The book bannings will continue


Now the Republicans want to ban math textbooks. Florida has rejected 54 out of 132 proposed math textbooks because Ron DeSantis says they contain Critical Race Theory. Really? I found an example of what they object to.

A few points I have to make:

1. That’s not CRT. Those are just story problems on a worksheet about Maya Angelou.

2. That’s actually a clever way to motivate students to carry out simple algebraic calculations.

3. Isn’t it obvious how it will help kids learn algebra? They have to use algebra to crack the code and puzzle out the whole story.

4. I can tell the critic just zeroed in on the mention of sexual abuse and prostitution. Those things exist. They happen. They don’t disappear if you close your eyes real tight.

5. It’s also not from a Florida math textbook. It’s taken from an unapproved collection of potential math problems from an online site. For shame, Ms Pushaw! You lied!

Florida is working so hard to become the worst state in the union. They’ll have to work harder, though, because Texas is attacking libraries.

In early November, an email dropped into the inbox of Judge Ron Cunningham, the silver-haired head chair of the governing body of Llano County in Texas’s picturesque Hill Country. The subject line read “Pornographic Filth at the Llano Public Libraries.”

“It came to my attention a few weeks ago that pornographic filth has been discovered at the Llano library,” wrote Bonnie Wallace, a 54-year-old local church volunteer. “I’m not advocating for any book to be censored but to be RELOCATED to the ADULT section. … It is the only way I can think of to prohibit censorship of books I do agree with, mainly the Bible, if more radicals come to town and want to use the fact that we censored these books against us.”

Wallace had attached an Excel spreadsheet of about 60 books she found objectionable, including those about transgender teens, sex education and race, including such notable works as “Between the World and Me,” by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, an exploration of the country’s history written as a letter to his adolescent son. Not long after, the county’s chief librarian sent the list to Suzette Baker, head of one of the library’s three branches.

This is a Texas tradition. There are always prudes and bigots who object to books that don’t pander to their blinkered, ignorant worldview — remember Mel and Norma Gabler? — the problem is that Texas actually listens to them, and has an army of conservative politicians that rush to impose their 19th century views on their electorate. Literally. That’s what motivated the Gablers to go on their long-running crusade to wreck the American textbook industry.

Norma and Mel Gabler entered the field of textbook reform twenty years ago, after their son Jim came home from school disturbed at discrepancies between the 1954 American history text his eleventh-grade class was using and what his parents had taught him. The Gablers compared his text to history books printed in 1885 and 1921 and discovered differences. “Where can you go to get the truth?” Jim asked.

How dare our understanding of the world change? Although best known to me for their efforts to expunge evolution from biology classes, you can tell that what triggered them, from the timing, was race. Same as nowadays.

Bonnie Wallace’s letter is also revealing. The only reason she isn’t sponsoring a book burning is projection — she’s afraid the liberals want to do the same thing to her cherished books. I swear, though, no one is planning to ban the Bible, and if they were, I’d be right there in opposition. The Bible is a piece of our history, everyone should be exposed to it, just as they should be exposed to our history of slavery and lynchings. Besides, it’s such a useful tool for creating atheists.

She’s also lying about “pornographic filth”. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book is not at all pornographic, but only frankly discusses the effects of racism…but yeah, they don’t want that known.

They also want to ban a whole batch of children’s books, such as Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, which is quite a lovely weird story, and has, as I recall, two pictures of naked little Mickey falling through a dream. My kids giggled at that and always pointed it out because nudity is so highly censored from all of our books. It was innocent, not pornographic, and only stood out because the prudes and assholes have gotten their way for so long.

Now it’s getting worse. They’re dissolving library boards so they can pack them with conservative Republicans.

Cunningham said in a statement that the restructuring of the library board was in keeping with Texas law and past practices to allow for “citizen participation from different perspectives.” The all-female board is overwhelmingly White and Republican, records show.

And the new board was ready to start focusing on its top priorities, including adding content of “academia, educational value and character building” and consulting with a local Christian school about their needs, Wells wrote in one email. Wells, a member of the local tea party who home-schools her six children, did not return calls for comment.

