BIDLACK | ‘Dangerous’ books are less dangerous than book purges | Opinion

Hal Bidlack

My regular reader (Hi Jeff!) will remember that one of my favorite sections on Colorado politics is the Out West Round Up, and this week’s edition has a lot of great tidbits about what’s going on here in the west.

We have learned that New Mexico, like many other states, is deeply engaged in the process of selecting the top winners from the various Democratic and Republican candidates for state office. Oh, and if you’re a GOPer, please resist the urge to call them “Democratic candidates.” Surely we can disagree on issues without sinning against grammar? Otherwise, I’m going to start talking about “Republic candidates”, and it will confuse everyone.

We also learned this week that a wonderful woman from New Mexico, who never got to finish high school, received an honorary college degree at the age of 84, for decades of service to her community. His restaurant, Socorro’s, is known for good food and for feeding the elderly and those in need. Barack Obama and John Travolta both stopped for a meal. I don’t know what that last sentence really means, but thank you, Socorro Herrera, for your service.

And I bet you thought I would write about another Out West story, in which we learned of the conviction of a woman in Arizona who committed – wait for it – voter fraud! Her mother died days before the ballots were sent out and Tracey Kay McKee decided to vote at once and that of his deceased mother. Maybe this is the fraud the extreme GOP crackpots were looking for? Probably not, as Ms. McKee is a staunch Trump supporter. She was able to avoid jail, because, well, I’m not sure. Isn’t this type of fraud the thing the Trump team is absolutely angry about?

But surprise, I’m not going to write about it…

Instead, I want to tell you a story from South Dakota, a beautiful state, that should send shivers down your spine. But I’m afraid far too many of my GOP friends are bothered by this story, the same way so many of them seem to be on Russia’s side in Ukraine, but I digress…

I’m talking about banning books in education. If there’s one thing I know for sure when it comes to education – having taught at the Air Force Academy for 15 years is that the solution to “bad” and dangerous ideas is not to forbid mention of such things. Rather, it is about flooding the minds of the educated with plenty of information, insights, and sunlight, in the hope that they can derive their own (educated) opinions on the issues. keys of the day.

But in South Dakota, the opposite is happening.

It appears that a book by best-selling author Dave Eggers and four other books have been commissioned by school administrators in charming Rapid City. It was only after the books arrived at the central warehouse, apparently, that they realized that some members of the community did not want these books near their children. You know, dangerous ideas can fill their minds and they can start asking awkward questions. Eggar’s book, The Circle, satirizes cultures and values ​​in the internet age.

Wow, scary.

Administrators have now declared these books “unsuitable” for high school students, and they have ordered that these brand new books be declared “surplus” and ordered that they be destroy.

It’s not clear from the story how the books were to be destroyed, so we can’t tell if it was a literal fire or just a metaphorical one. But any such destruction should cause everyone concern. When a government official at any level says a book is too dangerous to read, we have to be very, very suspicious and, frankly, suspicious. And we should probably read it.

Fortunately, the Board of Education voted not to burn, I mean destroy, the books until they seek legal advice. Mr. Eggers has offered to send a free copy of his book, or any of the other four, to any high school student in Rapid City who wants one. I hope it is overwhelmed with demand. Oh, and another of the banned books mentioned in the article is “How Beautiful We Were: A Novel” by Imbolo Mbue, which tells the story of a young African woman from a small village who starts a revolution against a American oil company. Sounds dangerous, right?

If anyone (including me), right or left, demands control of what you read, what you see, and what you are otherwise exposed to, you need to be on your guard. As others have said more eloquently, the solution to “bad” or dangerous ideas is not to ban talking about them. Rather, it is about fully exploring the range of beliefs and allowing students’ senses of logic, evidence, and reason to guide their conclusions.

We know which companies have had massive book fires in the past, and we know how those companies turned out – not so good. We are strongest when we are widely exposed to a range of ideas. I hope the good folks of Rapid City will back down from their “kill order”, but I’m not optimistic. Hopefully many of those kids will accept Mr. Eggers’ offer.

I urge you to read dangerous books.

Hal Bidlack is a retired political science professor and retired Air Force Lt. Col. who taught for more than 17 years at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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