This one made the rounds quickly this morning: the Texas State Board of Education banned Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?, written by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle, because Martin has the same name as an academic who once wrote about Marxism. One of my old colleagues at Time sent the story around, and then blogger the Zero Boss posted his reaction, which was about the same as mine. Namely, the board of education is running its libraries like the TSA runs its no-fly list–all zeal, paranoia and utter incompetence. Here’s how the decision went down, according to the original story:
Hardy said she was trusting the research of another board member, Terri Leo, R-Spring, when she made her motion and comments about Martin’s writing. Leo had sent her an e-mail alerting her to Bill Martin Jr.’s listing on the Borders.com Web site as the author of Ethical Marxism. Leo’s note also said she hadn’t read the book.
“She said that that was what he wrote, and I said: ‘ … It’s a good enough reason for me to get rid of someone,’ ” said Hardy, who has complained vehemently about the volume of names being added to the curriculum standards.
This is an inviting story on a few fronts. Everyone likes to mock Texas (though in fairness I’d expect this kind of thing more from my home state). Also, the fact that this poorly researched decision came from the board of education is delightful: The board is clearly made up of Texas’ goodest teechers.
But I’ll leave the Zero Blogger the last word, since he summed up, far better than the Dallas Morning News ever would, why this is disturbing:
Martin Jr. was explicitly excluded because the Board believed he championed ideas inimical to capitalism. Not in his children’s books, mind you, but… over there, on some other bookshelf. Shoddy research aside, how frightening is that as a standard? Does this mean that students in Texas can’t readAnimal Farm because George Orwell was a socialist? That they can’t analyze the poetry of the Fascist Ezra Pound? Can’t paint in the Commie style of Frida Kahlo? Apparently, considering authors and artists on their merits is too taxing for the Texas SBoE, which is more concerned with whittling down a “volume of names” than educating its students.
The next time a conservative decries “political correctness,” point to this story. Censorship isn’t an ideology, but the attitude of a narrow mind.