Should We Burn Ray Bradbury’s Books?

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Book cover for Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

I just read an essay by Katie Naum at the Electric Lit website called The New ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Movie Fails to Reckon with Bradbury’s Racism.

First of all, I had no idea HBO had remade the film adaptation of Bradbury’s classic novel (I have seen the 1966 film version, and of course I’ve read the novel a number of times). Secondly, Ms. Naum and I seem to have read very different novels titled Fahrenheit 451 and authored by Ray Bradbury.

Here’s what I mean, quoting from Naum’s essay:

I still have that same copy of Fahrenheit 451 — a trade paperback edition printed circa 1993, whose creased cover and flammable pages are already yellowed and crumbling. I reread it prior to watching the new film version, starring Michael B. Jordan as protagonist Guy Montag, and Michael Shannon as his boss — and ultimately, the bad guy — Captain Beatty. The novel was largely as I remembered it, until I got to the end. At the back of the book, there are a few pages Bradbury wrote decades later, in 1979, where he gets into what he thinks the real threat to literature is. I’d forgotten that reading this coda as a child always left me feeling uncomfortable, in a way I couldn’t fully interpret yet.

He is angry at a “solemn young Vassar lady” who asked whether he might write more female characters. He is angry at other readers who disapprove of how he wrote “the blacks” in one of his stories. He is angry at “the Irish,” “the Chicano intellectuals,” at “every minority” that has some perspective on his stories at variance with his. In his own words, every last one of them “feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse…. Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.”

Sorry for the lengthy quote, but I wanted to provide enough specific information to convey the issue at hand.

I don’t remember racist themes from Fahrenheit 451 or any of the other Bradbury novels and short stories I’ve consumed over the years, but then, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of his works, and the memory fades after a while. Also, being white, old, male, and a bunch of other “non-progressive” things, I probably wasn’t reading with that sort of thing in mind (though no doubt, when I read that novel again some day, I’ll certainly be looking for what Ms. Naum says).

Was Ray Bradbury a racist? There’s nothing about it on his Wikipedia and Britannica pages, and of course, I wouldn’t expect to find any word of it on his official website.

It’s mentioned at Reddit but not given much emphasis. Afro-Caribbean-American writer P. Djeli Clark addresses the issue on his blog and he concludes:

But, again, this was 1950 and 1951. And in the time these stories were written, they were powerful. Heck, to cause this lengthy of a blog, they still are. So thanks for all the thought-provoking and entertaining tales Mr. Bradbury. You’ll be sorely missed. And just so you know, if you were that old white guy on that rocket ship–I’d let you stay too.

I found an article at the National Coalition Against Censorship titled Censorship and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury written way back in 1998 and quoting an eighth-grade teacher. She had been teaching from The Martian Chronicles and one of the chapters was about a racist character calling African-American characters “the N-word,” except the book actually uses the word.

An African-American parent of one of her students objected to the teacher reading that word out loud rather than substituting “the N-word” as I’m doing here. The parent went through a lengthy complaint process and eventually had the book removed from the curriculum (it was advanced to the 10th grade level).

I did discover the following quote on Wikiquote which was taken from a 1996 Playboy interview with Bradbury:

Science fiction offers the chance to pretend to look the other way while teaching. Science fiction is also a great way to pretend you are writing about the future when in reality you are attacking the recent past and the present. You can criticize communists, racists, fascists or any other clear and present danger, and they can’t imagine you are writing about them. (emph. mine)

Apparently, Bradbury didn’t see himself as a racist.

Ray Bradbury was a product of his times, just as we all are. He was born on August 22, 1920, and by 1950 when The Martian Chronicles was published, or 1953 when Fahrenheit 451 was published, perhaps his views on race weren’t as enlightened as we’d expect of him if he were alive today (He died in 2012 at the age of 91).