They’re also ridiculously Christian.

Panel members often stop to pray over questions brought up in meetings, and until the Lord answers, they can’t resolve them, according to county officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions.

Most chillingly, they’re quietly disappearing books they don’t like from the libraries, firing librarians, and hinting that they aren’t required to even have a library.

“The board also needs to recognize that the county is not mandated by law to provide a public library,” Cunningham wrote to Wallace in January.

I remember the Satanic panics of the 1980s, when all kinds of baseless nonsense about cults and child sacrifice and secret underground rituals made the rounds (often abetted by the police — ACAB — who made up horrific and false stories to further the repressive bullshit). We’re in the middle of another one right now. Their chants are all about “pedophiles” and “grooming”, and they use them and their lunatic fringe Christianity to justify all kinds of oppression.

Many who spoke praised the commissioners for their recent work “saving the children of Llano County” from “pornography” and “pedophiles,” often breaking into enthusiastic applause and shouts of “Amen!” Tension erupted when latecomers stuck in the hallway attempted to speak. “I’d like to speak in the name of Jesus!” one man yelled.

“Amen!” is the new “Sieg Heil!”

Comments

  1. raven says

    Now the Republicans want to ban math textbooks. Florida has rejected 54 out of 132 proposed math textbooks…

    Is this what they mean by cancel culture?

    Things the GOP/fundie xians want to cancel.
    Math books, CRT, history and history books, democracy, Trans people, gays, uppity women, abortion, vaccines, masks and all other public health measures to fight a novel killer virus, atheists, Islam, Ukraine, Halloween, and nonwhites.
    I’m sure I’ve left some things out.

    These people hate everything and everybody and live in an ever expanding pool of…hate.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Now, now, I have it on good authority that if we stop pointing out that the supporters of these efforts are rednecks, hate-mongers, and Christo-fascists, they wouldn’t be trying to control what our children learn.

  3. lotharloo says

    Very very strongly disagree on those questions being clever. It’s an absolutely horrible way to introduce Math. It’s basically an admission that “Yeah math sucks. I know you don’t want to be doing this, so here’s some flavored text.” There’s really nothing clever about those questions. The math part is boring and the flavored text part is irrelevant, distracting, and pointless mathematically.

  4. raven says

    and hinting that they aren’t required to even have a library.

    In some places, they are even closing the public libraries.

    Douglas county in Oregon is one of them. A large in area, Red county south of Eugene, and mostly rural. In this case, a lot of it was because the libraries require a voted bond levy to operate and the voters didn’t want to pay the taxes. The fact that it was for libraries didn’t help though.

    Strangely enough, there were enough people in Douglas county who were literate and wanted a public library to get them up and running, although mostly for a few hours a week.

    An Oregon county closed all its public libraries.
    These rural, DIY book lovers revived them
    Updated: Dec. 10, 2019, 9:04 a.m. | Published: Jun. 30, 2018, 5:00 a.m.
    By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh | The Oregonian/OregonLive

    RIDDLE — A year ago, Douglas County’s public library branches began to close, one by one, after residents voted down a tax initiative to keep them open as money, and services, dried up in this timber-dependent region.

    The news made headlines. People pondered how a community of loggers and agricultural workers could forego an institution considered by many to be as fundamental to American life as schools and paved roads.

    But since then, one by one, library lovers from here to Reedsport have fought, wrangled and inspired to launch a grass-roots effort to help re-open the doors. Small but growing armies of volunteers have worked to rebuild collection catalogs, staff reference desks and run summer reading programs for kids.

    Drain, Oregon. The town’s local library has been closed since April 2016 after voters in Douglas County rejected a tax proposal to save it and other branches. Beth Nakamura/Staff

    They’ve been aided by their cash-strapped communities, which have managed to drum up donations, hold fundraisers and even pass local tax levies.

    Nine of the 11 closed libraries are now back up and running in a rural DIY fashion. Roseburg, home to what was once the county’s largest library, will begin checking out books and providing free internet access this fall.

