This November, before you vote in the midterms, perhaps blissfully unaware that all elections matter, consider this. Book banning initiatives – or, as I call them, “virtual book burnings” – have cast a shadow over the future of public education. Arizonans will soon elect new public school board members. By voting for the wrong candidates, you could empower them to ban books indiscriminately. No, I’m not fear mongering. It’s already happening, all across the country.

America, how in the hellish dystopia did we get here?

Decades of guerrilla warfare have eroded democratic norms. Leaders have planted the seeds of radicalization using triggers like morality and race. Master manipulators have demonized good ideas and good people. Sick cretins have triumphantly normalized hostility and aggressive behavior. Do any of these puppet masters sound familiar?


While disreputable leaders and their henchmen continue to incite their base through propaganda and rallies, adherents buy in by wreaking havoc. And what better way to do damage than to pick the low-hanging fruit, like K-12 literature? Ominous warnings about acquiring knowledge have a basis in biblical folklore (i.e., original sin), making books believable bogeymen. Label the trifecta of books, curriculum, and educators as the root of all evil, and voila! It’s a veritable bonanza for control freaks.

Speaking of blowhards

Far-right conservatives often organize concerned citizens’ clubs, with some designed to create a unified front for the purpose of reviewing and objecting to school books. It’s not clear what such folks are “concerned” about other than the fear of becoming irrelevant while the rest of the world moves forward. Or maybe they don’t relish the idea of their kids being more well-read than they are. Regardless, armchair psychologists like these claim that many of the books now found in classrooms and school libraries are offensively woke or too mature for students in grades K-12. What an uninformed, isolationist philosophy! Are they aware of what children like and share on their smartphones daily?

Book banning brigades are group incarnations of entitled Karens, i.e., genuine public nuisances. They do not care about providing students with a variety of modern books or offering engaging opportunities to expand their vocabulary and improve their comprehension. Right-wing hit squads just can’t tolerate anything that fosters diversity and social change.

I parent my kids. Others indoctrinate them.

Lately, seriously creepy people have defamed innocent educators with accusations of grooming, a telltale example of Freudian projection. The claim that educators who provide certain books are groomers is one bizarre cause-and-effect theory.

It is also laughable when people say books are nothing more than tomes of indoctrination, given these same parents’ expectations that their own beliefs should eclipse all others in a public school setting. In any case, all this posturing is another right-wing deception, a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit, hamstring, rob, and tank public education.

Thought Police object to anything that whiffs of accountability or enlightenment, so they try to suppress:

  • awareness of social hierarchies and discrimination, like misogyny, white privilege, or systemic racism
  • stories of non-traditional family structures, like grandparents raising grandchildren, single parents, or same-sex couples
  • highlighting the underrepresented, like those with disabilities
  • freedom of religion for anyone who isn’t a Christian or Christian Nationalist
  • liberty and justice for all, like women, BIPOC, or LGBTQ+
  • historical analysis or cultural context, like the effect of oppression, slavery, war, or genocide on the descendants of
    • indigenous people
    • African American slaves
    • eastern European Jews who survived the Holocaust
    • “evacuees” of Japanese American internment camps
  • and the list goes on

Mawmaw once threw a rock at a little black girl

“History is all unicorns and lollipops,” said no one ever. Facing humanity’s shortcomings to build a more compassionate world means reading and discussing the good and the bad. These can be difficult and emotionally-painful lessons and many parents aren’t up to the task of providing emotional support. They would rather participate in book bans than let little Luke become aware of the horrors of America’s (or Uncle Steve’s) nasty racist past and present. 

But what if learning about awful events does make your child feel bad or sad? Well, embarrassment and regret are fairly valid social inoculations. Oh, wait. If you’re an anti-vaxxer, let me reframe that. Lessons from history could stop us from making the same dumbass mistakes. Because hiding inconvenient truths only benefits the wicked and their flying monkeys.

Books by diverse authors help everyone

“Banning books by a certain group of people or based on a specific point of view is a violation of our First Amendment right,” warns the ACLU. When authoritarians invade school systems, they silence important voices. Book banning discourages authors from continuing to write and share their unique perspectives. It’s these perspectives that help us understand and appreciate others. But if we let the ridiculousness of book banning stand, fact-free dingleberries who target K-12 literature won’t be satisfied with ripping the heart out of classrooms and school libraries. They’ll harangue bookstore owners, too. No curious mind is safe! You want receipts? Start with Texas or Missouri.

Final thoughts

What happens in education reverberates through society, if not today then tomorrow and for decades to come. Stop willful ignorance in its tracks. Make noise when misguided militants try to indiscriminately ban books. Keep holier-than-thou pretenders from taking over educational systems. Be a mindful, conscientious voter who understands every checkbox on the ballot, especially when electing school board members. Vote wisely and thank you for your support of democracy.