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First lady Michelle Obama, with Dr. Seuss characters the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2, reads to local students as part of her “Let’s Move, Let’s Read!” initiative, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The book, Dr. Seuss’­s “Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good for You: All About Staying Healthy,” has been updated with the help of the Partnership for a Healthier America and includes healthy foods and exercises. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP)

Last September, I wrote a small essay called The Night They Burned “The Cat in the Hat,” which was my fictional retort to the complaint of Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soerio that Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was a racist.

Of course, Ms. Soerio was really complaining because First Lady Melania Trump had donated a number of books to her school including some written by Dr. Seuss. It was more (from my point of view) her taking a shot at Trump rather than Seuss, but it’s a related issue.

Many of the classic authors we read in school (or we read because they write well and we enjoy their stories) were not or are not perfect people. Some are breathtakingly imperfect.

My parents were really big John Wayne fans. Several years ago when my Dad was still alive, I visited them, and every night we watched a different John Wayne film (I think it was “John Wayne week” on one of the cable channels). But John Wayne said some terribly racist things. In fact, Wayne’s actual views compared to what Bradbury or Geisel have been accused of make them look absolutely pristine.

There’s an airport in Orange County, California named after Wayne, but two years ago California lawmakers rejected a proposal to create “John Wayne Day” because of what he had said in that 1971 Playboy interview (Playboy was apparently good at getting celebrities to talk about their real views).

I’m not nearly the fan of Wayne that my parents were, and I don’t go out of my way to watch his films, but I probably wouldn’t refuse to see one because of his opinions (Fun fact: As an undergrad, I took a number of film classes including one on the American Western, and many of the movies I watched featured John Wayne). I still read my granddaughter Dr. Seuss books including “The Cat in the Hat,” and truth be told, I will one day re-read one or more of Bradbury’s speculative fiction novels.

I can understand if, as a matter of principle, some may choose to boycott Bradbury’s books (and any other forms of entertainment based on them). Some, like the school librarian I mentioned above, may boycott Dr. Seuss books (although after she made her infamous statements, news and social media pundits found quite a number of photos of her reading and promoting Dr. Seuss books to her students), or John Wayne films (which probably aren’t very popular with anyone who is much younger than I am).

That’s fine, although it’s my understanding that Geisel modified his views over the years, and the opinions he held during World War Two vastly changed in subsequent years. Although I doubt Wayne’s viewpoints ever modified with time, for all Bradbury may have been guilty of, as far as I can tell, not a lot of people noticed racist content in his works or took it as terribly threatening.

Naum ends her essay with:

To commit fully to Bradbury’s views on intellectual freedom is to accept an exclusionary stance that doesn’t play nicely with what few social justice-oriented moments the movie does include.

Imagine, instead, a retelling that amplifies voices forgotten by the Western canon Bradbury championed. Imagine a story of a dystopian society where a person of color encountered the words of their ancestors for the first time — literature that has frequently been suppressed in real life — and found something that spoke to them personally. Imagine Khandi Alexander’s character telling us why Toni Morrison spoke to her so deeply that she committed every word to heart. Imagine Montag actually reading the words of Richard Wright and Frederick Douglass, and finding out for himself why they made white people angry. In this retelling, more readers and more voices don’t water down literature to an insipid norm. They bring it to life — bursting with powerful ideas from all different perspectives, and all the more revolutionary because of it. What an incendiary story that would be.

I don’t disagree with this particular view, and I do believe in leveling the playing field so that everyone who wants to, has the opportunity to have their voices heard by being published (and the blogosphere and indy publishing makes that incredibly easy, though garnering a wider audience might be difficult). However that doesn’t mean throwing away Ray Bradbury for the sake of bringing in and consuming the writing of a wider variety of perspectives.

A couple of months ago, I wrote Am I Wasting My Time Trying to Become a Published Science Fiction/Fantasy Author?. I’ve been reading the opinions of a number of conservative and religious science fiction authors which state that in order to promote diversity and inclusiveness, their works and their presence at a number of science fiction conventions have been opposed, sometimes rather forcefully. Assuming that’s true and I have no reason not to believe it, this is a terrifying trend.

