League City Councilman Justin Hicks says he wants to protect children. No one can argue that’s not a good idea.

But in calling to remove a book from Helen Hall Public Library, and to review several more to determine whether they should remain, Hicks is dragging the public library, the habit of reading, the First Amendment and the concept of parental choice into a partisan mire that has little to do with protecting young minds.

Hicks proposes the book “Sex is a Funny Word” be removed and seven other books for children on similar topics be evaluated to determine whether the content is appropriate.

Written by Cory Silverberg for children ages 8 to 10, “Sex is a Funny Word” is a comic book covering topics such as sexuality, gender and masturbation.

In suggesting a purge, Hicks joins Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders in a quest to root what they argue are dangerous ideas from the shelves of public libraries, and, more commonly, public school libraries, lest they infect the minds of children.

Other books Hicks listed include stories about a prince who loves a knight, a boy who likes to wear dresses and a boy who wants to be a mermaid. Two of the books tell the stories of transgender children.

This in an old story with a contemporary twist, and groups on both sides of the political divide have at times driven the narrative. Past efforts targeted examples of canonical American literature, such as books by Mark Twain, because they depict racist attitudes and expose children to what we now call hate speech.

The ideological bent of the censors changes, as does the definition of a dangerous idea, but their rationale remains the same: Children who read about transgender issues will become transgender; children who read about racists will become racist.

During 2019, religious groups launched a campaign to have Harry Potter books removed from school libraries because of their occult themes. The effort was successful in some cases, although there was little evidence of children becoming sorcerers for having read them.

A good library inevitably will contain many books that might offend somebody. Books about the history of warfare might offend pacifists who wouldn’t want their children exposed to depictions of violence. Some cookbooks might offend vegetarians.

And it’s a safe bet that some highly religious people would object to their children reading books about the tenets and mores of any religion or sect not exactly like their own.

In an email to League City City Manager John Baumgartner, Hicks said, “This book is indoctrinating and smut, in my opinion.”

The councilman is entitled to that opinion, of course, and might even be right, but is missing a fundamental point.

It’s neither his burden nor the city’s to decide what other people’s children ought not read. That onus falls on parents.

Most challenges to books in public and school libraries cite sexual content or offensive language, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

It’s odd, and perhaps illuminating, that violence never seems to make the list.

At any rate, the library association argues censorship “by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.”

Teaching children about the broad — and broadening — spectrum of issues relating to sex, sexuality and gender, as well as issues about race and diversity, is complex. But the association provides a simple solution:

“Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents — and only parents — have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children — and only their children — to library resources.”

The world is changing fast, and children are maturing much more quickly than ever and are exposed to different ideas through a vast array of media at an earlier age than ever. Pretending that’s not the case is short-sighted, no matter how good one’s intentions.

And there’s reason to think good intentions are not the motivation behind recent calls for censorship in Texas. Those have all the earmarks of another old story about politicians grabbing handy wedge issues to hammer into the electorate when they’ve run out of productive ideas.

Censorship of ideas and the vessels that carry them is not only fundamentally unAmerican, but it runs counter to the underpinnings of all Western Civilization, as John Stuart Mill pointed out:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

The city and library board should thank Hicks for his concern but then leave the books alone.

• Margaret Gardner and Michael A. Smith

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227; Margaret.Gardner@galvnews.com; Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com​.

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Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(7) comments

Gary Scoggin

Whenever an article’s lede mentions Justin Hicks, I know it will be funny. Before it turns depressing.

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] Well stated. Books reflect our humanity - some of it is offensive. Some of it is challenging. Some of it is archaic. Some of it is silly. Some of it is overwhelming. If you want your kids to grow into adults who can make sense of this world, send them to a library where they can sample it all.

Sue Emmite

[thumbup]

Charles Douglas

What next for this Woke Society,... Adolescent Brothels? We, have just about everything else working! We have some here okaying males wearing dresses in order to gain entrance into female restrooms to facilitate attacking young girls, and we got old fools existing here now thinking it is their duty ( Not the Parents ) ..to educate little kids on the intricacies of sex, and more! So what's left?

It is said that Sodom & Gomorrah ( Genesis 18: 20-21 ) was so sinfully bad that God himself came down to take a look ..( and likely a sniff at the stink. )..before the cities were destroyed! I will wager if God came down here now, Sodom & Gomorrah would come out ahead in comparison, ten ways to Sunday!

David Hardee

[thumbup]

David Hardee

Coming out of the media is always that one solution for all issues, permissiveness. Journalist have a unique intersect with library's, publications, and media. In general, journalist cannot proceed on the path of discrimination even if faced with a personal affront do to ethics and or morality, since that would be censoring. Journalism has been hijacked by liberalist and obviously is restricted from using thoughts that incorporate discrimination because that would slow down the movement toward what is the ultimate quest, progressive. That word "progressive" is a vexing nuisance because it has a vernacular association with meaning, positive. Saying it is progressive innuendos, improving. Progressive liberal is an establishment in the world of politics which will include any who will adopt permissive and adapt to any agenda that is all inclusive. This is akin to a refuse collector with no restrictions, and totally ignoring there is hazardous material in the collection. Same as with the progressive liberal’s who do not discriminate.

A library and its contents is the subject of this article. But the real issue is what the library does. More specific is whether the library should handle some of its collected materials as hazardous. In this article hazardous is the books that are specifically oriented to children and contain an intention to expose children to sex in some form. The library in the USA has never been put under this much scrutiny in my recall; and I have had a library card for 74 years. So what has happened to the library causing it to be an issue for scrutiny. It's not the library that has changed. It is the society that has changed. It is not the staid old library card holders that changed nor the traditional authors that produces books of all types, including every spectrum of sex in its most titillating presentations.

Forget the library as the issue. The library is just being incorporated into the much larger issue that has been PROGRESSING in society since the constitution identified specific segmentations (race, color, gender, sexual preference, etc.) of society.

I could lead and educate you through the path of incidents like the Hayes morality restriction, the Hustler magazine Supreme court opinion, Gaëtan Dugas introducing HIV into the San Francisco homosexual playground, Jesus in a bottle of Urine is artistic free speech, etc. but that would take more space then available,

The library is another of the progressive liberals cabal, specifically the LGBTQ wing of the Big Tent, attack points in attempt to indoctrinate children into their peculiar sexual activities,

Ergo, the actual need is to declare that society will not permit any perpetrators of any intentional agenda to indoctrinate children. How we accomplish that is to restrict the products from any promotion or display that is in the PUBLIC venues of children, period.

Children's exposure to sex is to be the sole prerogative of their legal guardians, only. Schools are not to incite curiosity or enter into the psychological sexual development of children in the primary levels. Incidents that occur in the school associated to sex are to be referred to the guardians and considered as interference with the NORMAL school agenda, thus discouraged.

Charles Douglas

Amen Mr. Hardee! In my most humbled opinion, schools are having a hard enough time teaching kids math, reading, writing, history, and science, without seeking to submarine under parents and dabbling into teaching sex knowledge, practices, and behaviors to the kids of parents! Nobody hired them for that, and I'd bet money it does not appear in their contracts anywhere saying they are responsible for such instructions! So that makes it WOKE! That makes it POLITICAL, & UNCONSCIONABLE!

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