Read 'em and keep
The Polk County affiliate of a national group calling itself County Citizens Defending Freedom formally challenged the appropriateness of 16 of the thousands of books available in the Polk County Public School system libraries.
Who could argue with that?
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” - Thomas Paine
In a completely predictable outcome, the challenge has invited a great deal of interest in the books and generated a great deal of conversation and citizen activism on their behalf. The books themselves are now populating “Little Free Libraries” and being made available by and for residents who simply believe they should be.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
“There's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” - Oscar Wilde
The school board took the action required by law to establish a formal review of the books and determine whether or not the challenge had merit. According to the review panels, it did not. All 16 books have been restored to the library system.
CCDF plans to sue, adding the burden of time and expense - the school system’s two most precious resources - to defend the decision to keep the books available.
Available. Not required. Not recommended. Available.
According to data provided by Anne Everett, senior director of K-12 reading/writing, the books have been checked out a total of 426 times over the last two years, many of them fewer than ten times. The most popular were “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye”, both by Toni Morrison who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Other books with high checkout numbers include subjects ranging from LGBTQ issues to suicide and school shootings. Things that teens actually deal with.
Today, Polk County Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the nation, encompassing more than 150 schools and serving more than 110,000 students through both traditional K-12 schools and a variety of other programs.
Nearly 3,600 students in Polk County Public Schools are considered homeless, a 400 student increase from the previous year.
426 readers out of 220,000 students (a two-year audience) equals .002, two-tenths of one percent. Homeless students represent about three precent.
If the noise being made by the CCDF attracts your attention and inspires your interest, then invest your time and energy in two ways: push back against the nonsense they are espousing, and find every possible way to help the county and its citizens find ways to reduce the burdens on the actual lives being led by the most vulnerable people among us.
Attend school board meetings and County Commission meetings either in person or by way of their own media or news outlets. Pay attention. Add your voice. Be a true county citizen defending freedom.