“Book Bans” and Catholic Parents

Parents wresting control of their children’s education from bureaucrats has generated, in the words of the most panicked New York Times writer, an “existential threat to public education.”

(Image: Aaron Burden/Unsplash.com)

Want proof of how successful parents have been in unexpectedly thwarting the progressive agenda in schools? The New York Times, the progressive conscience of America, has gone on the offensive against “book bans” initiated by parental complaints, with two consecutive news stories (here and on the front page here) and three opinion pieces (here and here and here), all within the last two weeks. 

To their credit, the Times writers all get one thing right: these so-called book bans are not about books. “They are about what a child, a reader, and a society are allowed to think, to know, and to question.” 

This is why the Times is in full panic mode. The progressive left infiltrated schools decades ago precisely with the goal of transforming society’s attitudes toward sex, above all, and it has done so with impunity. Suddenly, parents have entered school board meetings and written to principals yelling “stop,” and school officials are starting to listen. 

For progressives, book bans are the latest right-wing conspiracy, a new effort in “a small but highly visible part of a much larger effort to privatize public schools and turn them into conservative propaganda centers.” “Privatize” is a favorite boogey word of the left – for doing so would make schools more difficult to control, and students more difficult to indoctrinate. 

So there we have it: parents wresting control of their children’s education from bureaucrats has generated, in the words of the most panicked Times writer, an “existential threat to public education.”

When “existential” gets thrown about, we know the terror level has turned bright red. 

Of course, there are duplicities hidden in the Times’ analysis. First, no one is calling for these books to be banned out right, as in cease their publication. The call is to keep them out of schools so adult content is not read by children. In the Times’ skewed telling, conservatives are painted as sending America into ignorance.

Second, one Times writer tries to undermine concerned parents by insisting that the content of what students read is irrelevant, given the unlimited access to adult content students have on their smart phones. 

School-sponsored books and internet sleuthing are not comparable. Since books are fodder for knowledge, reflection, and transformation, what children read is formative, and therefore must be carefully chosen. The decision to teach a book is a public endorsement of its content. By contrast, children know implicitly that accessing sexual content on their phones is wrong; they would not conceal it otherwise. Should a school teach a book that describes sexual encounters and fantasies, the students would receive the message, loud and clear, that such things are good. 

Even with the internet in each student’s pocket, have we acquiesced as a country to stock R-rated movies in school libraries? Certainly not. Yet the books whose appropriateness for school is in dispute, if they were to be made into films, would all receive R-ratings.

And what are these books? The Times writers not only name them, but describe them. These books are being read across the country, in public schools, and, yes, in some Catholic schools too.

There’s Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which one Times writer calls “upsetting” because “[i]t depicts infanticide, rape, bestiality, torture and lynching.” “Upsetting” offers a fine example of understatement. In 1998, Beloved was turned into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey, and was a box office flop. It received an R-rating for containing, according to the Times’ film review, “graphic nudity, sexual situations, and discreetly brief flashes of terrible brutality.” 

Then there is George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue, a memoir, in the Times’ summary, “about growing up Black and queer” that “includes scenes that depict oral and anal sex and sexual assault.” This content, the Times insists, is “[w]ritten for readers 14 and older.” 

Determining what is age appropriate apparently is not a talent shared by all writers and educators.

The list of sexually explicit books being read in schools goes on: The Times includes Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer, and Cory Silverberg’s Sex is a Funny Word, a sex education book targeted for 8-10 year olds, as having been challenged by parents. To this we could add Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous.

What do all these books have in common? It’s a superficial feature that advocates use as a ruse for hoisting these mind-altering books on our children: the authors are all members of “under-represented groups” – Morrison, Johnson, Butler, and Angelou are African American, while Kobabe and Silverberg call themselves queer and Vuong is gay. Since their minority perspectives are so valued, the argument goes, their books must be read in schools so students can learn to appreciate “diverse backgrounds.”

To achieve the horrifying goal of sexualizing children, it seems an author’s skin color or sexual orientation covers a multitude of sins.

These books would have no chance of landing in school libraries and curricula if they were written by straight white men. They would be recognized for the smut they are and not given the time of day.

Concerned parents are right to challenge these books, and they must continue to do so, despite the racial and phobic-laden insults that will meet them in response. Catholic parents in particular have the support of Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis, which champions the role of parents in the educational endeavor. 

“Book bans” are not about books. They are about protecting our children from the real “existential threat” looming in schools: the imposition of the Sexual Revolution’s Reign of Terror on America’s youngest citizens.


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About David G. Bonagura, Jr. 18 Articles
David G. Bonagura, Jr. teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism. and Staying with the Catholic Church: Trusting God's Plan of Salvation.

