Douglas Andrews / December 1, 2020

Book Banning Invites Indoctrination

Why did a California school district decide to ban some classic American books?

All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!

So said Kurt Vonnegut, the author of the frequently banned 1969 anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five and an avowed man of the Left. And while Vonnegut won’t ever make us forget Patrick Henry, his “To hell with the censors!” battle cry seems tailor-made for our current condition. Unfortunately, Vonnegut, a longtime hero of free speech, has been dead for 13 years.

And regarding censorship: How times have changed.

One wonders what Vonnegut would make of the Left’s current hostility toward free expression, Big Tech’s efforts to censor both political speech and inconvenient news from the Right, and even the never-ending urge of local schools to keep classic works of American literature away from our kids because their dated language might offend certain sensibilities.

As Dallas English teacher Auguste Meyrat writes, “Burbank Unified School District in California recently made headlines with its decision to ban the classic novels ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Of Mice and Men,’ ‘The Cay,’ ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ District leaders apparently responded to several complaints from parents who took issue with the purported racism of the books as well as incidents of white students taunting their nonwhite peers with racist language from their assigned reading.”

The idiocy of the ban is plain to see. These classic works are sympathetic in their treatment of minorities and sensitive toward the issue of race — even anti-racist in the case of To Kill a Mockingbird. Thus, they’re ideal vehicles for broaching the subject. What better way to invite thoughtful discussion about a sensitive topic while at the same time nurturing our kids’ interest in the essential life skill of reading?

Nope. Need to ban ‘em.

Meyrat, though, suspects the school district’s motives are more sinister. “Sure, BUSD clearly hopes to quell the complaints of angry parents and avoid a negative image,” he says, “but their long-term goal is part of a much larger trend in education: eliminating the very idea of classics and turning assigned reading into a form of indoctrination. … A good example can be seen in the Read Woke Challenge, a nationwide campaign by school librarians encouraging adolescents to read the latest titles of social justice young adult fiction.”

One wonders whether the irony would be lost on Vonnegut that those youthful “free speech” activists of the mid-1960s are today the graybeards suppressing certain kinds of speech in our schools and applauding the dirty work of their Big Tech henchmen.

“All citizens are entitled to hear absolutely any idea anyone from anywhere may care to express,” Vonnegut once said. “And where did I get the notion there was such an incredible entitlement? I got it from the junior civics course that was given in the seventh grade at Public School 35 in Indianapolis.”

How times have changed.

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