by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I can’t think of a more encouraging development than the national movement of parents pushing back against woke education. Nothing can beat parents organized to halt the erosion of core American ideals like freedom of expression or equality before the law. Thankfully, a record of early successes is rapidly building a larger movement to take back our schools.
Yet a crusade on the rise always risks overreach. Lately, some parents and public officials fighting woke education have considered pulling books from the shelves of public-school libraries. That isn’t always inappropriate, even for strong defenders of free speech. Libraries serving K-12 students legitimately take criteria like age-appropriateness and community standards into account when it comes to explicit sexual material. Because those lines are notoriously difficult to draw, battles over sexually explicit school library books are sure to play out for years.
Bracketing the issue of age-appropriateness and explicit sexual content, however, I want to suggest that the best way to deal with woke school library books is not to ban them, but to balance them. If Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” is on your school-library shelf, don’t ban it. Have your library buy a copy of John McWhorter’s “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America,” instead. If your school library has a copy of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” have it order a copy of Heather MacDonald’s “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.” And so on. …
… [P]reparing the young for mature citizenship means exposing them to contrasting perspectives. The pernicious new educational practice of “action civics” allows biased teachers to draft whole classes into after-school political protests for course credit. I’ve argued that instead of forcing students into one-sided after-school political advocacy, schools ought to return to the tradition of high-school debate.