuous to call this "banning books."


Shouldn't all works of art be given the same treatment regardless of medium?

In any case, claiming comic books should be treated like movies, but not like books is an odd take. Comic books are like movies in the sense that they are sequential works of art, but at that level, so are books. Many illustrated children's books are, in fact, comic books.

> The graphic novels being "banned" can't be posted to Instagram or Facebook or network TV because: pornographic

This is wrong on two counts. First, many of these comic books are banned for issues unrelated to sex. Second, even explicit sexual content isn't ipso facto pornography.


Graphic novels are books.

Is this happening anywhere other than the US?

The real problem here is not censorship but the public having to pay for garbage in tens of thousands of libraries while true classics are hidden or not purchased by extremely political administrators.

Choice of books and ideas easily available is preference (ie all of politics is preference), especially in a library where space is zero sum relative to the 500 million books to choose from.

Get involved if you disagree, but don’t be surprised people disagree in such a diverse country.


We're not the censor, you're the censor. This book banning thing is the new manufacturing of an old moral panic.

There's a wide gap between banning a book and using it as curriculum. Find a happy medium.

In a world where the cost of giving every single human being every book they could possibly want is trivial, we need to drastically rethink all of this, not the stupid and open censorship we see here, but the absurd friction that the old IP system plus Amazon creates.

k-12 students are not adults. We ban and censor all sorts of things for the the underage crowd, look up CIPA. There are borderline pedophilia books available at school libraries. I've also seen several examples of incredibly racist CRT books in classrooms.

I don't think young kids should have unfettered access to this stuff. They're not able to process it correctly.

If communities are saying they do not want this is classrooms then I think that's the way it should be. Schools don't get to be an authoritarian decision maker on how everyone's kids should be raised.

Aside from the censorship issue I'd rather my tax dollars go to more useful stuff than smut books.


"I've also seen several examples of incredibly racist CRT books in classrooms."

Can you list some examples?


Yes, please list. Just a couple will do.

Should religious texts which contain such things or related topics be removed as well?

Well, the bible has a lot of stories which shall not be teach to children.

Yes.

What is the 'correct' way to process it? Who determines what is 'correct'? When do they learn this correct way? How do they learn? Considering you seem confident in this knowledge, I eagerly await the list of citations.

> Who determines what is 'correct'? The kids' parents.

> When do they learn this correct way? The kids' parents.

> How do they learn? From their parents.

After all the child belongs to the parents so they get to make these decisions.


In that case, why have schools at all? The parents are apparently omnipotent and can handle instruction, no?

Or we could teach critical thinking skills in schools.

They’re going to hit college, or the Internet, or cable news, and find all kinds of totally bonkers ideas. Wouldn’t it make sense to prepare them to deal with dubious information?


not to mention the same people in a huff over this are burning and banning dr seuss and huckleberry finn and tearing down statues of the founding fathers as racist.

Is there any debate about the founding fathers avowed racism, even under the historical standards of their time? What has changed, in the interim, is the social acceptability of racism, public or private. This shift away from racist beliefs or acts is an unqualified social good.

Of course, you’re free to belief that the founding fathers weren’t racist, but I don’t think that there is much writing by them to that effect.


i didn’t say they weren’t. i said the same people crying about book banning in this case are the most prolific censors themselves

> I've also seen several examples of incredibly racist CRT books in classrooms.

You mean to tell me that high-level academic critical theory is being taught to children? Please, name the books.


As a high schooler I loved the banned books list. My English teacher had a cabinet full of old copies of books they weren’t allowed to teach any more for one reason or another. She lent me The Chocolate War, Catcher in the Rye…

Before that, in elementary school, some of our books had sections blacked out for being too racy. First thing I did was head straight to the local library and read those passages specifically.

censorship made me an avid reader.


Ha - It's a great signal!

In that case, people should look deeply into the books banned on Amazon.com—great signal!

Banning as a marketing ploy.

> banned books … local library.

Hmmm… those evil censors must have been working overtime to stop you.


> So banning a book from a school library does seem to be a fairly strong suppression of ideas. Libraries have usually been the place where you go to find ideas outside the safe circle of whatever is permitted by your (usually insipid) curriculum.

