Hitting the Books, or Just Banning Them

Books are a hot issue these days, prompting heated school board meetings, litigation and pending legislation in Trenton.

With that in mind, robust public discussion is expected – once again – at Tuesday’s meeting of the North Hunterdon Regional school board.

A book called “Let’s Talk About It” is reportedly in the crosshairs – meaning it faces a challenge from those who consider it “porn,” or in the least, unsuitable for high school students.

Backers of keeping the book in the school library point to this description of it:

“How do you find the answers to all the questions you have about yourself, about your identity, and about your body? Let’s Talk About It provides a comprehensive, thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel guide to everything you need to know.

“Covering relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education, and more, Let’s Talk About It is the go-to handbook for every teen, and the first in graphic novel form.”

To be sure, whether a book is appropriate or not for students tends to be a subjective judgement.

However, what may not be subjective is the political appeal of “banning books,” or as practitioners rather say, removing inappropriate books from schools.

As politics plays out throughout New Jersey and the nation, the prevailing thought by many was that those troubled by some books were onto something. Or to be blunt: This has been seen as a good issue for conservative Republicans.

New Jersey Republicans certainly thought so.

“The Democrats are giving us an issue on a silver platter.” That was one of the comments made at a GOP campaign event last fall in Bergen County.

Then came the election. Conservatives did take some school board seats around the state. They lost some too, but in a state with almost 600 school districts, local elections are just about always going to go both ways.

But statewide, Republicans lost six seats in the Assembly. The Senate stayed the same, although Republicans did lose the south Jersey seat held by Ed “the Trucker” Durr, who became a conservative legend when he beat Steve Sweeney in 2021.

Maybe, the GOP failed to make the “porn in school libraries” argument. This was a very low turnout election; less than 30 percent of registered voters took part.

Then again, maybe the book issue doesn’t resonate as far as some think.

Support for that take comes from a just-released Rutgers-Eagleton poll. Here is a key finding:

“When polled in December and asked to choose which concerns them more about schools today, 58 percent of residents say they are more concerned that some schools may ban books

and censor topics that are educationally important, while 35 percent say they are more concerned that some schools may teach books and topics that some students or their parents
feel are inappropriate or offensive; 8 percent are unsure.”

So, by a 23 percent margin, respondents were more worried about book bans than so-called dirty books in school libraries.

As poll director Ashley Koning put it:

“When we assess views in a scientific and representative way, public opinion on this issue shows – like many other topics – that the loudest voices do not necessarily represent the majority.”

One should not expect this poll to silence those “loudest voices.” Nor should it. After all, democracy is about people speaking up and trying to change minds.

However, the poll findings combined with last fall’s statewide election results should not be ignored by school boards as this debate continues.

It also may factor – one supposes – in a pending bill in the Legislature that seeks to give librarians more protection to combat those who want certain books removed.

It also gives a boost to the New Jersey Public Education Coalition, which was formed to combat a “right wing” takeover of school boards.

Mike Gottesman, the coalition founder, observed:

“This is what the coalition has been saying for close to two years. The loud minority ruled the day for two election cycles. However, now that the majority is becoming mobilized, we are sending a message to our legislators that right wing extreme views are rejected. The majority of New Jerseyians believe in freedom of expression and public schools that are free from religious edict and indoctrination.”

 

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8 responses to “Hitting the Books, or Just Banning Them”

  1. The GOP didn’t handle it right! First of all, books weren’t banned, just removed due to being inappropriate for young grade-school innocent children! The sick left loves to miss represent, distort, and use inaccurate demagogic terms. They’re masters at it!

  2. Welcome, fellow travelers, to a journey through the corridors of power and the heartbeat of democracy! In our latest expedition, ‘The Cycles of Politics: Power of the People’, we invite you to join us on an enthralling adventure through the annals of time. Brace yourselves as we unravel the captivating tale of how the ebb and flow of political dynamics shape the destiny of nations. From the echoes of ancient revolutions to the modern-day movements that redefine our world, each chapter unveils the extraordinary power of collective action. So, grab your curiosity and let’s dive deep into the captivating world of political cycles. The journey awaits – are you ready to embark.

  3. “One of the most critical milestones in our children’s education is whether they are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.” “In New Jersey, just 42% of third graders reached proficiency levels. The results are far worse for Black and brown students living in our state’s urban area.” Governor Murphy talks about the science of reading methodology as a possible answer, yet it is stuck in the legislative process.
    So perhaps, this is why this book looks like a graphic comic book – because our kids can’t read or comprehend what they are reading.
    Tammy Murphy says she is running for the United States Senate because DC needs more ticked off moms. Here is something to be ticked off about.- why can’t our children read and why have our schools lost their way? Helping our children become strong readers is a crucial issue for our state and our nation.

  4. Well, well, well. It’s now the loud minority that the Democrats are afraid of. The Democrats are the biggest proponents of every minority forcing their will on the majority, yet when it’s a conservative minority, the Democrats/Socialists/Communists rise up in arms against it, claiming they want to ban books. No! The conservative minority wants to remove books that promulgate a political agenda via the LGBTQ and Transgender agenda.

    Scientific studies, peer-reviewed periodicals, medical experts, psychological experts ALL say that the human
    brain, specifically the frontal lobe which is the “decision-making” and “reasoning” part of the brain is NOT fully developed until age 25. Pushing LGBTQ and Transgender perversion books (which is pornography) on children, and even college students who don’t graduate college until 22-23 years of age, constitutes emotional, psychological and sexual child abuse. Any school board member, teacher or NJEA administrator that pushes this perverted material on to children under guise of “education” should be removed from their positions of being around children, or making decisions for children, charged with child abuse and child sexual abuse, put on the Child Abuse Registries and never be allowed to have a job around children. In fact, those that push this “educational” garbarge should not even be allowed around their own children and grandchildren.

  5. “In the United States, some categories of speech are not protected by the First Amendment. According to the Supreme Court of the United States, the US Constitution protects free speech while allowing limitations on certain categories of speech. Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment (and therefore may be restricted ) include obscenity, fraud, child pornography……….” So I guess there will be 600 towns, 600 school boards and 600 libraries that will be challenged with interpretations of the limitations imposed by one First Amendment. A good civics lesson.

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