As I was combing through headlines this week, I came across something curious. The following headline grabbed my attention: Portland School Board Bans Books that ‘Express Doubt’ On Climate Change.
Book banning is a sore issue with a book lover such as myself. Usually books are banned because of the sexuality or anti-religious views (among others) that are expressed within them. People are denied access to knowledge or another perspective simply because those in charge deem in inappropriate or damaging in some way. They make the decision FOR another individual, thus infringing on their right to acquire knowledge and to form an opinion based on the evidence before them.
This time, in Portland, it is a viewpoint whose popularity is supposedly waning that is being taken out of the classroom.
Books are our right. They are our access to knowledge and ideas, no matter whether those ideas are liberal, conservative, religious or otherwise. Freedom, of whatever kind, is denied by the banning of a book, no matter its content.
But before we get too far in, there is something to be said about the language of this article. Through the course of reading this piece, I decided that the news source used the word “ban” to get clicks whereas an important quotation in the article states: “The resolution before you concludes, and I quote, ‘will abandon the use of any adopted text material.'” Of course, I was not present at the meeting so I can’t say whether the word banning was tossed around or not. But I believe the use of the word abandon was a deliberate choice on the part of the teacher being quoted. Click bait? Very possible. But let’s continue and assume it’s not.
In the linked article, the school officials specifically reference getting rid of old text books in favor of more current ones that express perspectives about global warming without the luke-warm PR language. I think updating textbooks is a good idea and in the classroom environment, it makes sense. But students should have access to other viewpoints in the library and they should be able to discuss any facet of the issue without fear of repercussion or chastisement. While I agree that global warming is a real thing, I think suppressing the “unpopular” viewpoint is wrong. A better and more well-rounded education would be this: global warming is believed to be x, y and z because of such and such. BUT, there are people who think global warming is a farce because a, b and c. This would give the student a full view of what the landscape around this issue is like. Now, please keep in mind that I am not an expert in the field of education, so I don’t know that this would jive with the way curriculum works and all. But, just for conversation sake, this is my view.
The aforementioned article would also have the reader believe that the school board is doing exactly the same thing as other boards do when they ban The Awakening or All the Pretty Horses. The actuality of this is questionable. It will all depend upon how the curriculum is addressed and how a student’s innocent question is handled and what books and other resources are made readily available for students. Just because it’s an unpopular viewpoint doesn’t mean that the book should be banned (if that is in fact what is going on here).
A better way to deal with this issue is to teach the science and then leave room to discuss alternative ideas. To deny that there are people out there who deny the truth of global warming is akin to abstinence-only sex education. Students should be presented with multiple sides of an issue so that they can draw their own conclusions.
What is your opinion?
Oh and don’t throw around the phrase “banning books” lightly. Bad form…
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