By Dorcas Hand
This may be an off-year for school board elections, but political rhetoric for all other races is heating to a fever pitch. Education issues have become pawns as some try to say schools are not doing their job properly. We are all watching as K-12 curriculum and libraries have both taken heat.
We want to thank the HISD School Board and administration for standing by the solid policies and procedures already in place to manage requests for reconsideration of materials, rather than acting on demands from the loud and passionate speakers who attend SB meetings to request that books be banned. The restoration of library services to all campuses this year is further support of this effort to offer our students a wide range of reading materials to accommodate their ages, abilities, interests and academic needs. HISD demonstrated in its budget decisions that we value our teachers, and are working hard to pay them what they are worth. Thank you for also respecting them as the professionals they are and for the expertises they hold.
We are here today to remind you that a majority of voters prefer that libraries and classrooms continue to offer readers of all ages access to information that will help them explore their world, and fiction that will excite their imaginations and strengthen their literacy.* These mainstream voters want to make sure that children in families struggling to make ends meet can get the same good education as children in wealthy families, and that quality public education grounded in respect for each person is available to every student.
Many voters are confident that the democracy defined by our Constitution will keep us steadily moving into the future. But it is the voices in the minority, loud and demanding, who want to control not only what their own children read and learn, but what all children read and learn - and they do it for political clout, rather than for the children. They have generally not completely read the books in question, but focused on words and phrases taken out of context. The so-called Parental Rights they fight for already exist, and schools listen to them. Every parent has the right and responsibility to play the lead role in the education of their own children, but they do not have any right to deny other families the same right to offer their children more open access to information.
How can our students learn to lead this democracy as adults if they cannot read about our history - even unpleasant, messy, unfortunate historical events - to see attitudes and actions they want to prevent from happening again? How can they appreciate the lives, cultures and experiences of our diverse city and world without exposure to all of that? How can our students learn to manage their own human development and understand people around them if those topics are not available? All kids deserve to feel safe to learn and thrive at school. Removing resources that make a few uncomfortable leaves many more students with limited academic resources that would honor their cultural awareness. In America, we celebrate free speech and independent thinking. Trying to limit or remove those freedoms is censorship.
Thank you for continuing to support Superintendent House and the amazing well-educated, hard-working teachers and administrators HISD has hired as they work with our awesome and diverse students. We are relying on these students to understand their changing world as they become Houston voters and leaders. They will need broad knowledge, confidence in their abilities to collaborate with many, and insightful creativity to solve the problems we already see and the new ones we don’t yet imagine. And you are the current School Board we rely on to continue your support of a great HISD education. Thank you for your service. Students Need Libraries in HISD stands by you to defend our students’ right to read.
*“New ALA Poll Shows Voters Oppose Book Bans.” American Libraries, 24 Mar 2022. “The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research on behalf of ALA. It included 1,000 voters and 472 parents of children in public schools. The sample is demographically and geographically representative of voters and parents in the US. Additional survey findings and methodology can be found on the ALA website.”
This blog is primarily authored by Debbie Hall and Dorcas Hand, but guest authors are welcome. If you have an idea to share, please contact our email below. Debbie is a retired HISD librarian and Library Services Specialist. Dorcas is a retired school librarian who remains active in AASL/ALA. Both support increased equity in school library access and support for all HISD students and campuses.