Parents: Please Urge Lancaster County School Boards to Resist Efforts to Ban Books [editorial] | Our opinion


Art Spiegelman is set to be part of Millersville University’s Spring 2022 Lecture on the Holocaust and Genocide. Like NL | LancasterOnline’s Mike Andrelczyk reported that Spiegelman will deliver the keynote on April 28 at the Winter Visual & Performing Arts Center in Millersville. The American cartoonist is best known for his postmodern graphic novel ‘Maus’, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. In this harrowing story of the Auschwitz imprisonment of his Polish Jewish parents, Spiegelman drew Nazis as cats and Jews like mice. A Tennessee school board voted in early January to ban “Maus,” due to its “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a naked woman (drawn as a mouse), The Associated Press reported last week. The ban caused sales of “Maus” to skyrocket.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum tweeted last week that “Maus” played “a vital role in Holocaust education by sharing the detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.”

Unfortunately, such an education seems to be precisely what some fear.

They fear books that unflinchingly explore complex topics, such as the Holocaust, slavery in America, racism, and LGBTQ life. They want the rough edges of the story to be smoothed out so they don’t upset anyone. They also want the sharp edges of life to be softened, so that no one is challenged to think differently or act differently.

They may think they are protecting children, but what they are actually doing is not equipping children with the knowledge, compassion, empathy and reasoning they need to get by. in a difficult and diverse world. We shouldn’t soften the Holocaust or slavery or Jim Crow.

Some of the forbidden books explore more personal issues.

A young adult novel called ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ – the story of three teenagers, one of whom has terminal cancer – has been temporarily removed from the shelves of the school district’s middle school library. Elizabethtown, for example.

The Eastern Lancaster County School District has banned a graphic novel titled ‘Lighter Than My Shadow’ – appallingly, one school board member suggested it be burned – because it explores a young woman’s journey to overcome an eating disorder.

The life of many teenagers is not as bright as it may seem on Instagram. Books that explore more difficult realities can help children understand their own realities.

Unfortunately, efforts to ban books from school libraries are underway in our region, as well as in the United States. It takes courage to swim against any rising tide. Today, therefore, we write to commend two residents of the Manheim Central School District who last week at a district school board took a stand against the book ban.

As Rochelle A. Shenk reported for LNP | LancasterOnline resident Terrie Eshleman emphasized that school board members are elected officials and should represent the views of their community, not their personal ideologies.

Eshleman pointed out that in 1982, in Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote that “local school boards cannot remove books from school library shelves simply because they don’t like the ideas. contained in these books.

When a school official removes books from a school library for “narrowly partisan or political” reasons, it is an “official removal of ideas,” Brennan wrote. And the Constitution “protects the right to receive information and ideas.”

As Eshleman told the Manheim Central School Board, “Courts have told public officials at all levels that they can heed community standards,” but “they cannot censor posts by generally accepted authors. to appease a small segment of the community”.

She asked the school board “to push back on any calls to remove books from our school libraries.”

Resident Genevieve Zercher said the school board should refrain from considering the validity of school library materials without a transparent formal process as outlined by the American Library Association.

Zercher said, “Librarians are trained to organize a collection of materials for all people in the community, not just those who are loudest, not just those who may be part of a majority group. A perspective that one family finds objectionable may just be the perspective that another learner needs to see.

“If I have to trust anyone looking after my child’s best interests, it is the trained librarians and learning facilitators who interact with my child on a daily basis; professionals who know my child, his needs and his abilities. That’s why we hired them. We must allow them to do their job without political interference.

Indeed. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

According to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, it saw 60% more book challenges in September 2021 compared to September 2020.

As we have written before, banning books is undemocratic and an obstacle to excellent education.

We urge parents in Lancaster County to ensure their children have access to a wide variety of engaging school library books. Please use your voice to take a stand against book bans.