To me, inclusiveness doesn’t mean accepting only some voices while rejecting others you disagree with. I’m not advocating for a bunch of Neo-Nazi skinheads or pedophiles getting published as speculative fiction authors, and certainly wouldn’t support them expressing their views publicly, especially at what are called “family friendly” conventions. However, I do think there’s room for Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and other religious authors. I think there’s room for male authors, straight authors, white authors, old authors who are trying to get published (hint, hint), bald authors, overweight authors, and otherwise not-perfect people as authors. That is, imperfect or unacceptable according to someone’s highly specific standards, be it the speculative fiction publishing industry, a collection of science fiction “cons,” the entertainment industry in general, or anything else.

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Author Ray Bradbury, 1980 – Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images – Found on his obituary page as MSNBC.

If Ms. Naum wants to write a speculative fiction novel about a dystopian society “where a person of color encountered the words of their ancestors for the first time,” or “actually reading the words of Richard Wright and Frederick Douglass, and finding out for himself why they made white people angry,” she is certainly free to do so. I might even read it (a few months back, I did read and reviewed A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, since I do enjoy a variety of opinions).

If you want to make the world a better place, I don’t think you’re going to do it by censorship, exclusion, or bullying. I do think people can change for the better when everyone is allowed the opportunity to exchange ideas and explain why they believe what they believe. Education, as opposed to censorship, is a good thing.

It doesn’t mean we’ll agree 100% of the time, but we might find out that instead of liberals, or conservatives, or religious people, or atheists, or whoever, or whatever being really horrible monsters who must be vilified, demonized, hated, and rejected from society, they and we are merely human beings and actually have a lot in common.

We’ll never know until we stop playing “us vs. them” games and start communicating, particularly in a way that doesn’t immediately alienate our desired audience. That audience is everyone.

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20 thoughts on “Should We Burn Ray Bradbury’s Books?

  1. People see racism where there isn’t any because they choose to. Fahrenheit 451 is a great dystopian story (and one with many themes being played out today). I agree with you that an open exchange of ideas, views, and opinions is what will push us further, but I don’t see that happening. For many, not having people agree with you is seen as “not listening” when it is really just the opposite. Just the other day I was called a racist (by a Twitter somebody of other) because I disagreed with their view on critical race theory. I could go on and on for hours about why I disagree with that theory, but it is not worth debating or discussing it with people who hold the “I’m right — you’re wrong” view. I think if most people would just shut up for a minute, they will see they are fighting for the same cause–but are going about it differently. Those differences is what causes progress (if that is what you are looking for) to fail. Not to go off on a tangent, but its like the suffrage movement. That whole process took over 50 years. They didn’t reach their goal because a hundred different people had a hundred different ways to get there. They finally reached it because they had a single group of leaders who said this is how it needs to be done. Every change in social norms and values has been achieved because the people changed and demanded change in others. Even the LGTBQ+ movement has had generational “leaders” that rallied the people toward their common cause. To call Bradbury a racist is flat out small minded and short-sighted, but to each their own. I am now proud to say that I own a copy if others are going to view a dystopian work of fiction as racist. One day things will get back to normal and we can all get on with living.

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    • I suppose statements like “the blacks,” “the Chicano intellectuals,” and “every minority” could be considered racist, especially in today’s social and political climate, but it’s unlikely Bradbury was a racist in the sense of the KKK, Neonazis, or white supremists. I don’t doubt that he disliked suggestions regarding putting more women, people of color, or (if people were speaking to him today) LGTBQ people in his works, because they were his works. He conceived of them through his own lens (if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor.

      That said, at some point, a creator loses complete control of their creation once a sufficient number of people start to love it. I’ve seen that happen with both Star Trek and Star Wars relative to fan reaction to their respective resurrections. While those franchises are owned by corporations and the owners can do anything they want with their property, it’s really the fans, who so closely identified with the originals, who emotionally “own” them.

      Perhaps that’s the reason people wanted Bradbury to create works that included the people (people of color, woman) they more closely identify with. It’s like saying, “I love your writing but I’d like to see a bit of myself in your stories.”

