See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


It's frequently pointed out that parents are trying to get books banned in schools around the country, and one reaction might be to shiver, thinking of what a horror book banning can be. The last thing we want is to see mind-elevating ideas in nonfiction and the heart-expanding wonders of beautiful literature snatched from the young.

But I have also been thinking how everything depends on the book in question — whether it is in fact something credible, worthy and suitable for the age of given readers, or maybe something vile, hideous in spirit or misleading in thought.

Well, thank you Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., for showing us that books far worse than anything I ever imagined have in fact been made available in some schools with the possibility of young people absorbing this mix of poisonous verbiage. Who know what the effects could be on their lives and attitudes?

This lawmaker made his significant move by reading aloud book passages during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which participants were arguing that book bans in public schools limit literature and liberty. The bans may also limit such things as child abuse.

One form of abuse can be pornography, and what Kennedy taught me in a video of his reading is how some of what finds its way into schools can be downright sickening sex trash, as almost any parent hearing him would immediately know.

What Kennedy read included a novel's details of a disgustingly portrayed sexual episode, the graphic equivalent of vomit. Yes, the book had been banned. It was in fact the most banned book in school libraries, something likely only if it was once rampant in school libraries.

Though it is not in the video, Kennedy also argued with an Illinois official about an Illinois law that in a legal sense is almost as repulsive as the passage he read. It says, hey, schools and public libraries, you want to ban a book because of parents complaining? Well, OK, try it, but listen, we big guys and gals at the state level will then come at you with defunding.

Here's an utterly contemptible, totalitarian-style move that in effect says parents should pack their bags and move to some other state appreciating its citizenry.

Having said all of this, I must add that I think banning books in general is a war against free thought and democracy. Still, some of us have noticed that children are different from adults and need special protections. A current issue is a drive to smother young ones with information about homosexuality and gender.

What I strongly agree with here is that children should be taught to respect human differences.