The current controversy over graphic and obscene content in school libraries is deadly serious. Just ask the Superintendent of Schools in Prosper, Texas. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Texas District Spars Over Bid to Remove Books,” July 1, 2021) spotlighted this conflict, mirrored in school districts nationwide.
Parents are getting more involved in making their schools morally safe for their children. The entrance of massive amounts of “woke” and graphic material is making their job difficult. However, parents are fighting back and winning, much to the chagrin of “woke” administrators.
Neutralizing Defenders of Virtue
Not very long ago, school librarians accepted the idea that one of their most important tasks was to protect children’s innocence. Until recently, parents sent their children to school with the trust that the library would not be a corrupting influence. There are enough books in the world that children can learn all they need without being exposed to evil.
Under such circumstances, filtering out books with harmful and inappropriate messages was part of the school librarian’s job. Indeed, children’s book publishers did not release such books, fearing a backlash from their best customers.
In today’s world, such care is no longer taken. Now there is a “woke” attempt to corrupt children. Innocence appears not to be in the modernist’s vocabulary. That is the only possible explanation for the American Library Association’s (ALA) attitude toward Drag Queen Story Hours and their eagerness to expose children to graphic images and immoral topics that children cannot possibly understand.
Fortunately, parents have awakened to the reality of these efforts. And the left is taking notice. One “free speech advocacy group,” PEN America, admits that school districts nationwide have removed over 1,100 books from school libraries in the last year.
Librarians on a Mission
Such a conflict is raging within the Prosper Independent School District. Prosper is located at the northern fringe of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area. Like many parts of the Lone Star State, it is growing rapidly—its population tripled between 2010 and 2020. With seventeen new housing developments in the planning stages, that growth won’t stop soon.
I have never been to Prosper, but I have spent much time in school libraries. I spent many high school lunch periods there, preferring it to the din of the cafeteria. During my teaching career, I knew that being on good terms with the librarian could yield many benefits, so I always made an effort in that direction.
The school librarians I knew were a mixed lot. Some treated the library’s collection as though it was their personal property. A couple of them were lazy teachers looking for a nest. Some were ideologues.
The ideologues are the most dangerous. Following the American Library Association’s (ALA) lead, they see their job as a cultural balancing point. This tendency is especially strong among school librarians in rural areas, who sometimes appoint themselves as the “agents of change” in their communities.
The Difficulty of Supervision
In many such rural districts, the decisions of individual librarians have the least oversight. No person at the district level is designated to spend any significant time supervising the books on the shelves.
The PISD Annual Report shows that new elementary and high schools are currently under construction. Another three elementary schools, a middle, and a high school are “coming soon.”
So, Superintendent Holly Ferguson is, no doubt, in a whirlwind of construction and hiring. A controversy over library books is the last thing that she needs.
But that is precisely what Superintendent Ferguson has. She summed up the situation from her perspective for the WSJ. “It’s been a nightmare for two years. Politics has come in the classroom, and it never had any place in a school.”
The Prosper Citizen Group
When objectionable titles appeared in Prosper’s schools’ libraries, concerned parents formed the Prosper Citizen Group. They organized themselves as a Political Action Committee (PAC), demanding that the books be removed.
Superintendent Ferguson is not enamored with the group, its members, or its demands. The educrats’ fallback position stresses that they are the experts, the adults in the room, as it were. “It’s our job to worry about the children,” Dr. Ferguson arrogantly told the WSJ defining roles. “Their job is to worry about their child…. They want to insert their political or religious beliefs on every child in this district.”
The President of the PAC responded. “This disturbing push to sexualize kids or defend those who do looks and feels like a cultural Marxist attack on our children, our Town, and the next generation… and we will not stand for it.”
While the Superintendent wants the whole controversy to disappear, the “politics” of the left will probably force her to sustain the librarians’ bad decisions. If she does anything else, her name ends up on the list of “book banners.” She might find herself pit against “woke” opinion, the ALA, the teachers’ unions and, most likely, the local media. The effects on her career path could be immense.
At the same time, the PAC will not let her ignore the issue—and they are right to act as they are. The success of parents in removing the 1100 titles shows that resistance is possible. When alert parents protest at school board meetings (and even threaten to read the objectionable book aloud), officials take notice, and books disappear. However, it is a constant battle since the left is constantly probing defenses to find ways to reach the children with their message.
All teachers and administrators must protect the innocence of those confided to their care. They must not scandalize the most vulnerable members of society. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares that “And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me; it were better for him that a millstone be hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:41)