There Is Nothing 'Conservative' About Banning Books

Orlin Wagner

When I was in fifth grade, Sister Mary Conception assigned us the book Black Like Me by journalist John Howard Griffin. The book told the story of Griffin’s journey through the deep south after he took pigmentation pills and sat under a sun lamp for 15 hours a day for a whole week, turning his skin much darker. It was a wrenching read. And the impression it made on an 11-year-old boy from an all-white suburb of Chicago was profound, to put it mildly.

If the good sister’s intent was to shock her white students into walking a mile in the shoes of a black person in the segregated south, she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. It was, I believe, education at its finest: giving young children the benefit of learning about a different world than the one they grew up in.

I don’t believe that St. Raymonds school ever asked my parents if it was okay to teach the book or have students read it as part of their classwork. I can’t imagine that happening today. The vulgarity, the obscenities, and the constant, jarring use of the “N” word would have sent half the parents in the United States onto the picket line, demanding that the book be banned.

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Banning books is an all-American pastime. Hearing the left caterwauling today about the Tennessee school board banning Maus, a young adult’s book about Nazism and the Holocaust, should remind us that Democrats led the charge for banning Huckleberry Finn and Any Ngo’s anti-Antifa book among many others over the years. Both sides get their hands dirty when it comes to trying to suppress ideas, images, even words out of fear that our poor, impressionable, innocent children would be upset.

Certainly, there should be limits based on age and local traditions and culture. But middle school kids are a helluva lot more aware of what’s happening than many parents can fathom. They don’t need a book to illustrate gay sex or issues relating to transgenderism. It’s there, right in front of them — on their phones, their tablets, even on their TV. And if they don’t have access to it, you can bet some of their friends do.

This doesn’t mean parents have to give up. But it should also be noted that attempts to ban a book won’t kill the idea that’s behind it; they will only make it more desirable to learn about. Instead of hoping your child isn’t exposed to these concepts, perhaps you should talk with your child about them — put them in whatever context you want, be it faith, personal morality, or as a reference. I’m willing to bet most kids would be eager to engage in conversation about these subjects and issues with their parents.

There are some on the right who want to ban books in the name of “conservatism.” Some politicians are making banning some books a political litmus test. There is nothing whatsoever “conservative” about advocating for the banning of books. The left wants everyone to believe it’s actually a part of conservatism to suppress ideas with which they disagree when we all know there is no more fascistic impulse than the left-wing drive to cancel conservatives’ writing, teaching, speaking — even earning a living. It is by no means “conservative” to imitate the left and ban books because we don’t agree with the ideas or concepts being presented.

Protect children from that. Not controversial ideas.


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