“Just the facts, ma’am,” was the infamous introductory phrase Sgt. Joe Friday would use when interrogating a witness in the whodunit TV series "Dragnet." Jack Webb played Sgt. Friday during "Dragnet’s" 1951-1959 lifespan.
"Dragnet’s" civil servant show often dealt with complex social issues. Let’s apply Sgt. Friday’s flat and concise “just the facts, ma’am” line to the current book banning craze before offering an opinion.
Fact no. 1: According to Pen America, 2,532 books were banned across 32 states – including all red states -- during the 2021-2022 school year.
Fact no. 2: Over 50 major groups with affiliate groups exceeding 300 are advocates for banning books in school districts and public libraries.
Fact no. 3: Book banning groups, like Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education and No Left Turn in Education are linked to Republican mega-donor Charles Koch and GOP donor Leonard Lee, a former VP of the Koch-funded Federalist Society (Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, Jan. 24, 2022).
Fact no. 4: Under Adolf Hitler’s dictatorial orders, more than 4,000 books were banned and burned in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945.
Fact no. 5: A February 2022 CNN Poll found only 12% of Americans believe parents should control which library books are on the shelves.
Fact. no. 6: A CBS News/YouGov survey of Americans found: A) 83% don’t want books banned that criticize U.S. history, B) 85% don’t want books banned that offer different political ideas, C) 87% don’t want books banned that depict slavery and D) 87% don’t want books banned that discuss race.
Fact no. 7: A plethora of research reveals a LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum promotes a positive school environment and student well-being.
Fact no. 8: The predominant advocates of the Nazi-like book banning conspiracy are Republican legislators and GOP governors from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Fact no. 9: The children predominantly affected by the book banning craze are Gen Z (ages 10-26). Pew Research Center notes “Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations.” Gen Z individuals are independent learners who value diversity and inclusive cultures.
Pat Scales, author of "Scales on Censorship" (2007) – an ardent First Amendment advocate – notes outright censorship is only one aspect of book banning. Shelving books by keeping them out of readers’ hands is about control, a far-right, Nazi, fascism, authoritarian and totalitarian ideology tactic.
Scales notes “intellectual freedom is about respect.” It appears book banning advocates don’t respect the intellectual freedom and First Amendment rights of Gen Z students who want to become knowledgeable about history and 21st century reality.
For parents who don’t want their child to learn about this diverse world, please do your utmost to shelter your child. First of all, take your child out of school as a certified teacher or peer student may expose your child to knowledge that may be offensive to you.
Next, television, radio, social media and newspapers should become taboo in your household. Of course, all books and the internet will be off limits.
For goodness sake, don’t let your child play outside as they may observe or hear something that is offensive to you. Don’t permit your child to hold a part-time or – Lord be – a full-time job as they may interact with a non-homogenized person.
Growing up and adulthood is dangerous to one’s health. Protect your child and hope that someday s/he will live alone on a small planet.
Politicians’ book banning censorship actions are all about controlling children under the age of consent from the real world, a red flag behavior. Book banners don’t value democracy, they crave authoritarian rule.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Steve Corbin is Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.