LUBBOCK, Texas — A letter from Governor Greg Abbott addressed to state education officials to develop statewide standards preventing “pornography” and other materials that may be deemed obscene content be removed in Texas public schools.
Selected school districts in the state received a 16-page list of 850 titles the Governor request be removed off the shelves. Texas State Teachers Association’s Clinton Gill said the reason for the choices are less about protecting children, but more about pushing a political agenda.
“So first of all, we don’t believe there’s pornography in the public schools,” Gill said. “For Governor Abbott to sit here and say that there’s pornography filling up in our public schools is just absolutely asinine.”
The book list incorporates very few titles that fall into ‘pornographic content’ but does include many titles that discuss gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and identity. It is sparking a bigger conversation amongst parents regarding these complex and controversial topics: Where do these topics belong?
“As a parent, we should be able to teach our children those things and instill them into them,” said Lubbock mom Stephanie Turner.
While Governor Abbott demands more literary censorship, other parents like Kelsey Finck believe a wide variety of political points of view should be visible in the classroom.
“So if these books are on our library shelves, they’re there for a reason … Regardless of the topic, regardless if it’s something that you don’t agree with or not, those books have been vetted,” Finck said. “And if we’re going to limit one side, to allow that side of books to be in our libraries, you know, where does it stop?”
Many parents and education advocates critique the letter for not providing more context as to why each book added to the list is now labeled inappropriate. One teacher said the list had ‘no rhyme or reason.’
The following are comments by teachers and librarians who were asked about the Governor’s list. They requested to remain anonymous. Here is what they said.
“As a reading and language arts teacher, it is my responsibility, according to state standards, to require students to ‘self-select texts and read independently for a sustained period of time,'” one local teacher said. “I firmly believe in the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop — that students should have access to books that are windows and mirrors. Every person deserves to see themselves represented in the books they read, but they also need the opportunity to learn from other’s experiences to gain empathy.”
“I tell my students that what they read is between them and their adults. Because I’m going to share books that might appeal to each student in my room at some point,” another local teacher said. “I asked them to discuss what they’re reading with their adults because I do believe that’s important, but a book should not be pulled from shelves because a handful of people don’t like it.”
“Students must be able to have choice in what is available in their school library,” a local school librarian said. “Books have been vetted by certified librarians and if parents become concerned about a book there is a process in place to challenge a book of concern. Today more than anytime in history students need books with characters and stories they are able to identify with and to take this away from students would be taking away from their identity.”
At this point, schools have until November 12 to respond to the request.