Everything Is Banned

 

“Ancient Egypt was far from a monolithic society. For 3,000 years, the people who lived along the Nile experienced dramatic changes, made extraordinary discoveries and inventions, created stunning monuments, and left fascinating records of their lives. And our knowledge and understanding of them continues to change and grow.”

That’s from Wondrium, the seasonal preview magazine of Wondrium.com, formerly The Great Courses Plus (.com, I suppose.) It’s a blurb about the soon-to-come video course “The Real Ancient Egypt.”

I have a belt I bought from Amazon, so I didn’t get to try it pre-purchase. It’s noisy. When I bend, it creaks like a mooring rope straining to keep a boat in place so it stays in the closet as a reminder of the perils of online clothes shopping. I wasn’t wearing it at the time I read the quote above, but if I had, I suspect I’d have bent a few times and focused on the sound. The mooring rope could just about match the creak I imagined from the noose that poor ad copywriter used at being forced to write the same pablum about yet another delve into the handful of ancient cultures Wondrium.com regularly revisits to keep customers shelling out 21 bucks a month.

Maybe the writer doesn’t dread it. He or she may have a file marked “New Paint X” with a saved form. Look at the quoted paragraph. Replace “Ancient Egypt,” “3000,” and “the Nile” with “The collection of musicians whose struggles and triumphs gave us the sound we know now as Delta Jazz,” “40,” and “the Mississippi,” and it still works. You could make it about almost any group. Maybe the writer was pleased as punch to get an assignment he can phone in, though we’ll probably never know unless they do a “The company of listless college juniors whose uncles got them ad writing internships,” “100,” and “Madison Avenue.”

In the same issue of Wondrium is a preview of a much juicier lecture series, and if there’s justice, the same writer tasked with heralding “The Real Ancient Egypt” got to sink his teeth into the opportunity that was “Banned Books, Burned Books: Forbidden Literary Works.” The magazine’s section on that one was given the headline “Taboo Texts: The Modern History of Literary Censorship,” which I think is a bit sexier and should be considered for the title of the lecture series before “Banned Books…” goes live. Still, I don’t have uncles who know people in the publishing industry, so nobody pretends to ask me.

Crafting this blurb challenged the writer to play up but never acknowledge to the mostly left-leaning readership of left-leaning subscribers that this soon-to-air bundle of predigested rebuttals is clearly spun in response to the evil machinations of the DeSantis reign. Claiming a timing quinky-dinky and playing dumb was the order of the day.

Personally, I like to think that when the intern wrote, “You will explore common reasons books have been and continue to be banned, including profanity, heresy, illicit or sexual content, racism, violence, and more,” it was expected that the cultivated reader would pick out the 43rd, 51st, 84th, 99th, 103rd, 104th, 111th, and 112th letters and see that they spell out “DeSantis” which was cleverly included but obvious to those willing to look.

I’m really bothered by the loaded use of the word “ban” in reference to Florida’s draconian policy of not giving pornography to kindergarteners. I wrote about this back when Tennessee “banned” M.A.U.S. Of course, they didn’t ban the book. I Googled the offending county and called a school at random in the district. The lady I spoke with was war-weary, but once it became obvious that I had no journalism credentials and was just a curious guy who might (I was upfront with her) write about the controversy and try to get it printed as a freelancer, she relaxed and gave an exasperated sigh.

The book was still available in six or seven of the school libraries, and if your particular school didn’t have a copy, there was an interlibrary loan program. All they did was remove it from an eighth-grade curriculum. This was information she made available to all the national reporters who called, but the story stayed the same. That was not banning.

A book that is available for sale and resale on the internet and at local retail shops, is on the shelves at local libraries, and is available in the schools that “banned” it is not in any sense samizdat. That’s not a matter of a millennial work ethic having subverted a scoldish enthusiasm on the part of those that pulled it from the curriculum. It’s hard to explain my exasperation towards claims that was evidence of a resurgent Tipper.

There are obvious objections to teaching certain materials to minors and reasons for banning access by children to books. But before considering that those sounding moral outrage that our children might not have enough oral sex illustrations in their elementary school science books seem oblivious to the fact that making a curriculum is an act of censorship. Putting together a reading list, a library, or any other exercise in assembling a non-infinite set of resources is discriminating. If you only have time to teach five novels a semester, you have not banned millions of other novels. Once a syllabus is decided upon, a later substitution does not mean the outgoing book is “taboo,” to steal from the sexier Wondrium option. Not everything fits within a course. You wouldn’t teach Debbie Does Dallas (not just because it’s derivative) in math class.

Argue that changes in curricula are misguided, prudish, or unenlightened if they bug you. Stop saying that a change in course materials is “banning.” When the College Board sent a new AP history course for approval by Florida, no one said that materials from the course it was meant to replace were being banned in Florida.

As to the removal of age-inappropriate materials from Florida schools, yes. Those materials are banned – and this is key – from Florida schools. And rightly so, just like beer. Nobody is burning books or keeping adults from getting their big, grubby hands on anything. You aren’t a champion of open discourse for crying foul. Cut it out with the moral outrage.

