The Texas House Committee on General Investigating, chaired by Matt Krause, has compiled a lengthy list of books that they allege contains material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex. His committee sent the list along with a letter to the Texas Education Agency and Texas school districts, inquiring if the schools owned them, how much money was spent on them, and where they were physically located in the schools. The letter also requests that school districts figure out which other books they own that could intentionally or unintentionally cause any students to feel the discomfort, guilt, and anguish mentioned earlier.
The list targets several minority groups and anything remotely linked to all forms of sexual education, including books that teach abstinence until marriage, which is…curious. Even curiouser titles include Inventors & Inventions, the 2015 edition of The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, and Eyes on Target: Inside Stories from the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALS. Shout out to Danika Ellis at Book Riot for doing the work. Does Krause believe in censoring American Navy SEALS? Based on his office’s own list, he just might not support his own country’s military. Does he hate American innovators? A secret vendetta against the evils of encyclopedias? Or does this just show how ridiculous censorship is? This campaign move is not only stupid, but also a bit dangerous. Ah, the old slippery slope from soft censorship to soul crushing authoritarianism.
Krause’s demands are fiscally irresponsible, which goes against a core principle of conservatism. Researching copies, cost, and location requires a public employee to look up some 850 individual library records. Keep in mind public employees are paid with tax dollars. This would take hours of professional labor and that must be multiplied by 1247 (the number of school districts in Texas). Presumably, the time & money could be invested in teaching students, but that is not the important thing here. The important thing is that you notice Matt Krause’s virtue signalling to conservatives. He gave the school districts a deadline of November 12th in his letter. I was sort of excited to see what would happen on November 12th for the purposes of this blog but it appears to be nothing. Some of Texas’ largest school districts such as Austin, Houston, and Dallas have all dismissed the inquiry. Fort Worth is complying. Many others have no idea what to actually do, resulting in dodgy conversations about representing both sides of the Holocaust.
Fiscal irresponsibility leads to violating another core principle of conservatism: the importance of limited government. The government is not in charge of telling children what they are allowed to read. A well informed citizenry is essential to democracy, so you should be suspicious of a government that dictates what information its citizens may have. This is the United States and we all have our individual freedom. This includes the freedom to read books.
The final core principle of conservatism that Krause violates is human dignity. A just government protects life and honors the family. The Krause Banned Books List dishonors families by inflating the role of the State to the role of Parent. Librarians cannot act in loco parentis or in the role of the parent. Neither can the State of Texas. State controlled childrearing teeters on the slippery slope towards far left Stalinist ideology. This is not something that I would expect the conservative party to endorse, but hey it’s 2021. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is strength. Conservatives want big government to invade the nuclear family based on feelings, not facts.
In conclusion, I am going to get real:
It is asinine to me, a descendent of Nazi party members, that one should be legally exempt from feeling guilt. One of the most profound experiences of my life was walking the hallways of the prisoner barracks at Auschwitz 1, with hundreds of photos of the deceased up on the walls staring down at me. I understand the concept of “the sins of the father are not the sins of the son,” but it is simultaneously true that the murdered Jews of Europe never got to have grandchildren…and my family did their part in that. I have confirmed this with their military information from the German Federal Archives. It is what it is. There were plenty of average Germans making choices back then and that can be a lesson to us now. The past is an uncomfortable truth that many German-Americans have to come to terms with. Maybe it is not exactly guilt but my grandfather was able to immigrate to the United States in 1960 and start a family. I think of the millions of Jewish people who never even got the chance and feel grateful for this life everyday. If my ancestors gave me nothing else, they at least gave me the notion to always strive to be better than they were.
You need to know your own history in order to understand yourself. This is why adopted children often wonder about their biological parents. Having Nazis, Confederates, slave owners, or Klan members in the family tree does not make your children those same things. But it does mean that your great-great uncle or second cousin made certain choices and did certain things. Maybe that is worth acknowledging? I think it is worth discussing family history with kids so that they do not find out alone, without parental guidance. History tends to come alive when you see it in genealogical records. You could probably even do this right now, since Ancestry Library Edition will be available from home until the end of the year. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!
Holly Eberle is the Teen Programming and Outreach Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library District in Illinois. She received her MLIS from the University of Illinois in December 2015. In addition to intellectual freedom, she is also passionate about the opioid epidemic and getting Narcan inside every public library.