  5. says

    Richard Feynman was on a schoolbook committee and told the tale. I just checked and the full story does not appear to be published on the internets, though lots of excerpts are. Short form: he was the only reviewer who read the books and the books were awful. When he complained the publishers tried to influence him.

  6. says

    Really makes me want to buy an old step van, fill the inside with shelves of banned books, and a big sign “Banned Bookmobile” then troll around Texas and Florida. The flaw in the plan is, eew, Texas? Eew. Nope.

  7. raven says

    In my local area some years ago, the local christofascists decided once again to target the public library. Their crime was to have a bank of internet computers (still there and very popular). Which these days, all libraries have.

    The problem was that anyone could use them. Including children. The fundies wanted the library to use Net Nanny software so the kiddies couldn’t access forbidden knowledge such as what people look like without clothes on.

    The library pointed out that they were a library, not a baby sitting service, and it wasn’t their job to supervise everyone’s children. They compromised by putting Censoring software on a few computers with a sign saying, for 18 and under.
    No one ever used them.
    Except me. I would use them because I didn’t care and because they were always available because no one else would get near them.

    The point here, is the cuckoo heads in Texas are living in something that is a cross between the Dark Ages and the mid-20th century. Everyone has access to the internet these days, many with a smart phone that they carry in their pockets. They can burn all the books they want and close all their libraries and people will still be able to access whatever content they want through the internet.

    Given the popularity of the internet and its pervasiveness, the fundies are really just acting out a play where ignorant peasants destroy civilization.

  8. says

    Textbooks in general are rather dismal. They tend to be lowest common denominator reference books, dry and not at all exciting, even when something like history is intrinsically intense and complicated and contentious.

  9. weylguy says

    Next: “2 + 3 = 5” will be banned, because 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread (Matthew 14:13-21) equals thousands.

  10. raven says

    Most pedophiles that make the news are Republicans and/or fundie xian ministers. A typical story.

    Youth pastor facing child sexual assault charges was once …https://www.dallasnews.com › News › Crime
    6 days ago — At least four people have accused a youth pastor of sexually abusing them when they were children, according to court documents and Mesquite …

    There is a reason for this and it was known long ago.

    From “Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches”, by Carolyn Holderread Heggen, Herald Press, Scotdale, PA, 1993 p. 73:

    “A disturbing fact continues to surface in sex abuse research. The first best predictor of abuse is alcohol or drug addiction in the father.
    But the second best predictor is conservative religiosity, accompanied by parental belief in traditional male-female roles.
    This means that if you want to know which children are most likely to be sexually abused by their father, the second most significant clue is *whether or not the parents belong to a conservative religious group with traditional role beliefs and rigid sexual attitudes*. (Brown and Bohn, 1989; Finkelhor, 1986; Fortune, 1983; Goldstein et al, 1973; Van
    Leeuwen, 1990). (emphasis in original)

    You find high rates of child sexual abuse in conservative households and areas where men are assumed to be the dominant role, i.e. the Patriarchial cultures. It’s sky high in fundie, Catholic, and Mormon churches among others for this reason.

  11. larpar says

    Multiple choice doesn’t work for problems like these. You can just substitute in the answers and see which one works.
    Also, I wouldn’t trust a math teacher that goes from 3 to 5 and skips question 4. : )

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    @8 Feynman on textbooks

    “Finally I come to a book that says, “Mathematics is used in science in many ways. We will give you an example from astronomy, which is the science of stars.” I turn the page, and it says, “Red stars have a temperature of four thousand degrees, yellow stars have a temperature of five thousand degrees…” —so far, so good. It continues: “Green stars have a temperature of seven thousand degrees, blue stars have a temperature of ten thousand degrees, and violet stars have a temperature of . . . (some big number).” There are no green or violet stars, but the figures for the others are roughly correct. It’s vaguely right—but already, trouble!

    That’s the way everything was: Everything was written by somebody who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, so it was a little bit wrong, always! And how we are going to teach well by using books written by people who don’t quite understand what they’re talking about, I cannot understand. I don’t know why, but the books are lousy; UNIVERSALLY LOUSY!

