Among the many accusations against Sarah Palin was that she banned books. Though debunked, that charge highlights a deeper issue, which is Rule By the Discreet Elite. In this case the Elite is librarians, yet another group credentialed by left-leaning institutions.
Within moments of John McCain announcing Sarah Palin as his VP pick, wild accusations started to fly. One was that she banned, or tried to ban, books. This charge has been put to rest, at least for those not consumed by Palin Derangement Syndrome, by FactCheck
, among others.
She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated [email] list were not even in print at the time.
But that leaves us with an underlying issue, regardless of Sarah Palin: what is so bad about a mayor, or even a student's parent, asking a school's library to remove a book from its shelves or just not display it as prominently?
When a mayor or parent or just anyone in the community tries to do such a thing, it is called censorship, book-banning or book-burning. When a librarian does it, it is called "selection."
First, I'd like to clarify the language. Normally, a thing is considered "banned" only if it is a crime to buy or own that thing. You know, like guns have been banned in New York City and Washington, DC. If a book is removed from a public library, it is not "banned," it is simply not provided free of charge at taxpayer expense. And if a book is not even removed from the library, but merely taken off its prominent display shelf, it is not banned or censored at all, it is simply not promoted by your local government.
If anything not provided free by the government is considered "banned," then everything from guns to stereo systems have been banned throughout our history. By that measure, almost everything except scooters for the handicapped is now banned.
But let's get back to considering the stocking of public libraries with books. The Library of Congress has about 21 million catalogued books. Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, has 91,805 books in its entire Joseph T. Simpson Public Library system. The University of Kansas has 51,563 books in its Dykes Library. That means these two large library systems contain about 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively, of the universe of books contained in the Library of Congress. And even the Library of Congress does not have every book.
That means that just about any library you or your child uses has less than 0.1% of all books in it. Someone must have censored 99.9% of them! Who are these censors?
Librarians are responsible for deciding which materials to buy for their libraries. They purchase not only books, but also videos, DVDs, compact discs, databases, and magazines. Librarians use lots of information to help them choose what to buy. They read special journals filled with reviews of new books. They listen to requests from library users. They also notice which books library patrons use the most. If a librarian sees that children's picture books in Chinese are checked out often, he or she might make a note to order more.
Couldn't anyone do that? What special expertise is required to go through journals and select? Who writes those journals? Not only librarians, but just about everyone from politicians to shoe salesmen listens to the requests of their customers. How do we keep bias from creeping into the decisions of librarians?
Here's an exercise for the reader. Ask your local public school library (grade school or high school) to stock Race, Evolution, and Behavior
. It is listed on Amazon.com and is in fact ranked 61,595 in sales - fairly popular. Do you think the school librarian will put it in the display case next to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth
? After all, the librarian is trained to appreciate views that challenge the world views of the complacent, and books that "make you think."
When you choose what books go into a library, you are also choosing what books will not go into that library, since you simply can't fit them all in. So why are librarians considered the one and only ones who can make such decisions? Concerned citizens can't. Parents of children who use the school library can't. The mayor, or any other elected official, can't. Not ever. No way. No how. That's censorship. But librarians not only do it, they do it every day. It's considered their job.
The real question is not which books should be stocked and not stocked at your local library, but who decides.
States require that public librarians be certified (e.g., see North Carolina’s policy). The certifying agency is the American Library Association. If you go to the ALA’s web site , you will find a tab for “Issues and Advocacy,” where they wax passionately about freedom to read, diversity, privacy, etc. You will also find a statement by the ALA’s president condemning the Patriot Act, which was reauthorized by a vote of 89 to 10 in the Senate. Muslims defend their mosques no more zealously than librarians defend their libraries.
Our Constitution says we have a right to free speech and a free press, but it also says we have a right to keep and bear arms. Can you imagine if the government provided firearm arsenals where anyone with a utility bill to prove residence could check out the firearms of his choice for four weeks at a time, without charge? And to boot, every arsenal’s custodian would have to be certified by the National Rifle Association? And the police would not be able to get a record of who took what firearm?
What we have here is yet another example of what might be termed "Rule By the Discreet Elite."
Why, for example, are "journalists" the only ones who can tell us what is newsworthy and how to think about it? Why do you have to be a certified cosmetologist to braid hair for pay? Why do nearly 500 occupations, including falconers, ferret breeders and palm readers, require licensing
in at least some states? Why are lawyers the only ones who can interpret the US Constitution, a document written by many non-lawyers?
Where I lived when I was in grade school, anyone who graduated from high school could teach us, if the school thought them good enough. That generation put man on the moon and brought him back safely, using slide-rules. Now, virtually all teachers are "certified", where certification means completion of a four-year indoctrination. And how's that working for us?
By the way, the education industry is the ninth biggest contributor in the 2008 election cycle, with 79% of its contributions going to Democrats. The Oil and Gas industry is ranked only 16th, by the way.
The state has a virtual monopoly on the means of producing education in this country. There's a name for that.
When you put your child into the socialist institution of public education, a certified teacher can refer your child to a psychologist. That certified psychologist can diagnose your child with a behavioral disorder. A certified physician can then prescribe a behavior-modifying drug. Then your NEA certified teachers can demand that your child take that drug, with the full threat of the law, including the possibility of your child being taken from your custody. Just to make it clear, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools."
But fear not, everyone in the process is certified.
This Rule By The Discreet Elite has become more than just certification-gone-wild. It has become tyranny. What used to be considered a straight-forward matter of parenting and letting parents use their common sense and what their own mothers taught them, has become a matter for the "collective". As well-behaved members of this collective, we must respect our betters. And we know who our betters are, because they have certificates saying so. If you don't comply politely, you could be fined, jailed, or have your children take from you. It's for your own good.
I'm recalling the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I can hear the music that Nurse Ratched played through the speaker system for the inmates of her asylum, as they stood in line to receive their mandatory medication .
I can imagine Nurse Ratched responding to Randle P. McMurphy's request, "Why Randle, what if we allowed everyone to choose what books we put on our shelves?"