The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 8, 2013

Literary censorship is a serious matter

Associated Press

The Anniston Star on state senator’s crusade against book:

Literary censorship is a serious matter.

When anyone takes it upon themselves to decide what someone should — or should not — read, the censor’s motives and qualifications should be clear to everyone.

The state of Alabama has had censors in the past.

In the 1950s, a segregationist state senator attempted to ban from Alabama libraries a children’s book, The Rabbits’ Wedding, because a white rabbit was marrying a black rabbit.

Motive and qualifications were up front.

A few years ago, another state politician’s statement that certain books should be taken off the shelves caused some to suggest that our state should be renamed “Talibama.”

State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, now has announced that he can “see no value or purpose ... educational or otherwise” in Toni Morrison’s 1971 novel, “The Bluest Eye.” Therefore, Alabama school Superintendent Tommy Bice and the state Board of Education should remove the book from the list of “national exemplars for teaching literary concepts” to 11th- graders, the senator believes.

Holtzclaw did not seek the book out himself. ...

Holtzclaw said his intent was to get the state to “direct and control its own curriculum without out-of-state influence.”

Yes, Holtzclaw is protecting “us” from “them.” He is sending a message to those he feels are trying to impose a national reading list on us — you can’t.

The fact that teachers are not required to adopt and teach “The Bluest Eye” seems to make little difference to the senator, anymore than the fact that many of the “highly objectionable” themes — racism, incest and child molestation — can be found in the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, Mark Twain and Alabama’s most-loved novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The education of our children is important. Parents should know what our children read and why they read it. ...

The world would be even better if politicians would read the books instead of reviewing excerpts passed along to them for reasons that have little to do with education and a lot to do with politics.

Who should parents and the public trust to decide what books should be recommended for literary concepts — educators who have read the books or politicians who have “reviewed  excerpts?”