Tennessee Governor, GOP push for more control of school libraries | Chicago News

Video: Ada Palmer, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago and author of “Maybe the Stars” and “Terra Ignota,” joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss recent moves to ban certain books from schools. (Produced by Leslie Hurtado.)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After a local school board in Tennessee drew national attention for banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Governor Bill Lee went public with a call for more scrutiny of libraries schools so that students consume “age”. appropriate content.

“We are proposing a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries,” Lee said during his annual address to the Republican-controlled Legislature last week. “This law will also create greater accountability at the local level so that parents are empowered to ensure content is age-appropriate.”

The Republican’s remarks echo the sentiments of conservative officials across the country who are increasingly trying to limit children’s exposure to certain books, especially those that address structural racism and LGBTQ issues.

More recently, Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas asked superintendents to conduct a systemic review of “inappropriate” materials in schools in their states.

It is by defining what is inappropriate that things get complicated. Opponents say the efforts are political and look like an effort to intimidate certain communities, with the careful assessment of content best left to professional educators and librarians.

In Tennessee, the debate has simmered for months as the state’s education agency finalizes how schools should enforce a law banning the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism known as Critical Race Theory – an academic framework on systemic racism that has become a catch-all phrase for teaching about race in US history.

This debate only escalated when the McMinn County School Board decided to remove “Maus” from its curriculum due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a naked woman, according to the minutes of a board meeting. The illustration is actually a cartoon mouse, and the effort backfired in a way, boosting book sales three decades after it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

At a segregated school board in the affluent Williamson County neighborhood just south of Nashville, a conservative nonprofit group called Moms for Liberty has drawn attention by criticizing a range of materials they say should not be in schools.

And in January, country singer John Rich tweeted to his wide audience that he had met with Governor and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and was promised legislation would be introduced to “deal with ‘literature.’ to which our children are exposed and containing obscene and pornographic content”. contents.”

Several bills have already been introduced this legislative session targeting school libraries, including a proposal to remove “material that is obscene or harmful to minors” from public school libraries. Librarians across the state say such restrictions are already in place, countering that the latest trend is to censor certain subjects and books.

“This is an effort to intimidate us not to buy controversial books and they try to intimidate us not to talk about these laws,” said Bryan Jones of the Tennessee Library Association. “Like the critical race theory debate, this bill obscures the truth. There is no pornography in school libraries.

Meanwhile, a separate bill would prohibit schools from using textbooks or materials that “promote, normalize, support or address lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles”. The bill applies not only to curricula, but also to materials that might be found in a school library. Last year, lawmakers approved legislation that required school districts to alert parents to any instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity and let them withdraw their student.

Lee, who is running for re-election this year, has tabled a separate bill that would require school libraries to post their content online and regularly review their policies to ensure material is ‘age-appropriate’. and “adapted” to the children who access it. .

The bill was introduced last week, but with the governor’s backing, it is likely to pass the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Librarians counter that many of these procedures already exist and pointed to the need for better resources and possibly the addition of a state library coordinator to promote literacy and education statewide.

“School library catalogs are already available online and library collection development procedures are posted online, and review procedures exist to address parents’ concerns,” said Lindsey Kimery, library services coordinator for the Metro Nashville Public Schools, to lawmakers earlier this week.

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