We'd like to thank Republican state Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth for launching an inquiry into the books lining the shelves of public schools across Texas.
No, really. Thank you. Sometimes we forget what it's like to be a kid, driven by a bubbling curiosity and that indomitable impulse to do the opposite of what adults say. What more ingenious way to persuade students to read than to type up a 16-page list of books and tell schools that those titles are being investigated?
It's a clever move. We expect hundreds, if not thousands, of teens will be scanning that list, intrigued.
Most of the titles relate to race or sexuality. The list includes everything from "And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK," an encyclopedic exploration of the past 50 years of African-American history by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kevin M. Burke, to "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe," a young adult novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz about two Mexican-American teen boys coming to terms with being gay in the 1980s. (The Spanish version of this title also appears on the list.)
We wondered how Krause so diligently arrived at his list of 850 suspicious books, which education experts he consulted, and what titles he thinks should be yanked from schools. His chief of staff hasn't responded to our emails.
As chair of the House General Investigating Committee, Krause directed school districts to not only search their collections for the titles on his list but to also report any books on their shelves that contain human sexuality. That puts a target on a multitude of classics that depict sex and sexual abuse. Picture Toni Morrison's searing novel "Beloved" about a family's trauma from the horrors of slavery, Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" epic about Texans' gritty life in the Old West, and even the Bible, a no-holds-barred story of creation and salvation.
Krause also requested that schools identify books that might make students uncomfortable because of their race or sex. If anyone can divine that, surely it's school librarians and teachers who have already been tasked with navigating a mess of conflicting public health edicts and keeping our kids on grade level during a pandemic and a national labor shortage. Why not give our educators one more reason to quit the profession?
Parents have avenues to complain to their schools about content that might be too mature for their children. But that didn't stop Krause from following a Texas House tradition of sniffing around for school book controversies. In 1962, a special House committee probed un-American influences in textbooks, an investigation that disintegrated over accusations that the committee chair was using it as a political cudgel.
We aren't sure what is motivating Krause. We do know he is running to unseat Attorney General Ken Paxton in 2022.
If Krause wants to distract overworked educators from the crucial job of making up COVID-19 learning losses so they can review hundreds and hundreds of books, then he must sincerely believe this fishing expedition is the best use of their time. If he wants to shield children from difficult topics and ideas that might challenge them, he's gone about it in a way that will only stoke their interest in what he deems forbidden.
Krause might genuinely think he is doing the right thing for our kids. Otherwise, he's sabotaging children's education to score political points, and we shudder to think anyone would sink so low.
— Dallas Morning News