Texas feels a lot like Fahrenheit 451 these days. Not because it is summer, though that’s part of it, but because the new school year is exposing some of the cartoonish and harmful acts the government is committing to control our students’ education.
Remember Anne Frank and her generation-inspiring diary? Yeah, that’s off the shelves in Keller ISD. The Bluest Eye? What about Toni Morrison’s sprawling debut novel that takes on racism, child abuse, societal warping of self-image, and other subjects that might be especially relevant to young teenagers? Yeah, that’s also gone. The Bible’s a nonstarter there as well.
You might be wondering: Why is this happening? Why, after a committee of parents and community leaders reviewed and approved these books last year, are they being tossed? We’ll just flag that the key change from the previous year was the addition of three new conservative school board members – all of whom received donations from a Christian PAC. The head-scratcher is that the parent who challenged Anne Frank never showed up to defend her position.
By the way, did you know there is a law in Texas that requires school districts to prominently display “In God We Trust” signs if they were donated? It’s true. Texas lawmakers passed last year, SB 797, which compels school districts to display these signs “in a conspicuous location.” As decades-long watchdogs of the SBOE, TFN knows that thinning the wall between separation of church and state is an in-your-face red flag.
We’re already seeing conservative organizations utilizing the law for their political benefit. In August 2022, The Yellow Rose of Texas Republican Women (TYRTRW) donated “In God We Trust” signs to Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, and Moms for Liberty donated signs to Round Rock ISD. We’ll note that when public schoolteachers called for help with basic school supplies, these organizations and Texas lawmakers were not flocking to media or social networks to help.
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD postponed its book fair because the vendor couldn’t provide an advance list of available books for review. On top of that, the same district recently voted to limit how teachers talk about LGBTQ+ people and race.
Students should have the freedom to learn from a wide range of books and authors as well as ideas outside their immediate lived experiences. They deserve classrooms where teachers teach the truth, and an accurate, quality, honest education is guaranteed.
Ray Bradbury was generous enough to call his novel dystopian 69 years ago. You know, the one about an American society where books are either outlawed or censored. Given how fast the clock is turning backward in school districts across Texas, our reality might be harsher than any dystopia.
In the face of these continued attempts to censor public education in various school districts, our commitment will not waiver. You can sign up to learn how to organize at your local school board, or join our teach the truth list to stay updated on actions happening in your area.