Baloney. Yes, I'm sure we can find some 1 in a 1,000,000 exceptional case of some bright student from a marginalized community who just couldn't obtain some obscure reference book in their high school library because conservatives had "banned it" (i.e. chosen not to include it in their limited selection due to content concerns). However, I find it hard to believe that 99.9999% of students, who probably haven't even used their public school's library more than a few times in their whole life, would be absolutely unable to obtain anything they could possibly want, for the price they already spend in a week on video games or music.

Reminds me of that straw man example used to demand ID-less voting for EVERYONE - cherry picking that obscure case of the 87 year old guy who was born in a rural bayou of some southern swamp state, and who had no birth certificate and had never registered to vote or learned to drive or paid any utilities or taxes in the last 8 decades, and who now had trouble getting an official ID at the local DMV in another state he'd moved to recently.

Come on, man. Examples like this apply to like 0.001% of the population, and instead of spending tens of millions of dollars and years fighting for insanely insecure voting rules, the left could, you know, just spend that time and money helping the tiny minority of folks who might have this actual problem.

Likewise, I have never ever heard of any adult using a public school library (e.g. high school or elementary school) to obtain books or other media for themselves. To be honest, in the US in 2021, as a "child free" middle aged male, I'd be hesitant to even go into a public high school as it seems my demographic is not exactly welcome around children, even those whose education, meals, etc. I'm forced to increasingly subsidize each year. But God forbid I have any say in what materials these children are forced to be indoctrinated with in public schools, which they are forced to attend, by the state.

OTOH, I've seen 0 instances of conservatives demanding that books be censored from EVERYONE at the source (i.e. publishers, sellers, retail outlets, etc.) whereas there are dozens of instances of the left mob going after these entities in an attempt to keep the books out of the market itself.


This comment was a noticeable step further into ideological flamewar, and broke other site guidelines as well. Would you please review them and not post like this to HN? We're trying to avoid this kind of thing here, because it destroys the intellectual curiosity that the site is supposed to be for.

Edit: we've also had to ask you about this multiple times in the past. If you'd please review the site guidelines and fix this going forward, we'd appreciate it.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29330726.


> Baloney. Yes, I'm sure we can find some 1 in a 1,000,000 exceptional case of some bright student from a marginalized community who just couldn't obtain some obscure reference book in their high school library because conservatives had "banned it" (i.e. chosen not to include it in their limited selection due to content concerns). However, I find it hard to believe that 99.9999% of students, who probably haven't even used their public school's library more than a few times in their whole life, would be absolutely unable to obtain anything they could possibly want, for the price they already spend in a week on video games or music.

That is not the point. The point is that you don't want legislators, left or right-wing, picking the books that students can access in the library system of their school. School librarians are the ones who do that. It's a decentralized system that works extraordinarily well without political interference, and has done so for hundreds of years.

> Examples like this apply to like 0.001% of the population, and instead of spending tens of millions of dollars and years fighting for insanely insecure voting rules...

This is wholly irrelevant to the topic being discussed, which is legislatively banning books from public library systems.

> Likewise, I have never ever heard of any adult using a public school library (e.g. high school or elementary school) to obtain books or other media for themselves.

No, students use those libraries. Students that go to public schools. Adults usually go to their area's library systems. I suggest you check out your local library. You might find it stocked full of books that are interesting. And you can check them out, for free!

The only takeaway for me from a lot of this discussion has been that a lot of people don't seem to have much of an idea about libraries in general, school or public; or the role they play in society.


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Please do not take HN threads further into generic ideological flamewar. It's not what this site is for, and it destroys what it is for.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> The problem we have is the destruction of the americans values...

I agree, inasmuch as the American value being destroyed here are freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The latter of which should, IMO, encompass freedom from religion. But in this case, states are censoring books that go against the values of a particular religion; much like the abortion bans. If they were Muslim, there would be a deafening uproar about Sharia Law. But since they're Christian, it's just "American values." I call bullshit.


> The problem we have is the destruction of the americans values by CRT and post modernist ideas.

The supporters of CRT are not the people doing the banning discussed in this article—it is the critics of CRT that are doing the banning.


You should ask yourself why it is that American academics seem to almost universally hold left wing freduo-marxist-post-modernist views. I love to bash on fashionable nonsense as much as the next HN reader, but it may actually have to do with there being something essential to the process of education that finds those who pursue large amounts of it to favor egalitarian social and economic politics.

