John M. Crisp: Protecting Students from Wrong Things | Columnists

John M. Crisp Tribune Intelligence Service

When 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley killed four classmates at Oxford High School in Michigan with a semi-automatic pistol last week, I thought of a very different kind of threat to public school students: books of dirty words and unpleasant stories.

Recently, Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency to investigate “any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography.”

At the same time, Texas State Representative Matt Krause sent a letter to the TEA and superintendents in various school districts across the state inquiring about the status of 850 books and demanding that officials report whether their schools had any , and where they were and how much they cost.

In addition, Krause requested the same information for “all other books … that deal with or contain the following topics: human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases … HIV … AIDS … sexually explicit images, descriptive representations of illegal sexual behavior or … material that students may use because of their race or their gender could cause discomfort, guilt, agony, or any other form of psychological stress, or convey that a student is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, because of their race or gender. “

Krause’s purpose is not entirely clear, but his letter begins with references to Texas school districts that have removed books from their libraries and classrooms “after receiving objections from students, parents and taxpayers.”

In short, between Abbott and Krause, both of whom will be up for grabs next year, it appears that Texas has a book bans pending. And shouldn’t the ban on books always make us a little nervous in a society that values ​​freedom of expression and individual rights?

Krause’s 850-book list is a rough collection that was obviously thrown together from other lists – literacy starts over every 20 to 30 books. Most of the books you’ve never heard of, probably Krause as well.

The indiscriminate clumsiness of this collection of books is shown by the fact that it is not interested in distinguishing between works like “The Bride Was a Boy”, which is basically a very serious comic, and William Styron’s “The Confessions of Nat Turner” – also on the list – which won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Two books prominent in coverage of Krause’s list are “Gender Queer,” a memoir by Maia Kobabe who identifies as non-binary, and “In the Dream House,” a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado who survived abuse has -Sexual relationship.

Kobabe’s book is a graphic novel that features depictions of sexual acts that are so explicit that it is easy to understand why some parents object. “Im Traumhaus”, on the other hand, was produced by Graywolf Press, a publisher known for high quality literature by serious authors. Abbott and Krause do not seem to care about these distinctions.

The point is: I’m not sure which of these books should be in public school libraries. I am not sure what role parents should play in defining the curriculum content. But I am also very skeptical about leaving these decisions to politicians like Abbott, Krause and the Texan legislature, whose criteria include the hasty rejection of anything that could cause “student discomfort”.

Abbott and the Republican politicians who control Texas have gone to great lengths to make weapons available to all Texans. Abbott has done its best to prevent local school districts from requiring their students to wear masks, the simplest form of protection against COVID.

So what is the greater threat to public school students? The abundance, availability and normalization of firearms and a casual attitude towards a fatal disease? Or a copy of “Im Traumhaus” in a public school library?

We’ll probably never fully understand what made Ethan Crumbley murder four of his classmates last week.

But one thing we can be sure of: it wasn’t because he had read too many books.

10. Most challenged: “Bone” (series) by Jeff Smith

“Bone” (series) directed by Jeff Smith. Reasons: political point of view, racism, violence.

Ninth most challenged: “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya

Ninth most challenged: “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya

“Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. Reasons: occultism / satanism, offensive language, religious point of view, sexually explicit.

Eighth Most Challenged:

Eighth Most Challenged: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

“The Benefits of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.

Seventh greatest challenge:

Seventh greatest challenge: “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

“In Search of Alaska” by John Green. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.

Most challenged in sixth place: “A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone

Most challenged in sixth place: “A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone

“A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

Fifth greatest challenge:

Fifth greatest challenge: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious point of view, unsuitable age group.

Fourth most challenged:

Fourth most challenged: “Fifty Shades of Gray” by EL James

“Fifty Shades of Gray” by EL James. Reasons: nudity, abusive language, religious point of view, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.

Third Most Challenged: “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Third Most Challenged: “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

“The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, abusive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuitable for age group.

Second most challenged:

Second most challenged: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

“The bluest eye” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unjust to age, violence.

Most challenged: “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey

Most challenged: “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey

“Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: offensive language, unsuitable for age group, violence.



10. Most challenged:

10. Most challenged: “Bone” (series) by Jeff Smith

“Bone” (series) directed by Jeff Smith. Reasons: political point of view, racism, violence.



Ninth most challenged: “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya

Ninth most challenged: “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya

“Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. Reasons: occultism / satanism, offensive language, religious point of view, sexually explicit.



Eighth Most Challenged:

Eighth Most Challenged: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

“The Benefits of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.



Seventh greatest challenge:

Seventh greatest challenge: “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

“In Search of Alaska” by John Green. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.



Most challenged in sixth place: “A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone

Most challenged in sixth place: “A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone

“A bad boy can be good for a girl” by Tanya Lee Stone. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.



Fifth greatest challenge:

Fifth greatest challenge: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious point of view, unsuitable age group.



Fourth most challenged:

Fourth most challenged: “Fifty Shades of Gray” by EL James

“Fifty Shades of Gray” by EL James. Reasons: nudity, abusive language, religious point of view, sexually explicit, unsuitable age group.



Third Most Challenged: “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Third Most Challenged: “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

“The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: drugs / alcohol / smoking, abusive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuitable for age group.



Second most challenged:

Second most challenged: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

“The bluest eye” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unjust to age, violence.



Most challenged: “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey

Most challenged: “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey

“Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: offensive language, unsuitable for age group, violence.

John M. Crisp is a columnist for the Tribune News Service. [email protected]

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