Fahrenheit 451

This report, of a school district eliminating all books published before 2008 from the shelves of school libraries struck me as more-than-usually horrifying, when it comes to stupidities enacted by a public school system. Of course, there is some comfort – not much – to be had in the fact that the school district in question is in Canada, but bad ideas in pedagogy have the unfortunate tendency to go international. I am a hundred percent certain that many American school districts have wokified administrators just chomping at the bit in their eagerness to perform the same purge on their own school libraries. Part of the great purge plan allows for an intensive review of pre-2008 books and restoring certain of them to school library circulation upon being judged appropriate – most likely after extensive editing or bowdlerization to remove every scrap of bad-thought.

Well, heavens to Betsy, we can’t have students learning that other people in other times had ideas, interests, and speech incongruent to modern sensitivities. Their interest and curiosity might be engaged and horrors – the kiddos might learn something, and the schools simply can’t have that, not outside of a very narrow field, approximately the width of a gnat’s eyelash.

For myself, I think of all the books that I read as a student that would fall into the condemned range. No Kipling – that goes without saying. No Saki. No Emil and the Detectives, none of the Little House books, certainly no Mark Twain. Nothing of Mary Norton’s Borrowers. No adventure novels by Thomas Costain, no Sherlock Holmes, no All-of-a-Kind Family, no Edna Ferber, no Georgette Heyer, no Bess Streeter Aldrich, no Samuel Shellabarger, no Rafael Sabatini, no Gwen Bristow and her Plantation Trilogy, nothing by whoever wrote that Boy’s Own Paperish series about the crew of a tramp steamer in the 1930s, or the various adventure of aircrew in the Pacific in World War II. All this and more, even recent popular adventures like the Harry Potter series must be deleted or edited out of all recognition.
Nothing that might spark an interest in history, recent or long-past, other countries, and other, often alien experiences. It’s all to be banished or censored out of any juice, burned in the fires that Ray Bradbury warned about in Fahrenheit 451, lest delicate feelings be hurt. And meanwhile, a gaggle of entertainment personalities have signed the usual manifesto condemning the banning of books – certain other books, most of which have been objected to by parents for containing inappropriate sexual content. The irony of this is of sufficient density to drop through the core of the earth and come out the other side, Hollywood as an establishment being the very epitome of upright morality and ethical conduct.

Comment as you wish, and shall I open a pool on how soon American school districts begin purging school libraries of books published before 2008? That is, if it hasn’t been happening already.

14 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 451”

  1. My mother-in-law worked at a public library in a Chicago suburb. Its management decided to do pretty much the same thing–all “old” books, unless by black authors (and not all of them), and all duplicates, went out the door. The excuse was that people wanted other media, and they needed to make space.
    One of the schools assigned the Autobiography of Malcolm X. See “duplicates”, above, for what the students didn’t find in the library.

  2. I think they’ll quietly dispose of them rather than having open bonfires of them, but you never know.

    “1984” comes more to mind as it will be extremely easy to make things disappear in the “Digital Age”….

  3. Glad to know that we finally have a firm date for when humans became perfect. Nothing in particular stands out to me about 2008 as being the pinnacle of human achievement, but perhaps I missed something. Does this mean that we can ash-can both of Barack Obama’s autobiographies? Letter from a Birmingham Jail goes as well, as almost everything written by Toni Morrison. Oh well, that’s how the game is played.

  4. No adventure novels
    Guarantee nothing by Burroughs (John Carter, Tarzan) or Howard (Conan, Solomon Kane).
    Lots of pulp detective stuff, gone, too, I’m sure.

  5. Purging books published before 2008?

    Shucky darn I expect tomorrow they’ll decide to dump all published before 3008.

  6. I wonder what type of person could just pick up a copy of “1984” or “Fahrenheit 451” and not pause to reflect if they might be part of the problem before they threw it down the memory hole?

  7. Jim in Alaska
    September 28, 2023 at 10:56 am

    Shucky darn I expect tomorrow they’ll decide to dump all published before 3008.

    Nah. They’ll just keep moving the Year Zero as necessary to keep up with the rightthink.

  8. Has one of these liberians ever published a book that is famous? Let them get back to their drag queen story hours, I know they have never read Shakespeare, could never appreciate The Brothers Karamazov, comprehend Locke, understand Kipling. Such is the state of academia and its apparatchiks today. Perhaps they can finish they altair to St Floyd of the recreational pharmaceuticals, for the children.

  9. The Left uses the word “ban” in much the same way as other words with a social resonance such as “democracy” and “choice”; it hollows the word out by redefining it and then uses it as a weapon to beat its enemies. The next time somebody you know criticizes people for banning books, show them the article that SGM comments on.

    I should also add a few years ago there was a parent who stood up at a Fairfax County School Board meeting and started reading aloud from Gender Queer and Lawnmower Boy both of which were accessible to middle school students, She was told that she had to stop her speech because there were children present (https://www.foxnews.com/us/fairfax-mom-confronts-school-board-over-graphic-sexual-materials-in-school) . So it’s okay for kids to read from those books, but you are banned from reading them aloud so people know what’s in them.

    On a lark I decided to check out the American Association of School Librarians which just happens to have its national conference in a few weeks and surprise, surprise its Woke City with the theme being “Censorship and Equity in Education.” (https://national.aasl.org/) The general session speakers are about racial equity, artistic advocacy, and unblocking queer resources. The concurrent sessions are riddled with sessions such as “DEI Lesson Building Workshop for K-5” and “Kick the Canon to the Curb, ” and how to use “vetted” materials

    So what’s the differences between banning/censorship and vetting/curating? Given space and resource limitations a librarian needs to make choices regarding what materials to acquire and display so how is that vetting/curating the collection different than the pejorative terms banning and censoring? Because one set of actions is largely performed by an outside group deemed unsympathetic (banning/censoring) and in manner that requires visible protest. Accordingly everyone is aware of what’s going on, what books are being targeted, and can score accordingly. The other side (vetting/curating) is performed behind the scenes by insiders who claim professional credentials.

    Unlike that school in Ontario, materials deemed as “sections that you just don’t feel right about anymore”just disappear like straws in the wind and no one is the wiser.

    That’s the difference between banning and curating; it’s insider vs. outsider, professional vs. community. Pretty reminiscent of the ideology driving hiding kids’ “gender transitions” in the sense that parents and the larger community are something to be transcended and changed.

  10. what is intriguing is that in the story, they had come up with these devices called shells,essentially a smart phone or a tablet, so they didn’t need hard copy books of course,
    Fahrenheit needs to be read in conjuction with a short story from the ‘martian chronicles’ collection, the cask of amontillado one which outlines how the winnowing came to be,

  11. Some winnowing is necessary. When I was in high school circa 1970, I discovered books in the fiction collection that hadn’t been checked out in over 20 years. And not books anyone had ever heard of since then: third-rate popular fiction by long-forgotten hacks. OTOH, purging for content is almost always wrong.

    Also, the non-fiction areas should be (carefully) pruned. Science texts should be up-to-date. Because some of what’s in older books is wrong.

    History is another area. There are some famous works of history that were written with axes to grind, and are now known to be partly bogus. Other works have been superseded by later research. It shouldn’t all just sit on the shelf in school libraries.

    Dangerous? Of course. But ultimately necessary.

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