Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Tragic Libraries of Education: 'They're just books'

What should, and should not be, in a school library? Who decides that? Do school libraries serve different purposes than public libraries? Is removing books from a school library the same thing as banning or censoring books? Questions like these have been swirling around and heating up the controversy between parents, librarians, educators (and trolls), in our schooling debates, though the first one is usually the only one that's asked openly (and answered as superficially as possible). While dealing with some trolls recently, it struck me as interesting, and not a little bit concerning, that there are similarities in how both trolls and many conservative parents 'pragmatically' approach these questions of what should be done about such books, and I think something needs to be done about that, ASAP.

The trolls had pounced upon a parent's group that dared show an interest in a handful of biographies for kids, from Mark Twain to Ronald Reagan & Justice Scalia, which the trolls - literally judging the books by their covers - condemned as being propaganda, because, obviously, a publisher that'd publish books 'exclusively about right wing figures!' (Mark Twain?), could only be peddling propaganda, and misinformation and that "shouldn't be allowed around inquiring young minds". And of course, being trolls, and *woke* ones at that, they were quick to dismiss any concerns about conservative books being removed, decentered or discarded from school libraries, as being no more than hysterical rants over 'objective truths' that do not apply or exist, because, after all:
'They're just books'
Naturally, if those books concerned leftist themes and heroes (one troll had helpfully suggested a nice bio of Ruth Bader Ginsberg would be more appropriate for students than one on Scalia), or even porn, well then... obviously, as 'every librarian, and educator' (and troll) understands all too well, 'every student needs to have free and unfettered access to all such materials', and it's nothing short of a fascistic assault upon liberty itself, for any such books to be withheld from those same inquiring young minds. That completely ignores, of course, the Left's recent efforts (and successes) to have Dr. Suess books and 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 'Huckleberry Finn', and more, removed from school libraries... but focusing too much on their inconsistency, leads you to assume that they care about either reality, truth, or consistency between the two (that'd be 'epistemic adequacy'), which in fact is what they not only fundamentally deny, but is the central focus of all of the *Woke*'s attacks (their efforts to replace 'epistemic adequacy' with 'social epistemology', amounts to replacing objective truth with polling those who know best). Don't let yourself get sidetracked by that, you only aid them. Worry about your own inconsistencies, which is what I want to focus on here.

Clearly the actions of such trolls, librarians, and educators, show that they are fully aware that books are much more than 'just books', and that they understand that there's a larger issue involved here, than only the particular books that are present in, or purposefully absent from, a school's library. What is concerning to me though, is that too many conservative parents act towards those books as if they do believe that:
'They're just books'
What I mean by that is that although parents are rightly appalled that their children are being exposed to overly crude, age inappropriate, and even pornographic materials (from bizarre fetishes, to rape, and incest) in their school libraries, they rarely pursue matters beyond having those particular books physically removed, as if the only problem is the physical or virtual presence of those objects, which will somehow be resolved by removing them, but how and why those books got there in the first place too often gets no more than a 'tsk-tsk' of attention (if a baby-sitter in your neighborhood left porn out for your kids and began chatting them up about it, would you send your kids back to be watched by them if they promised to remove it? Hello?). Such pragmatic behavior by parents is a tacit admission that in their minds,
'They're just books'
If you don't see the issue here, you may rest assured that the trolls, librarians, and educators who selected the books you despise, and rejected the books you love, do, because how those particular books 'somehow got there', wasn't due to any one person's error in judgement, they were chosen, and chosen for a purpose, and chosen to further that purpose. Parents and anyone else with an interest in how students are educated at their expense (that'd be everyone), need to learn to push a bit past the superficial thinking which those same schools once taught them to settle for, and begin recognizing that such books as those are there for a purpose, and that purpose actively guides what is stocked in their library, it informs your schools' lesson plans, assemblies, activities, and even the posters that are put up (or not) on classroom walls. That purpose is actively driving those messages which your child's thinking is expected to conform to, and those who believe in it will fight tooth and nail to see to it that those ideas and messages - which the particular books in question are only the more visible carriers of - will continue to be felt in as many student's heads as possible, through every meaningful aspect of their school.

Having spent a few decades digging into the ideas and intentions behind those purposes, I'm no longer surprised by the actions and comments of such trolls, librarians, and educators, but it baffles the hell out of me that the parents who in fact do love their children, and do want the best for them, behave as if removing a few particular books, is somehow going to sanitize and neutralize the ideology which is using that school to occupy its students thoughts with.

IOW: The books found in the school's library are an effect of what causes them to be selected. Removing some effects (the books) isn't going to alter or remove their cause (the ideology that drives such choices).

Which brings me to the question that usually goes unasked: Do school libraries serve different purposes than public libraries? Short answer: Yes. Do most school libraries understand (or admit) that? As 'mission statements' of school libraries typically say:
"to learn and appreciate the power of information "
, and the fact that the attitude typically expressed by most school libraries is that
'it doesn't matter what you read, as long as you read!'
, which is as inexcusable as a dietician saying 'It doesn't matter what you eat, so long as you eat - veggies, or twinkies, or sweetened carcinogens, makes no difference, just eat and keep on eating!', I think it's safe to say that the answer to that is: No.

