Another federal-level committee will meet this week to take on the topic of books in school libraries. This follows several prior book ban related committee meetings in, including the 2022 House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on book bans and censorship and a fall 2023 Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary holding a hearing on how book bans limit liberty and literature. The Senate meeting opened the opportunity for Senators like Robert F. Kennedy to go viral for reading passages of so-called “explicit” books out loud, perpetrating the exact tactics used by far right book banners at the school board level.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be different–and potentially much more fiery than either of the previous hearings. It will be hosted by the Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Hearing. The name of the hearing tells everything you need to know about the spin on it: “Protecting Kids: Combating Graphic, Explicit Content in School Libraries.” The echoes to the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency, which helped fuel the panic around comics in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s are undeniable.
As of writing, little information is available about who will be testifying before the subcommittee. It will include opening statements from Republican Chairman Aaron Bean from Florida, who has parroted several of the same talking points about childhood innocence we’ve seen from groups like No Left Turn in Education and from Moms For Liberty–the designated Hate Group who have become welcome into the legislative workings of Florida.
Moreover, Bean disagrees with the labeling of his friends at Moms For Liberty as a “Hate Group”:
Will we see representatives from the group with tremendous financial backing from dark money sources and connections throughout state and federal politics testifying? It’d be pretty surprising if they weren’t given space to continue spewing their lies, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of books available in school libraries. This is the group that, without any expertise in childhood development, literacy, or education, created a home-grown book review system that they have tricked school districts across the country to implement. They lie when it suits their agenda.
“Parents are rightly concerned about the kind of content their children are consuming at the K-12 level. It’s time that we have a conversation that’s grounded in reality and focused on how to create an environment that is in the best interest of children’s educational development,” said Chairman Bean in the announcement for the subcommittee hearing.“It’s parents, not the Biden administration or the Left, who should have a say in this matter. This hearing is focused on empowering parents to enact the change they want to see at the state and local level.”
Of course, which parents he refers to is blatantly obvious.
Bean is a staunch supporter of school choice, which have been central to many of the book banning debates. As we’ve said from the beginning of this book banning wave, although books are a target, they are far from the end game. Right wing politicians and their supporters are angling for the opportunity to defund public institutions like schools and libraries. By pointing to “inappropriate material,” groups like Moms For Liberty tell people to remove their children from the public schools and enroll them in private institutions or homeschools. They then turn around and demand taxpayer money to send their children to these institutions, many of which are rooted in white, cishet, Christian fundamentalist philosophies. Book challenges by groups like these steal significant amounts of money (in some cases, $30,000 or more!) from public schools and their taxpayers, again used as “proof” for why schools are poorly performing.
To say this subcommittee hearing is angled with bias is an understatement.
That said, everyone who cares about democracy, the First Amendment, and the foundational right to read and access information should tune into the hearings tomorrow, Thursday, October 19, starting at 10:15 AM Eastern time.
You can stream the meeting at this link. The livestream will also be available below as soon as it begins: