Something important has happened in Florida and we’re in danger of becoming too immersed in the details to note the overall shift in the tone of censorship being conducted under the auspices of the Florida legislature and its authoritarian governor, Ron DeSantis.
Previously, book challenges were the focus of government activity. People were empowered, anyone really, to challenge a book that was in a school library. See here, here, and here for a few examples.
Self-identified parents went to school board meetings to complain. (Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) calls them self-identified because everyone assumed they were parents of children in that district’s schools, but it turns out their children were enrolled in private schools or they came from other districts or states. They didn’t speak as a parent, but as an activist.)
Others followed district procedures to challenge books. In all cases, districts removed the books to follow a process of review before deciding whether to ban the book or restore it to the shelves.
That was then. This is now. The shifting sands of censorship have changed. Let’s not get lost in the details, but look at what has taken place.
In that not-so-distant past, the censorship of school libraries was limited to removing books that offended in some manner, most likely because of LGBTQ themes, characters, or stories, Black characters, history, or points-of-view that do not scream God Bless America from every sentence, or anything that might make a student feel discomfort for any reason whatsoever.
But Florida has moved on. Under its most recent laws, ALL books, not only in the school library, but also in teacher classrooms, are banned until and unless it has been vetted by a media specialist who has completed a mandated state training.
Teachers have been threatened with felony charges if any book in their classroom is found to violate Florida laws such as the ones called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and ‘anti-woke’ as have their administrators and district officials who might be thought negligent for allowing it.
In response, school districts are ordering teachers to remove all books from their shelves until the vetting takes place.
Not to worry, GOT’s district advises. We’re working on it as fast as we can. We are establishing a list of approved books for the classroom for teachers to consult when deciding about what books to make available to students.
That is the shift in censorship. We have moved from governmental authorities making lists of books that are NOT allowed to these authorities making a list of the books that WILL be allowed. If it’s not on the list, it’s banned.
500,000 to a million books are published every year not counting self-publishing. There isn’t enough time or people to go through all of them to approve them for a library.
Only approved books may be read. We’re coming as close to thought control as we ever have. Read 1984 by George Orwell now because it reveals the game plan before that is removed as well.
This won’t stop with schools. Already, governments are moving on public libraries. Virginia tried to get ahead of the game with a lawsuit to banish booksellers, in particular Barnes and Noble, from selling books that lawmakers didn’t like.
Better read Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury also before governments ban that as well. That seems to be the world we are heading for.
One thought on “The Shift in Censorship”
I’m curious if they are also wanting to ban books that are critical of religion like Christopher Hitchens’ “God is not Great”? If not do you see that as the next step?