Education

National Group Claps Back at Texas Lawmaker's 'Censorship' Attempt of School Library Books

Texas Republicans are getting slammed over their efforts to ban certain school library books.
Texas Republicans are getting slammed over their efforts to ban certain school library books. Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash
In many ways, the world wide web is still the Wild, Wild West, where kids can call up just about anything they want with a quick Google search. Around 95% of teens in the United States have access to a smartphone, with nearly half reporting that they are “almost constantly” online, Pew Research Center reports.

The internet isn’t exactly known as a safe space for prudes. Still, some Texas Republicans are clutching their pearls and attempting to shield kids’ eyes from school library books.

For the past several months, certain GOP politicians have ramped up attacks on reading materials that make them uncomfortable. One state legislator, Rep. Matt Krause, came up with a list of 850 such titles, prompting some districts to remove certain books outside of school libraries’ standard protocols.

At the same time that they cry “censorship” any time COVID misinformation gets flagged on social media, many in the GOP are more than happy to throw gasoline on a pile of young adult literature. Now, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), an alliance of more than 50 nonprofits focused on protecting First Amendment and free expression rights, is putting one of North Texas’ state lawmakers on notice.

In a letter earlier this week, NCAC slammed attempts by Frisco state Rep. Jared Patterson to remove certain books from school shelves. The national organization says the GOP politician is trying to strong-arm Texas school districts into ditching what he wrongly views as “pornographic material.”

Of course, librarians statewide vehemently deny that they’re porn-peddlers. Still, Patterson and a team of more than two dozen other state House members have asked superintendents to sign a pledge that they will never buy from vendors who supply “child pornography” to the state’s schools.

Patterson and company take issue with one particular book titled Gender Queer: A Memoir, a 240-page graphic novel containing some scenes of sexual activity. Even still, librarians say that the book doesn’t meet the legal definition of pornography. Nor does it reach the standard laid out by Texas’ own obscenity statute, which states that a book would have to lack “serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value” to be dubbed “obscene.”

(No matter your opinion on Gender Queer, and there are many, Krause's list included a swath of baffling choices: Amnesty International's We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, two titles by National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates, a handful of books about sexually transmitted infections and John Irving's novel The Cider House Rules, to name a few.)

On Tuesday, NCAC issued a scathing rebuke of the politicians’ literary probe: “Rep. Patterson and his co-signers are not protecting students from obscene and explicit content. They are censoring books and denying students the well-rounded education that is essential to preserving a healthy democracy.”

They also wrote: "As Rep. Patterson well knows, no school district in Texas has ever purchased obscenity or child pornography."

Still, Patterson and crew have attempted to spin the narrative, accusing a highly respected pro-free expression coalition of basically being pro-pedophile. “New Yorkers who support sexually explicit material for Texas school children oppose our efforts. Shocking,” Patterson said in response to the NCAC’s condemnation.
Book vendors likely wouldn't view it as a sound business model to include smut in their catalogue. But don’t take our word for it.

“Absolutely no: There’s not pornography in the school library,” Sarah Evans, an assistant professor in the College of Information at the University of North Texas, told the Observer in November.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter