A recent push by the FBI for US universities to monitor Chinese students is alarming – but this siren rings with a different tonality depending on your listening equipment. To Senator Mark Warner, it’s about national security. But to me, it sounds a whole lot like government-sanctioned censorship.
While parents absolutely can, and should, be aware of what their children read and are exposed to and be actively engaged in helping students process what they are reading, I also believe books are a safe way for children to learn and expand their perspectives and horizons and challenge their own preexisting world views. Parents can play a critical role in helping them do so.
Perhaps the most important thing librarians can do is to continue to be a part of the dialogue on how we manage these issues and balance competing interests to ensure intellectual freedom and inclusion, and to be mindful of these issues in program scheduling, meeting space usage, and collection development choices.
Discussions of Islam are essential to many subjects; history, literature, art, political science, geography, and science would all be immensely hurt by eliding Islam. Teaching calligraphy without talking about Islam would be like teaching art history without talking about Catholicism. Teachers and scholars need to be able to teach reality, not have to bend curriculum to societal fears. Students and children need to know what is real, not what some wish was real.