The Star Democrat

Book-burning next step in right’s classroom hysteria


Two school board members in Virginia recently called for the burning — yes, burning — of books in the school’s library that they deem sexually offensive. This is, of course, the logical direction of the conservati­ve movement to crack down on any school curriculum that doesn’t reflect a right-wing view of the world. And it’s another reason why liberals and progressiv­es should reclaim the mantle of free speech that was once an integral part of liberal thinking but that has now, alarmingly, fallen out of fashion on college campuses and other liberal stronghold­s.

While the Spotsylvan­ia County School Board on Nov. 8 was discussing removal from the school library of materials that some parents had objected to as sexually explicit, board member Rabih Abuismail declared that wasn’t enough: “I think we should throw those books in a fire.” Fellow board member Kirk Twigg specified that he wanted to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicatin­g this bad stuff.” It was unclear whether either of them knew or cared that they were calling for action associated with 1930s German Nazism and other oppressive regimes.

Some of the books in question at the school are in fact sexually explicit, like “33 Snowflake” a critically acclaimed but controvers­ial book about teenage runaways. It’s reasonable to debate whether a given book is age-appropriat­e for students. But that’s a far cry from lighting them up like a bunch of modern-day Brownshirt­s.

As tempting as it is to dismiss theVirgini­a episode as clownish self-parody by a couple of extremists, it’s different only by degrees from what’s happening across the conservati­ve movement regarding schools. It’s not just sexual material but societal issues that some are trying to purge from the classroom. Note the hysteria over critical race theory, a topic the zealots condemn without understand­ing.

The danger when people start talking about suppressin­g even genuinely offensive materials is that it never stops there (as the Nazi book-burners ultimately demonstrat­ed in Germany). Twigg, one of the two board members who called for bookburnin­g, also wants to expand the criteria for determinin­g what makes books offensive beyond sexual issues, according to the Fredericks­burg Free Lance-Star: “’There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at,’ [Twigg] said, without elaboratin­g.” Anyone who doesn’t find that sentence chilling needs to go back to history class.

The message that even the suggestion of bookburnin­g sends to students is far worse than anything they’ll find in those pages. Those on the left who have strayed from the path of respect for free expression of ideas with which they disagree should take a hard look at where that kind of thinking is taking the right — and ask themselves if they really want any part of it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States