    Anyway, I’m happy with this book, because it’s the first example of applying arithmetic to science. I’m a bit unhappy when I read about the stars’ temperatures, but I’m not very unhappy because it’s more or less right—it’s just an example of error. Then [follows] the list of problems. It says, “John and his father go out to look at the stars. John sees two blue stars and a red star. His father sees a green star, a violet star, and two yellow stars. What is the total temperature of the stars seen by John and his father?”—and I would explode in horror….
    source

  13. woozy says

    Also, I wouldn’t trust a math teacher that goes from 3 to 5 and skips question 4. : )

    Well, question 4 is a fairly blase question about what Angelou studied at the California Labor School. It’s only questions 3 and 5 that are that are of provocative content. Out of context they seem almost out of my comfort level, but in context and as a narrative in whole. they are a fairly age appropriate.

    Very very strongly disagree on those questions being clever. It’s an absolutely horrible way to introduce Math.

    I don’t entirely disagree, but these are exactly the same concept of “Math Worksheets” from when I was in Jr. High 45 years ago we had to do crossword(ish) puzzles and graphing connect the dot drawing and filing in the blanks for arbitrary factoid essays (of which a biography of a writer would be very typical– albeit unrelated to the math). I hated those then but they were considered a very standard and accepted way for “busy work” to work in public school math classes.

  14. says

    They can burn all the books they want and close all their libraries and people will still be able to access whatever content they want through the internet.

    Actually, a lot of authoritarians are working toward control of documents on the Internet, including the ability to rewrite such content, Ministry-of-Truth-style, under everyone’s noses. IIRC the Conservative Bible Project explicitly aimed to do just that with the Bible. Internet content is a lot easier to rewrite than paper books.

  15. marner says

    1. That’s not CRT.

    Has the definitional battle of CRT been lost? It sure seems that way to me sometimes.

  16. NitricAcid says

    If people are upset that textbooks differ when they’re published fifty years apart, are they admitting that they want to go back to using textbooks that outright say that the white race is superior to all others? I can provide a reference and scan if anyone thinks I’m exaggerating.

  17. robro says

    NitricAcid @ #19 — I’m fairly sure that some of these idiots would relish going back to textbooks that “outright say that the write race is superior to all others.” They probably believe it whether the text books say it or not.

  18. vucodlak says

    I’m sorry, but problem 3 in particular is a terrible way to teach algebra. I guarantee that if I’d encountered that in ninth grade the only thing I’d get out of it is fucking triggered by the sudden and unexpected introduction of child sexual abuse into a math problem.

    I’ve seen a lot of people defending that shit by saying “ninth graders read about that kind of thing in literature class,” and that’s sometimes true. The difference is that in literature class, one expects to be confronted with challenging reading, and any reading that included something like that was always prefaced with serious trigger warnings* by the teacher, and followed by class discussions of the reading. I think it’s extremely unlikely that you’d get any such warning before a worksheet like this.

    It’s not productive to have students freeze up, freak out, start crying, and/or flee the classroom to attach an irrelevant-to-the-math throwaway factoid to a math problem. Depending on where I was in my mental ups-and-downs, I would have done any or all of those things because some jackass thought they were being clever by reminding ever child who has been the victim of sexual abuse of the abuse they’ve suffered and were possibly still suffering.

    I realize you can’t remove every potentially-triggering reference from class, but you can damn well leave casual mentions of child rape out of a math worksheet.

    I’d add that all problems of that type are completely useless to me anyway, because there is no connection whatsoever between the text and the math itself. I struggled enough with the math itself (not these types of problems specifically, which I found trivial, but slightly more advanced math), and the only way I would be able to deal with problems like this is to either solve the math and ignore the text, or solve the text and ignore the math. With my (then-untreated) ADHD, if I tried to do two things at once then neither gets done.

