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Remember when controversial books used to be banned by religious zealots? Those were the days. Nothing helps a book like a good old-fashioned book banning. First, the liberal press would report it gleefully: “Those right-wing nuts are at it again!” Then, there would be a countermovement, where the forbidden fruit would be smuggled, sneaked, snuck. (by the way, I know that “sneaked” and “snuck” mean essentially the same thing, but… the alliteration!)
An underground railroad of secret books would flow throughout our great nation. This, coupled with a weeping press, led to the third stage: capitulation. The religious right would back down, the book would be reinstated, and the media, academia, and the entire liberal establishment would have a sanctimonious scalp. More, they’d elevate the forbidden text to something sacred that cannot be stopped, no matter how upsetting it was. Yes, these were heady days for the first amendment, freedom of speech, and undoing the cultural underpinnings of America.
This series of recurring events was captured perfectly by those noted leaders of social commentary: Styx. In 1983, the musicians released a “record” (ask your parents) as a pretext for a 10-minute video that shows a society which bans rock-and-roll music led by a righteous religious person named “Dr. Righteous” (no one ever said Styx was subtle). A jailed artist becomes the focus for freedom by a young rebel, and well, I won’t spoil the end for you.
Fast forward to today. Catcher in the Rye, a book considered one of the top 100 novels written in the 20th century, is to be banned. Now, here’s the twist: the ban this time is from left-wing groups.
Books such as JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by “informational texts” approved by the Common Core State Standards.
Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council.
The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now, there are all kinds of things wrong with this.
First Warren Buffett, and now Bill Gates. Why can’t these super-rich liberals stay out of our business?
“Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Sure, “Rye’s” Holden Caulfield was a rebel, and who needs rebellious teenagers? They’re always spoiling society, leading protests, freeing jailed rock stars. Just ask Dr Righteous! (oops, spoiler alert).
But “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Atticus Finch is a cultural hero, and he is to be removed from classrooms? This is disturbing. He was no Holden Caulfield; he was virtuous. What is going on here?
This is all being done in the name of helping education. Did you see what the banned books are to be replaced with? Non-fiction. Manuals. Sorry, high schoolers, you can no longer read about Atticus Finch who stood up to powerful forces based on what he felt was right. Instead, here’s a text on Recommended Levels of Insulation. You’ll be tested on Monday. Best grade gets his name on a plaque on the wall at the EPA.
I think Bill Gates’ foundation and all the other liberals going along with this think this will make better students, and help them get a job. This is just misguided. Really, liberals? Right, the problem with our economy is that graduates know too much about Caulfield and too little about California’s Invasive Plant Council. And nothing will help high school dropout rates like luring a kid to class with a 500-page manual from the Dept of Health and Human Services.
Also, this is the problem with a centralized government leading education. With one stroke of a pen, 46 of 50 states are having their schools’ teaching plans altered. What about leaving these choices to the local level? The problem with a federal Department of Education — ok, one out of 4,296 problems with a federal Dept of Education — is the loss of local control. And I thought liberals were all about helping teachers.
Hey, here’s a radical idea: let teachers decide what texts to use when teaching their kids. Maybe a few would even choose “informational texts” studying inventories of invasive plants. But maybe others would choose JD Salinger’s book. Liberals say they’re pro-choice. Why take choice away from heroic teachers just because think tanks and a federal government say so?
(I endorse Rick Perry’s idea of eliminating the Dept of Education entirely, but that’s a post for another day).
Finally, look who is leading this: the left. Only Nixon could go to China, and only liberals could ban To Kill a Mockingbird. Because it’s done by the left, the media, also on the left, will go quietly along with it. This disrupts the entire balance of the book-banning ballet. When the left bans something, the MSM has no problem with it. If the media doesn’t foment outrage, there will be no underground railroad of forbidden Finch. And without a movement to free the captured Caulfield, there can be no capitulation.
Which means that this time, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and others… may be disappearing forever.
There is a new Dr. Righteous in town, and this time, there’s no rebellious Tommy Shaw to strike him down and restore all that is good in our fair land in the name of freedom, the first amendment, and of course, rock and roll.