24 Comments

  1. Seventy some years ago as his first assignment as a government attorney fresh out of law school, my associate, Dr. Norman Kurland, was given the job of building a case to support Kennedy’s ban on financial aid to religious schools — which he agreed with. As a newly minted lawyer, he did a textbook analysis, i.e., doing exactly what he’d been told a good advocate does: understand the opposition’s case.

    After reading the arguments for the other side, Norm realized that the opposition was right, that parents, not the government, should determine how best to educate their children (as long as minimum standards are met), and that the money taken from parents for the education of their children should be spent as the parents direct, not the state.

    Norm reversed himself and filed a report to that effect . . . which was filed away and never seen again. Soon after my associate was given the assignment of deciding how to spend money in the poverty program, and wrote the guidelines to ensure the maximum feasible participation of the poor in the program itself. He then capped it off by getting money directly to grassroots organizations instead of creating jobs for bureaucrats. Then he transferred to Civil Rights. He ended up as ESOP inventor Louis Kelso’s Washington Counsel and was instrumental in getting the initial ESOP enabling legislation passed, and also worked on Walter Reuther’s Citizen’s Crusade Against Poverty. Currently, Norm has come full circle back to education and is concerned that the public schools aren’t actually educating children, so has been working on a program of natural law education called “Justice University” to get fundamentals back into academia. This is described at http://www.cesj.org

  2. We know that any child with access to a smartphone can view hardcore porn at will but it’s different when a school curriculum contains books with those sorts of descriptions. It becomes a stamp of approval.

  3. The authors statement ” The progressive left infiltrated schools decades ago precisely with the goal of transforming society’s attitudes toward sex, above all, and it has done so with impunity” is not true. Why is the author trying to stir the pot to divide Americans?

      • I think it’s also naive to think the “Left,” whatever that may be, has some kind of unified program to conquer the world. I think books have varied age-appropriate content. Banning selections will be as fruitful as alcohol prohibition.

        Case in point: we have laws–good laws on the whole–that bar the sale of alcohol to minors. We also have a culture that praises drunk-drinking at the onset of age 21. And a lot of sneaking out to drink before that. Clearly, booze banning hasn’t stopped underage drinking or alcoholism.

        Banning books won’t stop the spread of wild leftist ideas. Or white supremacy. It’s a losing strategy. Better to prepare concerned parents to be excellent at talking with older children and discernment. Adding to a tool kit prepares for far more possibilities.

        • It’s not naive to think that the Left has a unified plan to conquer the world. You only have to look at how conservatives are shunned, blackballed, and canceled in Academia, Big Media, and now in Global Corporations. Leftists/liberals dominate local school boards. Their ideas are forced upon the military and they dominate the Intelligence community. They control the entertainment industry. The Left lusts for power and will use any means necessary to acquire it and hold on to it. They will not tolerate dissent and suppress dialogue as can be seen by the censorship culture of Big Tech. I say this as someone who went to D.C. to protest the Vietnam war and again to protest the election of Nixon.

          • I sort of put that into the same category as Muslim conquest of the world. It’s laughable. So many divisions and so much political ineptitude. If the moderate left in the US–the Democratic Party–can’t get its act together, there’s as much valid fear of a super-Left takeover as there would be snow in a climate-changed Texas July.

            Conservatives in academia? Meh. They all went into business in the 80s. And the military? Please. Ordinary soldiers have a lot more to worry about day to day and in retirement. No. Wealthy people lust for power. Some are embedded in entertainment, and I include mainstream news in that. Most leftists among women, gays, and people of color want simple freedoms white men have enjoyed for centuries. The Left taking over? Just a bedtime story fed to little GOP children at night. Two random leftists couldn’t agree on a simple dine-in order let alone a plan to overthrow a school board. They couldn’t cheat HRC into the White House in 2016. I think y’all are safe from the Left.

      • So, you believe that 40 years ago all of the public-school librarians devised a plan to transform society by buying certain books for their library.

        • That sounds about right to me. That’s been an operating plan in public libraries, so why not also in public schools? Have you looked at the sort of mission statements associations of librarians endorse? These are activists & the same folks who thought Laura Ingalls Wilder was a racist.

