New Book Bannings
A couple of months ago, during Banned Books Week, I wrote that banning books is really about protecting fragile adults, not children. Since then, it seems like there’s been an explosion of efforts to restrict access to books, especially books about queer topics. My own school district in Florida has dealt with some recent challenges, and right now in Oklahoma, legislation has been introduced that would allow parents to demand the removal of books, the firing of employees who fail to remove books upon the demands of parents, and fines for each day the book is not removed. This is a terrifying situation which puts generations at risk of losing tremendous amounts of knowledge.
Queer Books didn’t Make me Queer
In June, I wrote about how important the availability of queer books was to me as a teenager, and how it helped me find safe ways to contemplate my own identity. The books didn’t make me queer, and in fact, most of the other people I know who read them did not turn out queer. Those books showed me that it was possible to be a whole queer person with a fulfilling life, to be happy and surrounded by the love we all desire.
Banning Books Sows Distrust
The idea of banning books, of preventing access to age-appropriate books to kids, bothers me tremendously. Kids need information, and they need to be able to access it in ways that feel emotionally safe, which sometimes means they need to explore their own feelings about a topic before they share those feelings with others, and that includes the adults around them. At the same time, adults need to know what kids have available so they’re prepared to answer questions and to provide the kind of guidance about morals and values that kids need—that doesn’t mean kids should automatically be expected to adopt the same morals and values that the adults around them espouse, but that they need to find strong roots for their own values which may or may not be the same as the ones that adults around them express.
Banning Books Makes Growth Harder
We want our kids to be able to create a better world for generations to come, and that means that we need to teach them to think carefully, to analyze and interpret and understand what’s going on, because the world they’re going to deal, that they need to deal with as adults is not the same as the one we’ve got. In order to do that we have to wrestle with some big questions of our own… including the idea that the foundations of our own beliefs may be faulty in some way.
We have to be willing to wrestle with our own big questions and with our own discomfort to allow our kids the opportunity to grow into leaders and innovators and to give them the room to create a world that accommodates what their adulthood will look like in all the ways that it is both similar and dissimilar to our own. Book banning is not about protecting kids. It’s about shielding adults from things that can be very difficult and can shatter the sense of safety that we seek in the world.
Banning Books Restricts (Emotional) Learning
When we teach our kids to cross the street, we begin by narrating the steps as we carry them or push them in a stroller or cart. Then we let them walk and hold our hands. Little by little, we give them more access to the steps on their own and eventually, they learn how to safely cross the street–to go to the crosswalk, to watch the lights, to look both ways and to judge the distance and speed of cars.
It takes a lot of careful observation to see when our kids are ready to cross the street and a lot of bravery to let them go on their own. That first time, standing nearby, is frightening for an adult. But it’s not as frightening as subsequent times when our kids cross the street without our supervision and yet we are able to summon up the bravery to help them become physically independent of their parents. We owe them the same bravery when it comes to books they are seeking answers from, answers that will help them become intellectually and emotionally independent. We must judge whether our children are ready for certain books, but balanced against that is the bravery to allow them to take those steps when they’re ready–on their own.