Gov. Walz back at it again with ‘banned’ books canard

“They’re banning books from their schools. We’re banishing hunger from ours,” tweeted Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday.

While it’s not clear who the “they” is that Gov. Walz is referencing, he has recently gone after Florida leadership on the topic, inaccurately accusing the state of “banning” books. (I wonder how the governor feels about Duluth school administrators “banning” To Kill a Mockingbird and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.)

According to the American Library Association, most book challenges fail to remove books from the classroom or library shelves completely, but any book that is challenged is then considered to be a “banned” book, reported ABC News.

But even in states/schools where books have been challenged and then removed, the “book ban” mantra distracts — and often completely ignores — the fact that most of the content being called into question is obscene and sexually explicit. (Numerous examples of this here in Minnesota.)

This is not about “banning” books or preventing students from accessing diversified literature, this is about public school libraries having non-age-appropriate books available to children.

It’s baffling that protecting children from explicit material while in school is controversial. America “has always restricted certain kinds of content, and the attendant freedom to engage with it, when it comes to children,” wrote Nate Hochman in the National Review. “Why? Well, because we understand that some things — including some books — aren’t appropriate for children.” Consider, for example, warnings on music, television, and video games, and limited access to movies in theaters.

There is a reason television stations have cut away from press conferences on these books when the content is shown and school boards have cut off parents reading excerpts during public comment periods.

“…[S]chool districts have a limited budget and capacity for books in their classrooms,” wrote Lance Christensen with the California Policy Center. “Salacious or pornographic material that would not be read in front of our grandmothers or allowed on network television does not belong in the classroom.”

If school districts feel like it’s appropriate for kids to be exposed to raunchy, graphic, or explicit material, they should be prepared for concerned parents who show up at their school board meetings and protest. And when a parent reads an objectionable portion from the book the district has approved, the presiding officer needs to hear them out rather than shutting them down.

(And about those universal free school meals Gov. Walz mentioned in his tweet — it is worth noting that yes, every Minnesota student will be eligible, but the dollars to pay for those meals are coming out of compensatory revenue, which is meant to help significantly low-income, low-performing students. For school districts like St. Paul that receive a good chunk of money in compensatory revenue because of the students they serve, they in essence are “losing” money while wealthier school districts gain it to cover the free meals. More on that later.)