          ALA and Affiliate Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statements:
          “ALA takes responsibility for past racism, pledges a more equitable association
          ALA Chapters Condemn Racism
          REFORMA Statement on Solidarity with BCALA
          ALA Executive Board stands with BCALA in condemning violence and racism towards Black people and all People of Color
          APALA stands with BCALA and Black Lives Matter
          BCALA Statement Condemning Increased Violence and Racism Towards Black Americans and People of Color
          APALA condemns rise in xenophobia and racism due to the novel coronavirus outbreak
          APALA and CALA condemn Against the Grain article
          ALA Executive Board stands with APALA in condemning xenophobia, racism
          ALA President reminds members of professional EDI tools to address microaggressions, quash racial profiling
          ALA, GLBTRT continue to voice support of LGBTQ civil liberties
          ALA outraged by the refugee family separation policy
          ALA responds to end of Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program
          ALA condemns racism and violence in Charlottesville
          ALA and affiliates issue joint statement on libraries and equity, diversity, and inclusion
          ALA strongly protests rollback of protections for our nation’s transgender students…”

      • In his inimitable way, Johnny Carson would say “well, how far Left/right is he/she?”
        Nebulous at best. How about “radical left/right” WOW real bad.
        The warring factions have resigned themselves to a dichotomy forever.

  4. The “public” school and the “public” library represent apparatuses of censorship. Clients have almost nothing to say about what is chosen for reading. I can make a list of books that schools and libraries will ban out right not apologize for it, “Homosexuality, a Freedom too Far” and “The Bell Curve” for examples. It seems to me, that if a school imposes a curriculum including Critical Race Theory, it should also include alternate theories on race that describe the wide biological and behavioral differences among the races.

        • Color of skin is a matter of chemistry. In the realm of faith, we have the witness of God creating human beings in Genesis, and a consistent witness throughout Scripture of human liability to sin as well as the calling and movement toward union with God. For us Catholics, it’s good enough that there are no differences. And if a person has brown skin, red hair, or even webbed toes, this is irrelevant to us.

          For people who have used race as a marker for superiority, this is demonic and sinful. Sin must be confessed, and amends made. This is Penance 101, something we’ve all passed, I’d hope.

      • That’s mostly true but there are real genetic mutations affecting health that are found more in some populations than others. There are biological DNA variations in groups of human beings, but those DNA markers become shared when people intermarry.

  5. What this article does not mention is that book bans also include books on the history of white supremacist racism in the U.S.. This is in fact a whitewashing of racism, the erasing of this bad memory which will result in our collective cluelessness and inability to learn from and rise above it. This current rightist buzz generating fear and hate about the teaching of racism including the reading of books about racism as divisive and as reverse racist is wrong headed. If we cannot confront this bad part of out past we shall never become a post-racist society and culture.

    • Critical Race Theory is divisive propaganda. Please examine it objectively & I am sure you will come to the same conclusion that I have. Books promoting CRT should not be thrust upon the young impressionable minds of school children.

    • The less our children hear about race in the future the better. Hopefully in their time or their children’s time this will have become an archaic, generational issue & no longer used to divide them.

  6. With the way “woke” educators act it’s as if they are declaring the right of eminent domain over the children. Collectivizing the classroom. Nationalizing the schoolchildren as it were. Kind of like a human version of what happened in the Kelo eminent domain court case.

  7. This is probably the first time I’ve heard Maya Angelou’s “I know why the Caged Bird Sings” labeled as smut. Coming from an article writer who leaves us with such gems as “The progressive left infiltrated schools decades ago precisely with the goal of transforming society’s attitudes toward sex” and his quivering fear (titillation?) over the Sexual Reign of Terror, I wonder if there is something under the surface here.

    I am glad that every time I pop in to see an article here the readership laps it up from the trough. Living in fear they will cheer on anything that reminds them of their favorite boogeymen.

  8. My kids are grown, but I can see NO reason on earth why a child of 14 ( generally, an 8th grade student in grammar school) would need to read about “anal sex and sexual assault”. Nor do they need to read about topics like bestiality. Such things do happen. It does not mean impressionable and immature children should read about them under the approval of school auspices. A child cannot “unread” or “un-see” or “un-imagine” things like this, which might be traumatizing for a lifetime in some children.This is another reason why the church needs to step up its teaching that ALL sexual activity is best left until marriage. An old fashioned idea, I know, but some people still manage it. And NO ONE will manage it, if it is never taught as a requirement. In general, only tragedy in the form of an abortion comes from sexually active 14, 15 and 16 year olds. It is perfectly possible to provide children needed biological information about how sex WORKS, without saying it’s ok to jump into bed with anyone at all just because you feel like it. There is no good reason to give sex the stamp of approval of your child’s school.

  9. I can’t imagine engaging a fellow Catholic in this conversation. I include the clergy here. Every new edict from Rome is quietly accepted. The sermons become more vague. Occasionally there are warnings about humility as if alarm about the expanding moral squalor around us is a species of pride. The working class Church would have welcomed the freedom convoys. That Church is gone. No alarm about the millions is Spanish-speaking Catholics fleeing the Church. In fact, every Sunday after Holy Mass we are sent out into a world Holy Orders refuses to acknowledge.

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