I look at the academy being leftist as a sign that they are genuine about education being a force for equality. Sure, sometimes the left goes "too far", but the principles behind it are the only ones compatible with modern academia.

Conservatives rejection of academic philosophy is one of the reasons why the "parallel" institutions of conservative universities are a laughing stock in the USA and around the world. I trigger conservatives sometimes by reminding them that they can't code because they hate liberal education and refuse to go to anywhere with a prestigious CS program. If a Marxist professor at Berkeley is what keeps trump from having effective web developers on his team, than it looks like I just became a Marxist...


Creative, open people are heavily geared toward left thinking, it’s a question of personality.

People in new tech, in journalism, in art are thus far more left leaning. That is good, this is thoses that push the boundaries of what is possible, that explore and inquire. It also explain why all the news tech corporation are heavily left leaning.

But at some point I think it became too much and become self destructive.

On the other side conservative are more interested in traditions, in what did work for a long time. Our world is changing faster than ever, this put the conservative in disadvantage in the market.


Critical Race Theory is not being taught in any high school, nor is Marxist thinking. When put to task on this, all these pearl clutching busy bodies on the PTAs can’t even define what CRT is, much less how their school curricula aligns with it.

This all reeks of the same old moral panic that engulfs schools every once in a while when parents realize the world has changed and they’re too fucking stupid to understand it.


Please do not create accounts to break HN's rules with.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


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Your comment was a significant step further into flamewar. Would you please not do that on HN? It's exactly what we're trying to avoid here, and we've already had to ask you about this multiple times.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29330726.


Which radical political ideologies?

Those that espouse unrestricted access to knowledge.

This might be a valid idea for academic research, not for K-12 learning. It's not even worth arguing.

In this case, the state wants to decide what sexualities that children are allowed to be exposed to. Is that a can of worms that you really want opened? If the left demanded a ban on books that contain positive depictions of heterosexual romance (for example, A Wrinkle in Time would be banned because of the pornographic, dare I say pedophilic, kiss shared between boy and girl) would you be making the same argument?

So which ideas are you okay with banning? Are you the person who gets to decide? If not, then who does?

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Please don't take HN threads into generic ideological flamewar. We're trying to avoid the circles of internet hell here, and a comment like this points straight in.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Mine is not a generic idelogical flamewar. It's an objective observation based on the History and the politics of authoritarian governments. It's sad how in 2021, in a respected website like this, facts are considered to have the same value as opinions. And if someone dont like the facts call them "ideological flames".

It was generic in the sense that we use that term here. I say that because: (1) it included nothing directly related to the specific details of the article topic, and (2) it made a grand and sweeping claim. Those are shallow, because while they come with a lot of activation energy (e.g. high indignation levels), they include very little information. Shallow statements on divisive topics are automatically flamebait.

The reason we call these ideological flames is because of the effect they have on threads. The probability is high that they will turn discussion away from any specific topic and into the generic theme. Like flames, those have the habit of consuming everything they touch and destroying what was there before. It's therefore a good metaphor.

Here's another metaphor. The grand generic topics are like the black holes of internet threads. If you fly too close to them, the thread gets completely sucked in (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...).

This is a shame, because those discussions are so repetitive, and curiosity withers under repetition (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so...). What we want instead are discussions that are different from what's been discussed before. Curiosity thrives on diffs (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so...).

Note that all of this would be just the same if you were battling from the opposite ideological position. Actually the two poles of these battles resemble each other far more than they resemble the audience between them, which consists of readers who are here for curious, thoughtful discussion—not to defeat enemies.

If you wouldn't mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and taking the intended spirit of the site more to heart, we'd be grateful.


I like to think I am open minded to freedom of knowledge, but there is definitely information that shouldn't be available in K-12 libraries.

"TidePods are Safe and Nutritious to eat (seriously kids, don't believe the lies)" should not be a book in a public school library visited by children. I think most people agree with that and they aren't authoritarian conservatives. Some knowledge is very dangerous for people not old enough to understand better.


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The Dr Seuss controversy this year was because his estate decided to stop publishing certain titles.

Can you point to any record of his books being banned en mass from any actual school libraries?


A few did - but not many upon further research.

I'll admit Dr. Seuss is not the best example.


The Dr. Seuss controversy was typical of the social media age. A lot of outrage and chatter, not a lot of substance.