      That he didn’t increasingly represent said-characters in his story doesn’t make him racist or sexist, just an author who owned his work.

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      • See, I guess I am in the minority of people who read books and ask whether I can see myself in them. That’s not why I read. I love reading because, if the author is good, I can be any of their characters. The author is great if I can invent a character within their world and carry on the story the way I want it to. That’s why I don’t really understand the whole argument over books and their characters. Nothing said Cinderella couldn’t be Hispanic, a person of color, or even an alien…it is a character that can be anything the reader wants her to be. It doesn’t make me, or anyone else who thinks that, a racist. Perhaps the problem is not with the author or their work, but with the reader wanting something to be there that isn’t. I think playing to fans is horrible and affected many great shows.

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      • I’m currently reading a collection of science fiction short stories set in the same universe called Galactic North authored by Alastair Reynolds and I don’t identify with any of the characters, but I love the book (although some of the “medical” information is disturbing). As far as I can tell, it has exactly zero social commentary unless you count the fact that women are as prominently featured as men (although now that I think about it, so far 100% of his villains are male).

        Bradbury wrote what you would call “soft” science fiction, and spoke more about human culture and society, and so could leave himself more open to criticism of his political and personal beliefs, assuming they’re accurately expressed in his writing. On the other hand, his stories remain classics (as evidenced by HBO making a film version of “Fahrenheit 451”) so I suppose he still has something to say. In fact, one of my sons (the liberal one) read his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes some months ago and enjoyed it, so it must not have been horrible from that political/social perspective.

        As far as “playing to the fans,” I guess it depends on how it’s handled. People become fans because they’re heavily drawn to characters and the stories in which they’re portrayed. The difference between the first Star Wars trilogy and the rest of the franchise is dramatic. The second trilogy, which was controlled by George Lucas, had his vision, but whatever he managed to imbue the first three movies with was missing for some reason. Then, when Disney got their hands on it, they reshaped the vision entirely and it became, in the eyes of a lot of us, “not-Star Wars” the way that Star Trek is now “not-Star Trek.”

        Some of that has to do with the passage of time. It’s like these superhero movies. you can’t write them the same way as was done 50 years ago because they could seem archaic, but on the other hand, their essential qualities have to be maintained for them to be “them.” That’s why Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) was such a success for me. The filmmakers preserved the essential essence of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, even though it was set in the present and not in the early or mid-1960s through the 1970s when I was reading those comics. It can be done as long as the writers and movie makers respect their creations. If they do that, the fans will love it.

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      • I read today that Lucas said he is glad that Disney rejected his ideas because he would have ruined the series.

        One of my favorite shows is Doctor Who and, while I agree that shows change as times change, how they changed the dogma built from the original show is very off putting. Still, I watch it though.

        I don’t think we should look back on anything and judge it by today’s standards and social norms and values. To do that devalues what the original artist created.

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      • In an interview, Andy Weir, author of The Martian and an incredibly smart guy was asked, “Star Trek or Star Wars?”

        His answer was “Doctor Who,” so you’re in good company.

        I tried watching some episodes back in the late 1970s but could never get attached to it. I’ve actually reduced my television viewing to anything I have handy on DVD or can rent for free from the public library, so I suppose I’ll never have the pleasure (I did score and find the entire Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and thoroughly enjoyed it).

        As far as judging the past by today’s standards, I did find a review on Amazon of the 1966 British science fiction novel Colossus written by Dennis Feltham Jones that criticized the author’s handling of female characters and gender roles, and when I re-read the book, it seems all Jones was doing was trying to depict how he thought sex would be handled in the future (he didn’t do a very predictive job since it read like something out of a James Bond film). Unfortunately, some people want to anachronistically judge art and literature of the past as if it were created yesterday.