But the reality is that a public library provides the widest possible selection of materials to serve whatever purposes that its patrons might seek to pursue. A school's library, OTOH, has, or should have, a very different purpose:
  • To serve and support the education which that school is providing to its students.
It is neither banning nor censoring, to remove books that do not align with, or support, or that runs contrary to the education which that a school library is there to support, but it is negligence, at best, to add or retain books that run contrary to the education which that library's school is supposed to be providing.

The real question to be asked is what is the nature of the education which that school is providing, and how one book or another helps with that (and very likely reveals it), because whether they admit that to be their mission or not, a school library's books are not selected (or rejected) haphazardly on the basis of,
'They're just books'
, but because their meaning and presence (or absence) is serving and supporting what that school wants its students to learn, value, and become.

Rumor has it that a local school district is about to overrule parents' objections to books they consider to be inappropriate because there are no psychological studies proving that they're harmful. Is that the standard of what books your kids can be exposed to in school?

Those who stock a school library's shelves with selections such as 'Crank', Gender Queer', 'All boys aren't blue', and the like, do so because in their judgement, those materials align with their pedagogical beliefs about what education should instill into their students, those books conform with their ideals. Those are the materials which they want shaping your kids hearts and minds, and right now they are winning them. And those materials which do not conform with their ideals, such as the central works of Western Civilization, are 'decentered', discarded, and excluded, in favor of whatever pulp is most popular in the latest fads they're promoting under 'read anything, just read! (as long as it isn't 'western-centric)'.

Make no mistake: Students are receiving exactly the education that these educators, librarians and trolls want them to receive, and those who treat effects as causes, and expect that removing a book will lead to fewer effects, without dealing with what caused it to be chosen, are being just as foolish as those who think that:
'They're just books'
Worse, such deflections and evasions help those making such choices, to achieve their 'Brave New World'. Books about incest, rape, are not in conflict with their ideals, and those ideals are what students are being educated to value; those are the ideas and ideals that they hope will occupy your child's thoughts, because 'children are the future', and the future they are seeking, is the kind of future that can be more easily imposed upon those who dwell upon such ideas and activities. Who is surprised by this, and why? The trolls, librarians, and 'educators' who clearly understand the lie behind:
'They're just books'
, are not surprised by the lies they're telling or promoting, while too many parents still seemingly presume their deceptions to be but errors, or carelessness, and nothing more. That's a problem.

It's also a problem that the nature of the lessons which are taught (or ignored) in a school, are taught in order to affect the nature of what your future family, friends and community leaders will be shaped into - that is what drives what books will and won't be in its libraries. That purpose, that mindset, that 'Critical Pedagogy', not only preceded the placement of crude and pornographic books in their schools' libraries, but it is what led those who staff them to calculate that they could and should attempt to get away with slipping porn into students reading materials without parents noticing it, just as it has led thousands of trolls, librarians and educators to "Vow To Defy State Bans on Critical Race Theory" (hey, haven't we been told that defying 'democratic government' endangers 'democracy!'? Huh.) in support of the communist Howard Zinn Project, and it is emblematic of the thinking that will continue to operate upon those students' minds - such as encouraging students to think about their sexual preferences by comparing those to which pizza toppings they might prefer - despite any momentary inconveniences that might be encountered by the removal of a few particular books, or personnel, or classes, due to the parental complaints or legislative mandates of the moment.

A Serious Question
How compatible is the 'education' which our school systems are providing, with who you want your kids, your future family, friends and community leaders, to be? Parents, and everyone else, need to begin taking education seriously, which means realizing, as the *Woke* do, that 'getting an education' is about more than school mascots, sports, and kids marking time by memorizing facts & getting good grades to get a diploma and prove they picked up enough useful skills to get a good job (not even businesses trust in that anymore).

Rest assured that a school, especially a *Woke* one, doesn't see any book as being 'Just a book', or itself as "Just a school", or what it is delivering into students minds as being "Just an education", but they very much appreciate the lack of thought that so very many of us have given to the matter, so that they can continue doing what they've devoted their lives to doing to your kids minds, and society as a whole, which is what they believe the schools are there for.

A good education is something rather than nothing, and meaning something rather than anything, it can't be supported by just anything at all, and such efforts must make it a lesser thing. The act of teaching implies that there is a destination which the student does not yet know how to navigate to, and does not know which false trails and pitfalls to steer clear of. Once they do know the way, once they've reached adulthood, then they can go their own way and explore what, where, and how they will, but not until then, and I seriously question the wisdom and intentions of any adult who'd allow the student to make their own choices about which road to go down and how fast to travel upon them without parental supervision. If you understand that books are more than 'just books', and that discrimination and discretion are required in providing students an education, then we should give more consideration to the question of 'What do you mean by an education?', and what role it is that books play in getting one - which is what we'll start looking into in the next post.


julie said...

It's not just school libraries, either. Most public libraries are just as bad. We stopped going to the one closest to us, even though they have a very pleasant children's section. If we went on an average week day, the kids' section was overflowing with homeless people, sometimes using the computer but mostly just sitting there truculently staring off into space. The book selection was huge, woke, and my kids rarely found anything there they actually wanted to take home and read. Aaand, of course there was the obligatory "call me ma'am" librarian.

A good library is a treasure. And like a treasure, these days it is a rare find, too.

Van Harvey said...

It's so sad, but a look at the Public and School Library Association Pages shows that it's deliberate... political activism takes precedence for them.