The narrative chugs along…


You are an extremely dishonest person. Stop engaging in bad faith and posting outright lies, it's clear you're trying to obfuscate the truth to push an agenda.

Breaking the site guidelines like this is not allowed on HN, regardless of how wrong someone is or you feel they are. Creating accounts to do it will eventually get your main account banned as well, so please don't.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


That's a silly argument "Our books are banned, so we want to ban your books". Fight to have your books unbanned, don't ban more books.

My old HS has Atlas Shrugged. shrug


As far as I know most libraries (school libraries too probably?) are open to book requests.

Unless you're asking for something like mein kampf, I don't think the librarians will look at you weirdly when asking for _any_ book whatsoever.


Hell, when I was in HS there was a copy of Mein Kampf sitting on a display stand. This was not that long ago either.

I went to a public inner-city high school that some here would deride as an extreme-left institution in an extreme-left city, and we had Mein Kampf in the library. You had to request it, because previous copies had been defaced, but it was visible on a shelf behind the checkout counter.

I would assume that if someone asked a librarian for Mein Kampf, the assumption is that the student is interested in history. Similar, a student reading the Communist Manifesto is most likely not a revolutionary that want to draw inspiration for an violent insurrection, but rather a philosophy/history student that is interested to read the original text.

Naturally context matter. If the student is wearing a beret and holding a AK4, maybe denying the Communist Manifesto would be the right decision at that point in time.


I strongly dissagree, except maybe in the case you believe in reincarnation or that your life has no meaning anymore. If the student is wearing a beret and holding a AK4 the best thing to do is giving him the book.

In your last example I think only the gun is the problem. Even if the kid started a club for socialists and wanted to read the communist manifesto as part of their book club that should be allowed.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29330726.

https://pac.library.cps.edu/mobile?config=11#section=resourc...

First search I did at Chicago Public Schools returns Ayn Rand.


You are so wrong. I literally had anthem as required reading in high school. I assure you that ayn rand can be found in many if not most high school libraries in the USA.

>I don't think you'd find Ayn Rand in the average modern school library. Or a book that supports Trump, or a book that talks about socialism in an unflattering light.

My daughter's ultra left wing school in Denmark has Atlas Shrugged, Trump: The Art of the Deal, and Gulag Archipelago.

Are you suggesting that American schools are more left wing than a left wing school in Denmark?

Also, I got Atlas Shrugged from my school library in the U.S but that was in the 80s so probably you would think that wouldn't be possible today?


There are schools across America where, yes, I actually believe you would not find those books.

Remember that Dr. Seuss, benign of benign, having multiple books removed from school libraries is well-documented.

EDIT: I was wrong about this - it was the estate and a few vocal libraries - but most libraries did not remove.


I thought that it was Dr. Seuss Enterprises themselves choosing to cease publication of some of his books rather than school libraries removing them from their shelves.

Politico seems to agree. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/mar/10/viral-imag...


> Remember that Dr. Seuss, benign of benign, having multiple books removed from school libraries is well-documented.

Citation needed


Apparently a few library did remove it, but most did not remove it and it was just the estate as others stated. I'll admit it's not the best example.

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I don't know where you grew up, but our school library had lots and lots and lots of books that had nothing to do with the curriculum, and students were encouraged to read outside of the required material. The idea that certain books(or indeed, entire categories of books) should be banned from a school library is definitely censorship. It's like suggesting that school computers should be banned from viewing certain pages on wikipedia, on actually, in fact, providing students with copies of paper encyclopedias with pages torn out - it's the removal of knowledge that is the hallmark of censorship.

How about school computers should be banned from viewing certain websites?

Websites are not books though and cannot be treated the same way. I see a library more like a giant encyclopedia of knowledge, you should be free to access it if you need to, without books being banned for political reasons or otherwise.

Now, I do support having a kind of a "restricted section" where you can access a book normally out of sight. Say a copy of Kamasutra - it's not on a shelf, but if you need it for a project and got a permission from a teacher - go ahead.


They already are, and it is legally required that they do so, as are libraries.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-prot...


I would've really expected that any semi-decent school bans at least pr0n, gambling, sports betting and similar types of sites.

Nobody’s calling for banning books. They are calling for not using certain books in curriculum, which is very different and not allowing certain books is necessary for any school system. I wouldn’t want my kid to write “A kid’s version of Algebra” and then have it used in schools. I wouldn’t want a flat-earther to have his Science book in schools. Who wants Trump’s guide to Civics? That’s super different than “banning books” like it’s 1940s Germany or something.

