As we reflect on the anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution (September 17), we would do well to remember the precarious nature of the liberties enumerated therein, particularly the First Amendment, which has come under attack recently in schools and libraries throughout the nation.
“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” Freedom of speech includes the right to read, write and share ideas and opinions without fear of penalty, yet teachers and librarians across the country are being penalized for presenting ideas and opinions that others may not agree with. According to the American Library Association, there were more than 1,200 attempts to ban books in 2022, the highest number reported since the organization began compiling data more than 20 years ago.
Close to home, the Maryland Association of School Librarians reports that 50 book titles have been preemptively removed from school library bookshelves in Carroll County, and the library supervisor has been reassigned to a different post. New, stringent rules for selecting books have been instituted there, and school librarians were informed that they will be held “accountable” should any title deemed “inappropriate” appear in their library collection.
These draconian measures are not taking place in a vacuum. They are part of a large, well-orchestrated political agenda that includes the dismantling of the public school system. A recent Washington Post article details the legal campaign launched by certain well-funded, ultra-conservative groups aimed at defunding public education on the grounds that public schools are “indoctrinating” children in defiance of parental rights. Certainly, the rights of parents are important, but they apply only to the individual parents’ right to restrict the reading choices of their own children; not my children, and not yours.
It’s ironic that the groups behind these efforts often have the words “liberty” or “freedom” in their names. However, the blatant and unconstitutional censorship of reading materials in public arenas sounds to me more like fascism, not freedom.
Retired librarian, Talbot County Free Library Trustee