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  2. It seems to me, James, that a significant bit of what you’re reporting is ad-hominum censorship. In other words, someone who never actually knew an author in question reads some phrase or statements and jumps to the likely-unwarranted presumption that the author held certain undesirable or questionable views — and for that reason they wish to boycott or destroy the author’s work. Where, I wonder, is the analysis of the specific statements in one work or another? I say, ignore the personal views of author, whatever they might have been, and focus on what was written and the cultural context in which it was written. Analyze for what purpose it was written, and consider what may have impelled it. If there are views expressed therein that are morally questionable, challenge them to elucidate their error. If a character uses “the N-word”, for example, evaluate why this was so, and whether it was expressed deliberately as an insulting slur or if it was an incidental artifact of the culture depicted in the story. If the story is being encountered by children, ensure that they are taught to understand the meaning and history of the word, and why people in the present react to it as they do. The analysis of literature is an educational exercise. It offers opportunities to teach morals; it should not be made an excuse for some crusade. There are many other examples besides the N-word where some questionable view offers similar opportunities for analysis and education toward moral evaluation.

    But one of the primary messages of “Fahrenheit 451” was precisely that the destruction of literature (or the denigration of its authors) for political purposes should be unacceptable. If there is to be criticism, let it seek higher purposes such as truthfulness. There exists literature, for example, that denies historical or scientific reality. If it advocates the falsehood that the earth is flat, and advocates pseudo-science in place of verifiable science, there is justification to delegitimize it and ignore it. If it denies that the Nazi Holocaust and genocide of Jews did not occur, there is justification to delegitimize it and ignore it. In some rare cases, it may be worthwhile analyzing even these literatures to show what is their motivation and their process of falsification. If it claims that Elvis is still alive, it may be merely laughable. But if it claims that the Jewish state of Israel is invalid and unjustified, and its land stolen from Arabs, then its falsehoods have a political and religious purpose that must be refuted, because human lives are at stake. Nonetheless, their wrong-ness is not because of who wrote them; but it is determined rather from what is written and promulgated, along with its consequences.

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    • I think there are some people who are able to compartmentalize their thoughts and emotions and read a book to assess its merit, even if they don’t always agree with the author’s personal opinions, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with other folks. It’s like they sift every word and sentence a person says or writes seeking out “offensive” material. Once “triggered” by a single bit of data with which they disagree, they push the panic button and deem the individual “unclean.”

      Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, at least I hope I am, but it seems just as nuts to go after Bradbury as it does Dr. Seuss (Geisel) because he didn’t have a perfect record of 21st century progressivism in the 1950s. If, on the other hand, someone was criticizing John Wayne for the views he expressed in his 1971 Playboy interview, I could see why they’d be upset. Wayne may have been an iconic Hollywood hero, but some of the things he said would have made David Duke blush. Even then, for all his flaws, Wayne was a hero and role model for generations who watched his films and to some degree, probably still is today.

      I do believe there is a certain segment of the population that seems dedicated to taking as much offense as possible given the least amount of provocation, and blowing it way, way out of proportion. In demanding that 100% of all human communication, be it speech, writing, music, television, and film, be santitized for it gives absolutely no offense of specific groups (but not all groups – you can still say what you want about Christians, Jews, American Southerners, and so forth), they are promoting the very censorship and dumbing down of the western nations that Bradbury feared.

      I chose my title as an allusion to Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” but I wonder when or if we will actually see book burnings. Reminds me of that scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

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  3. John Wayne was a role model in a scene from The Birdcage for one of the main characters. I agree with a lot, maybe most, of what you said in your opening meditation. I do, though, think it’s fine that a book with the “n-word” was removed from the middle school curriculum and moved to tenth grade. You didn’t share your opinion on this, but it annoys me that so many famous people did interviews with Playboy way back when (or especially disappoints me they hung out at the playboy “mansion”). I was just yesterday looking at a video of parents who went to a school board or city meeting to express their offense over a book that had been read to their four-year-old son. The father, a firefighter and veteran, had volunteered to help at school one day on the anniversary of 9/11 — and found the children were sitting at one point to hear a book about families with two mommies and two daddies. I have never seen books like this, although I’ve certainly heard of them, so I was curious what these parents would say.

