Governor Walz highlights legislation to ban book bans

Ban on book bans

Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan visited a school on Thursday to highlight legislation that would ban the banning of books.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan visited a St. Paul school on Thursday to highlight legislative efforts to ban books.

“The idea of a book ban is basically the antithesis of everything we believe in, education and in this country. And you’re seeing it. Last year, over 1477 books were challenged and banned,” said Governor Walz. “I’m pretty willing to go across lines on things. This is one I’m not willing really go across lines.”

“When we value our students, they see themselves reflected in their education. They in turn value that education. It is a powerful, powerful tool. So the fact that folks are trying to take that away from our students, I just don’t get it,” said Lt. Gov. Flanagan.

Burke Scarbrough is an Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He coordinates the English program at UMD, teaching future teachers and has heard many accounts of his students encountering attempts to ban books.

“I often draw a line between, you know, is it a problem to have a concern versus is it a problem for your concern to make policy?” explained Scarbrough. “And so often that comes down to whether there’s a process in place for hearing concerns, which without the concerns becoming sort of having the force of, I’m concerned and therefore something should change. I’m concerned and therefore someone else’s children should have a different experience.”

Scarbrough recalled one example of parents being concerned about the appropriateness of a book. He said a college-level course for high school students included Toni Morrison’s book, “Beloved”.

“I think the author wants the reader to experience the types of violence that came with racism, slavery, post slavery, oppression. Those aren’t neutral things, right? They hurt and they make us use bad words and they come with different types of violence,” explained Scarbrough. “Some of their parents, particularly I think seeing certain snippets of the book out of context or hearing about some of the more challenging or more shocking elements of the book, were concerned. What, why is my child reading this in school? Is the educational value of doing this? Is this really appropriate for a reader of this age?”

If passed, SF3567 would prohibit book bans in public and school libraries based on content or ideological objections.

“It’s essential that library collections continue to serve as beacons of knowledge, acceptance and understanding. Through this proposed legislation, libraries will be formally protected from censorship,” said Chair-elect of the Intellectual Freedom Committee Ann Kaste.

In addition to the ban on book bans, this bill would require the book and material collection decisions of a library to be made or overseen by a licensed library media specialist, an individual with a master’s degree in library sciences or library and information sciences, or a professional librarian or person with extensive library collection management experience.

“At any grade level, we run into these questions as teachers about what’s appropriate for students, and I think book banning sounds bad. Censorship sounds horrible. Questions about appropriateness? I mean, they’re real. They’re sticky. They’re hard to navigate sometimes,” said Scarbrough. “We want teachers to have the professional responsibility to make good decisions about what’s appropriate in the reading curriculum. And then individual parents can ask questions. They can even push back if they want to. But the teachers coming from a place of real expertise when they make those decisions. “