It’s time to reject the notion that restricting the flow of knowledge is in any way beneficial to our society.
Nashville locals protest state bill restricting library book selection
“I would hate to see my education system limited by a board that has almost no diversity,” Williamson County student Lindsay Hornick said.
- Ryan Foster is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University in journalism.
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon, ”said Ray Bradbury in his novel” Fahrenheit 451. “
As I watched House Bill (HB) 2666 make its way through the Tennessee General Assembly, I was reminded of this literary classic I read as a high school sophomore. Of course, I did not take the time to think that way until I had time to process that this was being debated in my home state – supported by lawmakers in my own party.
It was only a century ago that literacy rates in select parts of the states reached 70%. “Fahrenheit 451” was published in 1953, and Orwell’s famous “1984” was published just four years before.
Both literary masterpieces have been placed at the forefront of the contemporary movement against censorship and restriction of speech.
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Republicans have strayed from their platform
Growing up, I was told that the Republican Party was the party of small government, the party of business and the party of family values.
The party has strayed from the aforementioned values as I, and millions of other Americans, have come to discover. As I – and millions of other Americans – have come to discover, the party has strayed from the aforementioned values. Despite the Evangelical Right’s supposed pushback against “cancel culture,” we’re seeing their own twisted and equally demented version.
Despite the Evangelical Right’s supposed pushback against “cancel culture,” we’re seeing their own twisted and equally demented version.
Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, of District 25 pushed for this legislation with support from most of the state’s Republicans. State Rep. Jerry SextonR-Bean Station, of District 35 said he “would burn” what he considers inappropriate, as reported by The Tennessean. As for the Speaker, I have three sets of questions:
- What materials do you consider to be inappropriate? What case studies have you found indicating this a visible threat worth proposing this legislation?
- Where do you draw the line between a supposed protection of children from these materials and government censorship? If children can be taught religious and classical stories – many of which contain an abundance of references to murder, rape, genocide, etc. – then why can not children learn materials that librarians carefully review and determine to be appropriate?
- As a follow-up, do you and others in the General Assembly honestly believe libraries can be run better by bureaucrats than the librarians themselves?
If so, whether demonstrated by your rhetoric or governance, this contradicts Page 10 of the Republican platform – developed initially in 2016 and renewed in 2020. Specifically: “Unelected bureaucrats & mldr; now write countless rules with the force of law and arbitrarily punish individuals who disobey those rules. ”
Access to knowledge is more beneficial
This is literally our version of an unelected bureaucracy wielding the very power our party promised to put a stop to. Are we not even pretending to be the party of limited government anymore?
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Partisan squabbling aside, history evidently frowns upon those who seek to crush dissent, to censor the content they find “unpatriotic” or “inappropriate,” if you will. In the words commonly attributed to French philosopher Voltaire: “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Librarians are one of the many unsung heroes of our public schoolsan institution that both sides of the aisle and all levels of government have consistently failed.
It’s time to reject the notion that restricting the flow of knowledge is in any way beneficial to our society. As a former high school student, new college graduate, seasoned activist and informed citizen, I trust our librarians and teachers to educate far more than I will ever trust a bureaucrat who has not stepped into a classroom since the 2000s.
I am worried about the impact this legislation will have on our public schools and its future. The struggle against censorship is not over, but it will be an uphill battle.
Ryan Foster is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University in journalism.