What are the enlightened going to do if they engineer enough public outrage to have whatever was removed reinstated? What if the book has been replaced by another on reading lists or syllabi? There’s finite lesson time. Will they cop to their definition of banning whatever gets bumped to make room for their fetish?

No word, by the way, on a future rebuttal of “The Real Ancient Egypt” by the lecturers of previous Wondrium.com Egyptian courses, but I’m assuming I’ll see an announcement of it in the next preview magazine. They can’t let that stand.

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  1. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Ben Sears: Not everything fits within a course. You wouldn’t teach Debbie Does Dallas (not just because it’s derivative) in math class.

    Okay, now you’ve got me thinking about the potential for word problems.

    “If Debbie does three neighborhoods in 6 days, and Sandy does four neighborhoods in 12 days . . .”

    • #1
  2. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one. 

    • #2
  3. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Ben Sears: That’s from Wondrium, the seasonal preview magazine of Wondrium.com, formerly The Great Courses Plus (.com, I suppose.) It’s a blurb about the soon to come video course “The Real Ancient Egypt.”

    If Bob Brier is the instructor, the class will be fantastic, no matter how lame and anodyne the catalog description.

    Also, Wondrium is a really dumb name.

    • #3
  4. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears
    @BenMSYS

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: That’s from Wondrium, the seasonal preview magazine of Wondrium.com, formerly The Great Courses Plus (.com, I suppose.) It’s a blurb about the soon to come video course “The Real Ancient Egypt.”

    If Bob Brier is the instructor, the class will be fantastic, no matter how lame and anodyne the catalog description.

    Also, Wondrium is a really dumb name.

    Extraordinarily dumb.

    • #4
  5. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears
    @BenMSYS

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: That’s from Wondrium, the seasonal preview magazine of Wondrium.com, formerly The Great Courses Plus (.com, I suppose.) It’s a blurb about the soon to come video course “The Real Ancient Egypt.”

    If Bob Brier is the instructor, the class will be fantastic, no matter how lame and anodyne the catalog description.

    Also, Wondrium is a really dumb name.

    Another instructor to watch is Dorsey Armstrong. We enjoyed one of her medieval courses so much my kids call watching the app “watching a Dorsey” no matter who gives the lecture. I’ll keep an eye out for Brier.

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery? 

    • #6
  7. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Ben Sears (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: That’s from Wondrium, the seasonal preview magazine of Wondrium.com, formerly The Great Courses Plus (.com, I suppose.) It’s a blurb about the soon to come video course “The Real Ancient Egypt.”

    If Bob Brier is the instructor, the class will be fantastic, no matter how lame and anodyne the catalog description.

    Also, Wondrium is a really dumb name.

    Another instructor to watch is Dorsey Armstrong. We enjoyed one of her medieval courses so much my kids call watching the app “watching a Dorsey” no matter who gives the lecture. I’ll keep an eye out for Brier.

    Funny, I listened to a course by Dorsey Armstrong on the Black Death.  Enjoyed the content of the course but thought her delivery was stilted, like she was reading her notes. 

    • #7
  8. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    That’s how a progressive “curates” a collection.

    • #8
  9. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    That’s how a progressive “curates” a collection.

    Yes, curating is nothing like censoring!  Just ask them!

    • #9
  10. James Salerno Inactive
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    I think Thomas Sowell said something similar to what you’re pointing out.

    Billions of books have been written throughout history. I don’t have any stats on this, but I’m sure thousands of new books are published every day. Every library has to discriminate. Every library has to “ban” at least 99.9999% of books that have been published.

    • #10
  11. James Salerno Inactive
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Any post that uses the word “samizdat” gets a like from me.

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    Thanks for providing the details on how that works. 

    • #12
  13. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I used to work at a public library. Nothing (not even getting the next Drag Queen Story Hour on the events calendar) gladdens the hearts of library folk more than the opportunity to claim that the dark night of censorship is falling because a patron (which is another name for a taxpayer, let’s not forget) maybe had a qualm or a question about one of the books she saw in the young adult section. These incidents are known in the biz as “challenges”, and they are assiduously tracked and tallied up so as to provide the American Library Association with padded statistics about the number of “bans and challenges” (see that neat little elision there?) that supposedly bedevil our public libraries each year. During my tenure with the library, I asked two questions of many of my coworkers:

    1. Shouldn’t the people paying for the library (those pesky patrons/taxpayers) be allowed to have some say in how their dollars are spent?

    2. Is declining to carry a book in the collection, (especially when it is available at the library in the next town over, and/or from Amazon, and/or through interlibrary loan) synonymous with banning that book? If not, why not?

    No one ever provided a satisfactory answer (or even a good-faith attempt at one) to either question. And the assistant library director got mad that anyone would ask the second one.

    I’m actually a little baffled why any librarian would have difficulty answering Question 1. “We librarians have the academic degrees and credentials to select books properly, the taxpayer or patron does not. The taxpayers and patrons have no basis on which to make proper book selections, so of course we librarians are more qualified to do the book selections.”

