Home > Uncategorized > Reason #3 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Bibliophilia

Reason #3 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Bibliophilia

August 17, 2022

Ok, this one is going to be a little esoteric, so bear with me. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love books. One thing I like telling our staff as they’re going home for the summer is, “read a book with no socially-redeeming value.” That doesn’t mean I don’t want people reading great literature or professionally-relevant books. It’s called balance. I may have a fridge full of fresh produce, but my pantry still has the Little Debbie snacks.

Technically, they’re sandwiches. It says so right on the box. But I digress.

Make no mistake: reading is under attack. Just this week, I’ve read about a Texas school district that removed 41 book titles, including the Bible and the Diary of Anne Frank from its shelves. To be fair, the district is following its review policy for titles that have been challenged, but can we just agree that this is beyond ridiculous?

Also within the last week, I saw a story about a teacher in Oklahoma who chose not to have kids read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann. I read the book on vacation last year and then loaned it out to one of my children. This well-researched piece of writing made me want to learn more about our state’s history – not the stuff we glossed over in school back in the 80s. Good literature makes you crave more.

Apparently, the Oklahoma teacher is afraid of losing her certification:

While the district has not officially banned the book, the school’s superintendent, Vince Vincent, believes the teacher, like many others, is worried of violating HB 1775.

“It probably sheds light a little bit on the concerns that individual teachers have in regards to House Bill 1775, and what may or may not create a situation where either the school receives negative attention and gets some sort of accreditation deficiency, or whether the teachers themselves suffer consequences in terms of teacher certification,” said Superintendent Vincent.

However, former Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray said there’s no way for people to appreciate how far the tribe has come without learning about their dark past.

“We don’t study history to feel good about it,” Gray said. “History is there for us to understand the mistakes of the past so we cannot repeat them.”

I don’t see how having students read this book would violate the law. Then again, anyone who fears the State Board of Education going rogue and following neither the law nor their own policies has good reason to feel that way. When they want to grandstand and make a point – as they did recently with Tulsa and Mustang – they’ll just wing it. Don’t believe me? Just read Mustang’s letter of appeal. They make some really good points.

In the race for State Superintendent, we can choose a candidate who not only supports libraries and librarians, Dr. April Grace; or we can pick the current darling of the book banning crowd, Ryan Walters.

In 2021, Dr. Grace was honored by the American Association of School Librarians as the recipient of their Distinguished School Administrator Award. As she wrote in an article for their journal:

To me, the library is the heartbeat and central hub of the school. It is a place for the entire school to gather and collaborate, a place where learning is enhanced and the classroom extended. It is a place where learning can come alive and help each student make real-world connections. It is a place where all learners can dream, create, grow, and connect. It is an inclusive place where every child can feel safe and seen and valued. Robust school libraries are a catalyst for creating inclusive learning environments, and every learner deserves access to a quality library. When I became superintendent of my own school district, I knew investing in school libraries was nonnegotiable.

When you see children reading, you see children learning. When you see schools that value libraries, you see adults who care what students learn. 

Most people who have ever worked in a public school have known students who think of the library as their safe place. When books are under attack, when the professionals who foster the love of reading are under attack, so is that safe place.

Walters and his crowd can keep filming their car videos and screaming invectives from their keyboards for now. If he wins this election, however, expect those attacks to intensify.

As far as I’m concerned, books like Killers of the Flower Moon are important. As a life-long Oklahoman who wants to understand the history of our state, I loved the book and can’t wait for the movie to come out. Hopefully our students won’t have to wait either.

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