Phil Murphy is getting involved in the “book wars” in opposition to what he calls censorship.
The New Jersey governor and nine others – from eight states and the Virgin Islands – have sent a letter to nine leading publishers of textbooks and related materials urging them not to capitulate and “censor their educational materials at the behest of state governments like Florida.” Not much subtlety here.
Various issues related to books have been prominent in the political discourse of the day across the nation.
Most recently in New Jersey, debates about books in libraries have prompted passionate meetings and at times, litigation.
The issue also has emerged as a big one in a handful of contested Republican legislative primaries, especially in LD-24 and 26.
Here is the letter:
Dear Textbook Publishers:
We are deeply troubled by the news of some textbook publishers yielding to the unreasonable demands of certain government representatives calling for the censorship of school educational materials, specifically textbooks. We write to you out of concern that those who are charged with supporting the education of this country’s students, such as yourselves, may be tempted to water down critical information to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
We urge any company who has not yet given in to this pressure to hold the line for our democracy. Our country’s future is at stake. You hold enormous influence in shaping how our great nation’s history is told, and the consequences of your actions will reverberate for generations to come. Honestly grappling with our legacy has long been a cornerstone of American patriotism.
If we are to continue striving for a more perfect union, then we must carry out our duty of ensuring future generations understand our full history as well as the contributions of all its people. That includes learning from our mistakes. These lessons are vital to preparing our youth to fully engage in a free and fair democracy.
Sanitizing our educational texts for the mercurial comfort of a few today ultimately limits the next generation’s ability to make informed decisions for themselves. Moreover, the negative impact that censorship and book-banning has on this nation’s students – many already marginalized and underrepresented in society – cannot be overstated during a time when we are facing an unprecedented youth mental health crisis. Each and every single student in the United States of America has the right to exist, to be seen, and to be represented. It is an important priority of our administrations to ensure that any educational materials censored to appeal to political pressure do not negatively impact our educational goals and values in our states.
As such, please know that we will be working closely with all of our school districts to ensure they are fully informed of which texts include comprehensive and accurate educational information – and which have been inappropriately censored – when they consider procurement of instructional materials for the nearly nine million students our states serve.
The letter was sent to the following publishers: Cengage Learning, Goodheart-Willcox, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill Education, Pearson, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, Savvas Learning Co., Scholastic and Teachers Curriculum Institute.
Besides Murphy, it was signed by the governors of Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. All are Democrats.
Two people not impressed are Republicans Dawn Fantasia and Mike Inganamort, who are seeking two Assembly nods in LD-24 in northwest Jersey. They responded to Murphy’s move with some verbiage of their own. Here it is:
“Mandating the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to kids who can’t tie their shoes isn’t a ‘core educational value.’ It’s extreme and indoctrination. Likewise, removing sexually graphic books from a children’s library isn’t ‘censorship’, it’s common sense. Phil Murphy is so full of it and parents across the state are standing up to say enough is enough. For Murphy to abuse his office to threaten these companies is outrageous and we call on them to stand strong and push back on Murphy’s radical, far-left agenda for our schools and our state.”