    None of which has anything to do with Florida or Texas’ book bans, because the Republicans of those states are objecting to things like this worksheet because they’re flaming racists, rather than out of any concern for children. Frankly, if they knew how upsetting things like that question potentially are to some survivors, they’d probably be mandating that every class exercise included references to rape. Racist references to rape, like Jebus intended.

    *This was in the late ‘90s, before the right began publicly freaking about losing out on the opportunity to re-traumatize people that springing upsetting material on them brings and began fighting for the right to traumatize students at will.

  19. whheydt says

    A long time ago, there was a proposed California state constitutional ballot issue, nicknamed the “Clean Amendment”. It was to crack down on “pornography”. It would have allowed anyone to sue anyone else to stop them from distributing “pornographic literature”. It lost in a landslide after a group very publicly announced their intent to see the Gideon Society for such distribution if it passed.

  20. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #3…
    Your list missed other Christians that don’t hew to the party line in all particulars.

  21. ajbjasus says

    @5. Completely agree, it seems hugely patronising to me, and a lot of students will sense that. The story
    /puzzle has nothing to do with showing maths is useful. Reminds me of Christian’s sticking Jesus into everything.

    However if it’s not even a text book the argument is academic anyway

  22. Walter Solomon says

    Raging Bee @17

    Actually, a lot of authoritarians are working toward control of documents on the Internet, including the ability to rewrite such content, Ministry-of-Truth-style, under everyone’s noses.

    Sounds like something taken from the plot of video game, literally

  23. gijoel says

    @18 At this point CRT is just a dog whistle to get the pearl clutchers baying for blood.

  24. jrkrideau says

    I bet countries like China and India love these US book battles. Heck here in Canada I rather like them. It just ups our competitive edge.

    I’d move to ban the Bible as it advocates genocide and seems to approve of incest.

  25. lotharloo says

    @16:

    I don’t entirely disagree, but these are exactly the same concept of “Math Worksheets” from when I was in Jr. High 45 years ago we had to do crossword(ish) puzzles and graphing connect the dot drawing and filing in the blanks for arbitrary factoid essays (of which a biography of a writer would be very typical– albeit unrelated to the math). I hated those then but they were considered a very standard and accepted way for “busy work” to work in public school math classes.

    That’s a fair point and I know there are a lot of different ways to try and make the very dry and pointless “busy work” as you say less boring. My problem is that this way of doing math is completely wrong. The goal of education should be promoting understanding and not boring mechanical stuff.

    When I was in high school I hated history and I loved math because I could understand math whereas history to me was just memorizing (a large number of) facts about the past. Both were taught in a brain-dead way that does not promote any level of understanding. If you don’t understand math, then high school math looks like a pointless process of memorizing formulas and facts about abstract things, just like how history was to me. The difference is that in the past decades I have realized that history can be taught in a very different and engaging way to promote understanding rather than memorization facts and I think the same thing should be done with math though. Yet somehow the ability to do boring math is considered desirable so it is highly unlikely that it will happen.

  26. Silentbob says

    My only problem would be that it’s multiple choice. That’s not how you learn algebra.

    You can cheat just by plugging in the values and seeing if the equations work. You’re supposed to substitute one variable with the equation given in terms of the other variable and then solve for the remaining variable. This encourages you to just use a process of elimination instead, skipping over the whole point of learning how to manipulate equations by performing the same operation on both sides, etc. :-(

  27. lanir says

    @raven #13:

    You find high rates of child sexual abuse in conservative households

    That’s probably why that sort of person tends to be so dismissive of any claims of child abuse that sound credible to me. If it doesn’t have the fantasy spin they want, they reject it because the truth makes their lifestyle look a while lot less wholesome than they’re comfortable with. Personally I wouldn’t put so much as a wooden nickel or a token for a free beer at a bar in the church offering until I knew my money wasn’t going to fund real actual pedophiles. If they want to fantasize about pesos everywhere they already know where to look, they just refuse to do so.

  28. rrhain says

    If your first thought when looking at a picture of a child who happens to not be wearing clothes, especially in the context of a children’s book, is sex…

    …then you’re the pedophile.

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