by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nate Hochman explains at National Review Online why first lady Jill Biden missed the point, when she decided to wade into the debate over appropriate content for American public school libraries. Public school libraries have a different audience than public libraries in general.
In an interview with the Today Show yesterday, Jill Biden was asked about her view on the debate surrounding the teaching and dissemination of controversial content in public schools. After a brief, boilerplate aside about how parents and teachers should “work together in their school districts and decide what they want with their curriculum,” the First Lady was asked if books in school libraries should reflect “a balance.” “All books should be in the library,” she jumped in. “All books. This is America. We don’t ban books.”
Well, first, it’s one or the other: Either parents get to work with teachers — which means they get a say — as Biden initially argued, or they don’t, i.e., “all books” are necessarily allowed. The obvious subtext of the conversation is that many parents think some books shouldn’t be in the library. If the First Lady really thinks those parents are deserving of a voice in such things, the result will presumably be that some books are left out in favor of others.
Second, on the “this is America” point — Biden’s comments were in the context of content in public schools, provided to underage children. America has always restricted certain kinds of content, and the attendant freedom to engage with it, when it comes to children. Why? Well, because we understand that some things — including some books — aren’t appropriate for children. Her husband himself called for banning targeted advertising to children in his State of the Union address. He wasn’t calling for banning targeted advertising to adults, because children and adults are different. Go figure.