A Texas lawmaker running for office announced an investigation of school district books on race and sexuality – targeting a 16-page list of 850 titles.
Four of them were written by the Duchess Harris, a professor at Macalester College.
“I couldn’t feel more accomplished,” Harris wrote on Facebook. “You think I’m sarcastic, but it was #lifegoals.”
By phone, she expressed her “deep concerns” about the politics that determine whether and how young people learn US history, resulting in deep knowledge gaps that persist in college and beyond. .
“I can be silly about it on social media,” Harris said. “But there are long term implications for how Americans are educated.”
In a letter last week, first reported by the Texas Tribune, State Representative Matt Krause demanded that school districts in his state report how many copies of the books they own and how many they have spent on them. His concern, in part, was with books containing material that “might cause students to experience discomfort, guilt, anguish or some other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, said Krause’s action was part of a larger trend to stigmatize books by and about marginalized groups, including the community. LGBTQ, Black Americans and People of Color.
“It is an effort to simply erase the experiences of groups that have traditionally been marginalized and silenced by our society,” she said. “Just as we allow them to participate fully, we take many steps back. “
Any soft censorship by an elected official or government entity of an idea or point of view should be taken seriously, Caldwell-Stone added, because the next step is the type of censorship we associate with authoritarian or despotic governments. .
“It really goes against some of our most cherished democratic rights and values.”
Why those 850 pounds, in particular? Krause’s letter offered no explanation as to how the list had been compiled.
It features “Caste” by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, two titles from National Book Award winner-Ta-Nehisi Coates and “George” by Alex Gino, the story of a 10-year-old transgender girl. which for three years dominated the library association’s most contested book list.
Minnesota author Junauda Petrus is on the list for her young adult novel “The Stars and the Darkness Between Them,” which tells the story of two 16-year-old girls who come of age in Minneapolis and embrace the one from the other. The name of US Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Also appears: she wrote the preface to a book of essays called “Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage”.
When Harris learned that four of his books had landed on the list, his first thought was, “Which ones?
That’s because the professor of American Studies and Political Science has written some 125 books for young people, many with provocative titles. Two grappling with the murder of George Floyd. The titles listed, including “Protesting Police Violence in Modern America” and “Political Resistance in the Current Age”, were not what she or her husband would have guessed.
One of his goals in writing them was to highlight lesser-known characters and moments in black history.
“I hope people start learning these stories before they finish high school,” she said in 2018, “so that by the time they get to my class, I will have someone that says, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of this before.’
“Because it’s my challenge in class, no one has ever heard of what I teach. And that gets us started slowly. “
The first reading Harris demands of his freshmen is a New York Times survey of the drastically different versions of US history that young people receive through textbooks in Texas compared to California, “from a way that is overshadowed by partisan politics, ”according to one newspaper.
“It’s very hard to understand the events that are happening in 2020 if you don’t understand the 1960s,” Harris said. “It’s not about agreeing – it’s about people with accurate information.”