EDIT: Some are saying that this would also apply to the school library. This, in my view, doesn’t negate the schools need to discriminate between content in the least. I would not want a flat earther science book in the curriculum or in the library.


No, they are literally calling for banning books from school libraries. Books that are not used as part of the curriculum.

https://www.alternet.org/2021/11/henry-mcmaster/

They are also literally calling for burning books:

> Two board members, Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg, said they would like to see the removed books burned.

> “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said, and Twigg said he wants to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

https://fredericksburg.com/news/local/education/spotsylvania...


Burning "porn"? Literally (heh), that's what the Nazis did.

Yikes.


> Nobody’s calling for banning books. They are calling for not using certain books in curriculum, which is very different and not allowing certain books is necessary for any school system.

From the other day on NPR: https://www.npr.org/2021/11/11/1054798508/when-schools-ban-b...

> Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined Krause's efforts this week, sending his own letter to the Texas Education Agency asking it and other agencies "to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries."

> While the censorship of some books in schools is nothing new, a growing number of challenges are against books about race. In her reporting on the topic, KERA reporter Miranda Suarez spoke to Deborah Caldwell-Stone who leads the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. Caldwell-Stones said, "We went from a situation where the majority of books being challenged and removed in schools and libraries dealt with LGBTQ themes, to a situation where there's a real mix."

The referenced letter is https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-directs-tea-...

---

So yes, this is a book ban and its not just material in the curriculum but also content in the libraries.


Well then, again, would you want a flat-earther science manual in the school library?

Schools exercising discretion is not 1940s Germany book bans and the two are not comparable.


A book from the Flat Earth Society's reading list would be worth having around.[1] Kids should have an opportunity to see the stupid ideas of the past. It yields perspective.

The problem is not reading enough books. Kids who only read a few take them too seriously. After you've read everything from Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book to Johnathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", you get some perspective.

But with so much online content available, it's hard to get anyone to read in bulk today.

[1] https://theflatearthsociety.org/home/index.php/flat-earth-li...


Why not? Sure flat earth science would be horrible for science curriculum but the book in the library is fine. What if a student wanted to do a report on flat earthers? Should they have no access to reference material?

I kind of do, that sounds like a fascinating read. Also a good way to learn that something being printed in a book doesn’t make it authoritative.

>Well then, again, would you want a flat-earther science manual in the school library?

I'd be fine with that so long as it's in the fiction section.


I would be surprised if the librarian had the flat-earther science manual already in the library.

But if it was already in the library, I would not want to ban it from the library as a remedy. That's insanity.

So, no, I don't want the book in the school library, but I sure as shit don't want to ban it from the school library either.


> would you want a flat-earther science manual in the school library

Classified correctly and with sufficient material so that this doesn't look like a gift shop at Arc Encounter, yes.

Under the DDS, that would be 525.1 ( https://www.librarything.com/mds/525.1 )

Under the LCC that is QB275-343 ( https://www.librarything.com/lcc/QB275-343 )

Note that this is right next to books such as "ANTIGRAVITY PROPULSION: Human or Alien Technologies?" that has a review of:

> This book includes never before mentioned accounts of popular UFO topics like Area 51, Roswell and alien abduction claims. Also subjects such as Nazi and Japanese antigravity experiments and rare theories involving quantum physics and lost civilizations of the ancients.

> The book is well written and researched. I found the photos and (photos) of articles intriguing, compelling, shocking and last, thought provoking. I was never one to believe in aliens, UFO's or anything of that nature.

> But after reading this, I am open minded and am beginning to wonder how much has been kept secret from society. It now has crossed my mind that there very well is truth in this theory, and the possibility of a government cover up seems more probable than improbable.

> I highly recommend ANTIGRAVITY PROPULSION: Human or Alien Technologies? to those who are curious about the unexplained (Aliens, UFO's, cover-ups)and science. A definite 5 star read! I feel should be on everyone's TBR list.

I am completely ok with a book on UFOs, flat earth, or a technical manual for drones disguised as birds being find in a library as long as the library is able to remain impartial on its collection.

---

How can we expect to teach children skills in critical thinking if only a particular group's orthodoxy is available?

