Books open minds; banning books in Iowa schools closes them

A rash of complaints, mostly about sexual content in the Des Moines area’s public school library books, was the cause, for most observers, of some shaking of the head, but not much else.

Districts tend to have good processes to fix these things. And “How young is too young?” is a reasonable question, although those who ask seem to have a very weak view of the maturity of teenagers and younger children.

Things have quickly gotten worse, most acutely with Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman’s threat to imprison librarians and other educators who make books available that he finds offensive.

We differ fundamentally with Chapman on almost every aspect of this:

  • When we lack evidence to the contrary, we trust that educators have the well-being of children first in mind and will resolve close calls in favor of freedom of expression. Chapman regards them as enemies of the people who either negligently or maliciously poison young minds.
  • We see in the excerpts read and shown at public meetings, honest discussions and, yes, depictions of sexual acts and sexual abuse. They are part of award-winning longer stories that are relevant to young people’s experiences. Chapman sees works that appeal “to the prurient interest,” according to state law already in the books, which he says school staff may be violating.
  • We recognize that these books were purchased because children with insecure support at home or elsewhere need affirmative and honest literature, and they need it – in Chapman’s words – “in the safest environment they should be in: public schools. ” Chapman seems to only see drawings that “cannot be shown on the 5 News.”

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