The Truth Hurts, But Has the Power to Heal
*Published in the York Daily Record on March 2nd as "The Central York Book Ban was a Myth Perpetuated by the Media" Article Link
Those who are outraged about the idea of book bans are justified. The banning of books is unamerican and reminiscent of regimes, not republics. As Americans who enjoy free speech and a free press, the concept of banning books should be intolerable to us. But for the same reason we should not tolerate it, we should likewise have a distaste for misleading news reporting. Evidence of a so called “book ban” is in short supply when it comes to the Central York School District controversy that garnered local and national headlines. The flame of this false narrative was stoked by a local news source whose zeal for subscriptions, “likes,” and comments apparently outweighed their responsibility to find facts. Rather than provide our community with much needed objective reporting, the source’s nameless editorial board chose to gang up on a lone, resolute school board member (Veronica Gemma), by offering up little more than several partisan hit pieces aimed at destroying her and defaming Republican school board members and candidates. More importantly, they aimed to divide and deceive a community, conjuring up a false sense of outrage all at the expense of our children.
Let’s define two important terms. A “ban” is something that is “officially prohibited.” A “curriculum” is a group of components that define and guide a class or school subject. There is a clear distinction between books that are readily available and those that are curriculum worthy. For example, a school may choose to no longer include Huckleberry Finn in a middle school reading class, but rightfully opt to keep a few copies in the library. That certainly doesn’t mean that “Huck Finn” is banned. There are thousands of books that are not age-appropriate, offer little educational value, or are simply mediocre choices for young readers. Most books aren’t even school library-worthy, much less suitable for curriculum. These basic facts, though, do not mean these books are banned. To claim otherwise is dishonest and deceptive. The media knew this and reported it anyway.
So, let’s get a few facts straight about what actually happened at Central.
The original book list, which was being considered for curriculum in August of last year, would have been approved without issue by Central’s board if it weren’t for a back-door, deceitful addendum. The original list included informative books for elementary readers about heroic Americans like Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass. In contrast, the addendum to that list contained sexually explicit (some even pornographic) works, as well as hate filled, so called “anti-racist” selections that condemn “whiteness” and pit students against each other.
The mainstream media, salivating for an opportunity for division and strife, pushed the false claim that the books appearing in the first list had been banned by allegedly racist board members. This brings us to another critically important point. Diversity wasn’t the issue here. The issue was a deceptive attempt by a small faction of elitist educators, led by an equally elitist former superintendent, to incorporate heinous resources into an otherwise harmless roster of books. Fortunately, these educators don’t represent the district as a whole. Unfortunately, the media fell for it hook, line, and sinker and chose sensationalism over integrity in their journalism. To add insult to injury, these two lists were blended and edited after the fact, causing much confusion.
So, the school board, whose chief job is to decide curriculum, was faced with a decision: approve the list, including the obscene late additions, disapprove the list, or further investigate the add-ons. Gemma, who has sadly endured months of crude attacks from uninformed individuals, actually suggested forming a curriculum committee to take the time to properly vet the list and post its findings publicly. This effort was blocked by the former superintendent and former board president, giving the impression that the board failed and floundered. Of course, most of these details were never reported. Instead, lies and half-truths were used to stir controversy and support Democratic campaigns that had little more to offer than obnoxious opposition to a nonexistent problem. To that end, another main contributor was the state teacher’s union (PSEA) which was more than complicit in this web of lies, sowing over $14,000 into the Democrats’ smear campaign effort.
All of this is merely a local manifestation of a national problem. Sensationalism, dishonesty, and rash judgment now seem to outrank timeless virtues like wisdom, prudence, and impartiality.
The heart wrenching truth of this months-long mess is that our children were used as pawns for political purposes by democratic candidates in league with our local media. A once peaceful school district was unnecessarily divided by a handful of misguided educators with a divisive political agenda. In hindsight, the board could have done better by messaging more clearly, acting more decisively, and reigning in a rogue superintendent. Our local news outlets could have done better by actually researching and reporting the facts. The good news is ‘doing better’ is within our reach. The truth, as much as it can hurt, also has the power to heal. We all, myself as much as anyone, can be slower to judgment, take the time to find facts, and report more fairly. We all can stand to be much less combative with those whom we disagree, as well. All of this starts with the truth. So, let’s start there … and then start to heal.