    We are now seeing this response demonstrated by school teachers and administrators who insist that parents have no basis on which to influence school curriculum because only the teachers and administrators have the academic degrees and credentials to decide what is best for children. 

    • #13
  14. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik
    @DrewInWisconsin

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Any post that uses the word “samizdat” gets a like from me.

    Samizdat is everywhere.

    • #14
  15. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    I’m actually a little baffled why any librarian would have difficulty answering Question 1. “We librarians have the academic degrees and credentials to select books properly, the taxpayer or patron does not. The taxpayers and patrons have no basis on which to make proper book selections, so of course we librarians are more qualified to do the book selections.”

    Yup, that’s the actual answer. Apparently the ones I worked with weren’t quite ready to go full McAuliffe, but give it a little more time. 

    • #15
  16. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery? 

    This is something I often pondered because of the cognitive dissonance that you point out. My opinion is that rejecting “challenges”  to these books provides a bit of cover for libraries to maintain the pretense that they are First Amendment warriors. I also believe that over the next 15 or 20 years, these older non-woke (former) “classics” will quietly drop out of many library collections, and industry collection standards will be revised to eliminate them in favor of, well, this sort of thing

    I don’t have any specific basis for this prediction other than my fathomless cynicism. 

    • #16
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    This is something I often pondered because of the cognitive dissonance that you point out. My opinion is that rejecting “challenges” to these books provides a bit of cover for libraries to maintain the pretense that they are First Amendment warriors. I also believe that over the next 15 or 20 years, these older non-woke (former) “classics” will quietly drop out of many library collections, and industry collection standards will be revised to eliminate them in favor of, well, this sort of thing.

    I don’t have any specific basis for this prediction other than my fathomless cynicism.

    I suspect it’s already happening. I’m finding it harder and harder to find a lot of well-established classics at our library. But there’s a crapload of modern crap. Good thing we have a large library system where I can get things through inter-library loan. But, I mean, they just remodeled our library, creating more space, yet it seems like they managed to reduce the collection at the same time. (And the remodel is ugly, as I’ve mentioned too often.)

    • #17
  18. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Any post that uses the word “samizdat” gets a like from me.

    “Samizdat” is very good. So is any Tipper Gore reference. And the appearance of “just like beer.” 

    • #18
  19. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    This is something I often pondered because of the cognitive dissonance that you point out. My opinion is that rejecting “challenges” to these books provides a bit of cover for libraries to maintain the pretense that they are First Amendment warriors. I also believe that over the next 15 or 20 years, these older non-woke (former) “classics” will quietly drop out of many library collections, and industry collection standards will be revised to eliminate them in favor of, well, this sort of thing.

    I don’t have any specific basis for this prediction other than my fathomless cynicism.

    This is the sort of public funded nonsense that makes me think it’s time to stop all funding for “public” libraries. The ubiquity of the “Internet” at the finger tips of almost every sentient (and many not so sentient) beings suggest this is the equivalent of the buggy whip technology, but at a not so trivial expense to the common purse.

    But like NPR it is so damn hard to eliminate without some National or Local Governmental financial collapse (see soon in our future). It is slow fiscal death by a thousand leaches.

    • #19
  20. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    This is something I often pondered because of the cognitive dissonance that you point out. My opinion is that rejecting “challenges” to these books provides a bit of cover for libraries to maintain the pretense that they are First Amendment warriors. I also believe that over the next 15 or 20 years, these older non-woke (former) “classics” will quietly drop out of many library collections, and industry collection standards will be revised to eliminate them in favor of, well, this sort of thing.

    I don’t have any specific basis for this prediction other than my fathomless cynicism.

    This is the sort of public funded nonsense that makes me think it’s time to stop all funding for “public” libraries. The ubiquity of the “Internet” at the finger tips of almost every sentient (and many not so sentient) beings suggest this is the equivalent of the buggy whip technology, but at a not so trivial expense to the common purse.

    But like NPR it is so damn hard to eliminate without some National or Local Governmental financial collapse (see soon in our future). It is slow fiscal death by a thousand leaches.

    One problem with that, of course, is that the Mark Twain, Shakespeare, etc, you find online now, might not be the same as the Mark Twain, Shakespeare, etc you find in the books.

    • #20
  21. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    So what did (do?) they consider the efforts (generally from leftists) to prevent libraries from carrying Tom Sawyer or Gone With the Wind and other literature that includes “the n word” or presents an insufficiently condemning view of slavery?

    This is something I often pondered because of the cognitive dissonance that you point out. My opinion is that rejecting “challenges” to these books provides a bit of cover for libraries to maintain the pretense that they are First Amendment warriors. I also believe that over the next 15 or 20 years, these older non-woke (former) “classics” will quietly drop out of many library collections, and industry collection standards will be revised to eliminate them in favor of, well, this sort of thing.

    I don’t have any specific basis for this prediction other than my fathomless cynicism.

    For some reason I don’t like rainbows any more, except those that appear in nature. 

    • #21
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