    I was very happy for them because they presented well and never got extreme and were quite genuine and thoughtful. For some reason, diversity was supposed to be a special theme of the day. But the teacher’s take on that was mistaken. And when the dad tried to talk to that specific classroom teacher about it, he wasn’t getting anywhere. He had tried to point out that there were no families like his (with a mother and father) in the book. She just responded along the line of diversity and a requirement. When the parents got to speak at the general meeting, he shared this account and the rule for the day that he and his wife had looked into as well as further thoughts. What if a child hearing about this didn’t know yet that he or she was adopted and now had to deal with that topic when the parents had not decided they (the parents or the child) were ready? And why wasn’t their child “included” in the book about families? To top it all off, either one or both of them (not at the same time) read from the diversity rule.

    There was no articulation that different sexual or gender configurations of families should be presented. In fact, the guideline or law (whatever level of directive it was) did get into some detail on the subject and said the definition of diversity for the purposes of the aim did not mean such matters had to be brought up or depicted. Thus, these two parents asked that the book be removed not only from the classroom but from the school library. Dad even had gone and picked up several other books at that library serving the diversity purpose (not clear on whether any of them included some same sex parents, but that had been clarified as not a sticking point anyway). I was viewing this because it had been an option on the right side of my screen when I’d been watching presentations about a supposed “transsexual agenda” (different topic but usually in the same wheelhouse… pushing panic buttons and all that). I’d not looked for any of these; likely came up because of my interest in intersex subjects.

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  4. What an incredible interesting post! I love reading ‘old’ authors. So many of them are absolutely politically incorrect for today’s mindset. Yet, to take them out or not read them is exactly what Bradbury was talking about in 451. (authors of dubious and fun works include Eleanor Porter, Wodehouse, Grace Livingston Hill, Jean Webster, Burnett, Margaret Sidney, Silverstien, Heinlein, and so many more.) I remember reading MacCaffrey as a teen and it didn’t even dawn on me til years later that dragon riders in her books were gay. Ursula K. LeGuin wrote before her time, too. Yes, most of those authors mentioned are white and wrote in a time when lines in society were drawn with a thick permanent marker. It doesn’t matter.
    When we stifle words of the past, we stifle our future. Just because something bothers us doesn’t mean we should ignore it. That is how FB works, you are surrounded with people who think just like you and the logarithms keep those ideas and people at the top of your newsfeed and you don’t often venture out of it to find new thoughts. Crazy world we live in. Thank goodness for people like you who do write and think and let others see into a view they may not feel comfortable with all the time.

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    • Hi, Marleen — Just watched your YouTube link, and it appeared to me that the parents of the 4-year-old spoke clearly, reasonably, and justifiably to argue that the book presented in their child’s classroom failed to serve the purported purpose of “diversity” because it did not include the values represented in his own family and culture. Further, the book had a controversial reputation, it had been sanctioned and banned in other locations for similar reasons, and there were other books better suited to the purpose of teaching diversity and inclusion. In addition, the parents justifiably challenged the inappropriateness of the material for the 4-year-old age-group, in that it addressed issues that do not occur naturally to children of that age unless they are forced upon them, as well as issues such as adoption that parents rightly may have reserved for discussion with their child at a later time when all affected family members would be deemed ready to address them together. Hence at issue was not merely some questionable material, but a failure to respect parental responsibilities and decision-making.

      There was no suggestion of censorship or book-burning, except perhaps in the recommendation that the particular book should be removed also from some set of libraries in addition to excluding it from the elementary curriculum. If the libraries in question were specific to elementary schooling level materials, even *that* suggestion is not excessive. It merely shifts any discussion of questionable, even tendentious, material to anther venue where it might be addressed appropriately. Most appropriately, this video depicted individuals addressing the specific content of an educational artifact, and the consequences of its application in a specific context — rather than complaining about vast generalities and ideologies and personalities, or overreacting by demanding draconian political responses.