If the answer to that is "we aren't expecting to teach critical thinking" then I would contend that this is what is setting school systems to fail - not poor teachers or overpaid administrators.

If someone is to utter "both sides are to blame" then it is important that students learning about this and seeking context of both sides have the material available to them in a manner that is allowed to present both sides without judgement - such as a library.


But, they are, in some instances, calling for the removal of some of these books from school libraries. I would qualify that as "book burning" (dramatically, metaphorically); its similar to the argument that school lunches have to be healthy, because in unfortunately-to-many cases it may be the only meal that student gets today.

Additionally, as you point out of the gulf between this and 1940s Germany, I will point out the gulf between "flat earther science" and "books on critical race theory, LGBTQ studies, and The Hunger Games". That's a strawman. Curriculum time is a limited resource, absolutely, so some concessions have to be made; we should be skeptical when those concessions are politically, religiously, or ideologically motivated, rather than academically, scientifically, artistically, or societally. Even with a title like the Hunger Games (or Harry Potter, which lest anyone forget was also very contentious with the Religious Right upon its release, due to concerns about kids studying witchcraft); sure, its not exactly Gödel, Escher, Bach; but its still reading! Do you know how rare reading is, especially among our children who have spent their entire lives connected to the internet, having instant access to the latest dopamine-inducing content on Tik Tok? Any book which can capture their interest, and maybe open a door to a more critical and insightful fifth, sixth, and seventh book, should be in consideration.


You are aware that >40% of this country views flat-earth, LGBTQ studies, and CRT at the same level of regard? If they didn't, why the school board battles going on all over the place? As far as they are concerned, there is no gulf between them.

... and that is why the The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine ( https://www.amazon.com/Gale-Encyclopedia-Medicine-Set/dp/141... ) is on the list of books being removed ( https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/94fee7ff93eff960... )

I'd say out of that list flat earthers have better scientific rigor (too much emphasis on direct sensory experience), just wrong conclusions...

The article says it’s about books being available to kids in libraries, not curriculum per se.

Sorry, no, that's utterly wrong. "Used in curriculum" means that they would be used in the teaching of subjects in class. There are school districts and entire state school systems that are starting to ban books on the topics of sexual orientation and critical race theory from being in the school library at all.

I guess it depends a little on who is making the choices. If it is politician driven, might be fair to call it banning. If it is the school system and teachers making a choice about what to use to teach effectively that seems like good policy.

I think you have that backwards. Parents and the community should have the final say when deciding what is included in a curriculum, not (potentially activist) teachers and school boards.

> Parents and the community should have the final say ...not (potentially activist) teachers and school boards.

Aren't school boards usually elected by the community?

Also, generally, a lot of public school teaching is about encouraging a newer generation to think for themselves, and potentially be exposed to ideas that are not constrained by the parents and the community.

Parents who want to micromanage what ideas their kid is exposed to should consider homeschooling.


Let's get real for a second and be honest about the very real problem we are discussing:

Political activist teachers are pushing their agendas onto students. This has been quietly happening for some time, but has become harder for the teachers to hide as children started completing more instruction and schoolwork in the home.

These are not isolated incidents and the examples of this happening are everywhere in the US. In fact, many teachers have been caught openly bragging about trying to create "radicalized" students. This is precisely why we've seen a grassroots push by parents against teachers and admin.


I haven’t seen this or heard this. Could you link a few isolated examples of these “not isolated incidents” of teachers “radicalizing” students?

That only works to a point. If a community decided "math is stupid, our schools shouldn't be teaching it", they should quite rightly be overridden. Instead of treating it like a power grab, perhaps the process for determining curriculum should be more open and transparent?

If a community decided that math is stupid and our schools shouldn't be teaching it, they may actually have a point. Who defines "math"? Is it all the way to Calculus 2 because the math teachers got excited and thought everyone needs to get that far? Is it politics disguised as math?

I'd trust the community in that case. And if it backfires, they get to live with the consequences. Not everything needs to be idiot-proof. Our country might do much better if we just let bad ideas fail hard.


It wouldn't be so bad if "bad ideas fail[ing] hard" didn't have the potential to quite literally ruin the lives of the youths who come up in these environments.

If they're public schools, the funding is governmental (state-based in the US), and thus there could be an argument made that it is still "banning". In private schools, not so much (but then again, pretty sure private schools can already control their curriculum and the books available to students from the library).



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