Florida is BurningFeb 03, 2023
I know you've been watching the news and you've probably been watching our videos on social media. We can't stop talking about what DeSantis is doing, and here's why:
1. These book banning are racist and oppressive in every way. He hides behind certain vague phrases to appease his political base. There is no validity to the bans.
2. He is going to be a problem for all of us in 2024. This is all scoring him points and is creating away to position himself for the presidency.
Now, back to the bans. The irony is that in their efforts to "protect" children, what they are doing is hurting them. Lies, decent, and omission... What happens when someone realizes they have been lied to? They become rightfully angry and frustrated. That's what we saw in 2020 when young white people (along with the rest of us) took to the streets. I'm convinced that this backlash through education is one of the responses to that summer.
All of this is to say, that book bannings will not solve much. Let me break a couple of things down to clarify what is going on.
Ban vs challenge: A challenged book is not a banned book. However, in Florida, if you challenge a book the policy stands that it must be removed until vetted. Unlike what the law affords us, these books are not innocent until proven guilty. One man submitted a list of books that should be vetted, knowing very well it takes a long time to do so and now those 150 books are removed from libraries and cannot be used. The privilege here is layered and glaring.
Classroom libraries vs school libraries vs curriculum: There are important distinctions to keep in mind between these. Classroom libraries are like 'private' spaces in that these are curated by the teacher. These are not public to all students, technically. These are available to students in those rooms. Most of the legislation in Florida is about school libraries, but because they're so intentionally vague, classroom libraries are now being included. Imagine being a school librarian and having to deal with your school library and now all teachers' libraries in your building! And then, there's curriculum. These books have to be inclusive of all students. It's the only way to communicate that you see them, that you value them, and that their voices and ideas are intellectually vibrant. Excluding the books that feature us sends the clear message: we are not welcome.
"Morally offensive": This is the phrasing used in a training for librarians as part of what they should be looking for in books. My question: morally offensive to whom? This so subjective, it's wild! This is the vagueness educators are having to deal with, which only benefits those in power. If a book is found to be "morally offensive" then it needs to be vetted, challenged, and/or removed. What a mess...
The "classics" vs YA: Wanna talk morally offensive? How about the plot line of many of the classics! I'm thinking for example, of two teenagers that fall in love after three days, don't communicate with the adults in their lives and kill themselves. I'm thinking of the story where a woman is drugged by her husband out of spite and she ends up having sex with what she thinks is a horse. I'm thinking of the story where a boy tricks an enslaved man into thinking he's enslaved for a fun adventure, instead of letting him know he's free. I'm thinking of the woman who gets bullied by her whole town because she did something they didn't agree with. Instead, the target is YA- books that often present realistic fiction, narrating struggles our students and their communities are facing and overcoming. These books, more and more, have elements of joy as a form of resistance and leave students with hope and beauty. But because the latter are written by us and for us, those are morally offensive.
We must organize and gather ourselves. We must fight and show up at school board meetings and let them know we see the irony and hypocrisy. We see the racism and the oppression. We see them. This is wrong and just like it has in the past, it will backfire.
The future is looking at us, and it ain't pretty.
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