      The video does call into question the apparent failure of a public school board to exercise appropriate judgment, and its disrespect of parental responsibility, family values, community values, and even national (constitutional) values, due to a misguided attempt to pursue some other dubious sense of values. I would suggest that the situation depicted in this video is of such a nature that it justifies the increasing popularity of forsaking public schools that are sponsored and controlled as governmental agencies in favor of private schools controlled locally by committees of parents, including the home-schooling option. Indeed, communities of parents might well institute class-action lawsuits to reclaim the school properties and facilities in their communities that their tax dollars funded, in order to establish local controls and standards in place of questionable national impositions. It might even become possible for some larger facilities to house multiple “schools”, each characterized by a curriculum tailored to some distinctive portion of the general community. Further political initiatives might address how taxes should be allocated for educational purposes, further reducing non-local political influences. The basic public educational system designed to deal with masses of American children born shortly after WW2 has been declining for some time in its effectiveness to deal with the needs for educational capability and quality some 70 years later. It would seem reasonable at this time to consider some new educational models, and perhaps to re-invent or borrow from some older ones.

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    • It’s not censorship or book burning to withhold materials from children that are not age (or otherwise) appropriate. That’s why a rating system was created for films and music, and certainly a public education system should exercise good judgment in determining which teaching materials are acceptable and beneficial for four year olds.

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      • Hi, James. While there may be good reasons for a rating system for films and music (and video games and whatever else), I may disagree with the system. There were G movies I didn’t want my kids to see and R movies that were acceptable. I didn’t leave it up to strangers with who knows what values to make decisions about my children. Nevertheless, the rating system isn’t a “bad” thing. It helps in a general sense. In a similar way as I would evaluate such things myself and not just “go along,” a parent can evaluate what is happening in a classroom and perhaps challenge the decisions (or particular decisions) that have been made (or might be looming). I think the parents of the four-year-old helped a lot of families by speaking up. They helped the school board too, as the board might not have known this book was in two of their schools (only two, you may have noticed — these could easily have been donated or brought by individuals). With the information on what had happened, they could now refocus the teacher (and perhaps additional teachers) on the actual directive. True, there was no book burning. There was also no book burning when a young adult book/series was moved to tenth grade instead of eighth. Now, in the case of that discussion, the reading in question actually had been part of the curriculum. So that took a bit more effort to address. There, the board and parental input and so forth could similarly decide one way or a number of others.

        Hi, PL. I am very “pro” home education. I did that myself with my children for most of the time. I am also pro public education (also pro private education and attended private schools for most of my years before high school graduation, with a number of years being in public school mid elementary). I doubt that whole-sale overturning of public education would accomplish what some people imagine. I don’t remember the exact wording, but there is a Jewish teaching that things belonging to the whole community belong to you (because things that are bought and sold don’t). Certainly an individual home belongs to the family (so long as they keep their heads above water). Also, coops and so forth can work but sometimes don’t. And with “privatization,” most people aren’t going to be owning those schools (as is currently the case that most people don’t own those schools). Thus when there is a problem you can be told to just go away. Maybe someone will listen about the problem, maybe no one will. With public education, there is a basic availability of education. But that isn’t what I was getting into, although I suppose it is implied as one recourse for parents. The variety of home-schooling parents (from fundamentally religious to atheist and whatever else — relaxed to absolutely by the book) makes it most likely that they do some things together possibly and most things not in conjunction. I’ve heard of a local church that does half private schooling and half home. Different.

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      • I think the various rating systems were created to give parents an idea of what might be acceptable for certain age groups, but it’s ultimately still the parent’s decision on what their children should consume. It’s one of the reasons why my son let me show my nine-year-old grandson the film “The Martian,” even though it drops a few “F-bombs.” Watney’s speech at the end of the movie is absolutely terrific and encouraging.

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  5. Must improve one sentence: But home v public wasn’t what I was getting into, although I suppose home is or can be implied as one recourse for (some) parents.

    (It is also the case that public is a recourse for some families — or the kids — when home or private doesn’t work out. I have a friend who needed to switch from parochial to urban. Worked out great.)

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