A pornographic young-adult graphic novel in North Kingstown High School is another slip down the spiral.
Nicole Solas of South Kingstown has widened her efforts to return sanity to Rhode Island schools to North Kingstown, where she has filed a police report highlighting a very graphic graphic novel that North Kingstown High School provides to its students, most of them minors. Following her reports can be challenging, if you have children and an open floor plan, because the images have to be hidden whenever the kids walk by… yet, there’s the book promoted in a school display case.
She’s attracted enough attention, at this point, that she’s receiving responses from across the country, including this interesting one from Purdue University literacy and language education professor Christy Wessel Powell:
We had this same discussion about Lolita and Shakespeare and a bunch of other ones too
Nicole responds by drawing a distinction between written texts and illustrations, but the point can be broadened.
Comments like Powell’s always remind me of this scene in the classic movie, Field of Dreams.
In short, the protagonist’s wife turns the crowd at an Iowa school committee meeting from a position of moderate support for removing novels by a fictional ’60s writer named Terence Mann from the rural high school to a position of supporting the Bill of Rights. I imagine folks like Purdue’s literacy professor have this scene, or another like it, when they enter the public debate on such matters, complete with the interpersonal baggage of the characters in the film: This type of person supports censorship, and I’m that other type of person who “halts the spread of neo-fascism in America.”
Yet, every new wave of these fighters for free thought is missing a key lesson that people who think out to consider: History and the causes of goodness and freedom do not follow a straight path. It’s a curvy road through a complex landscape that swerves around impassable obstacles and sometimes even requires turns onto other routes.
Statements like “we had this same conversation” are a sign of lazy thinking, ideological assertions masquerading as intellectual principles, or both. It can be true that a book like the made-up novel in Field of Dreams, The Boat Rocker, can be appropriately be present in a particular high school library at a particular time, based on the type of people who live there, the degree to which the book is objectionable, and the underlying motivation for removing it. However, I doubt even Professor Powell would insist that there is no line that can be crossed along this road.
The thing is: Everybody wants the easy high of cosplaying a principled stand. Everybody in Powell’s life will applaud her perspective; there’s no risk to her that the crowd in the auditorium will begin to “boo.” She’s certain of victory. For that to be true, however, such folks can never be the ones (like Nicole Solas) shouting out that the road is turning and we’re headed off a cultural cliff if we don’t shift our thinking, and they can never acknowledge that maybe it’s a sort of neo-fascism promoting the endless corruption of children while also censoring and investigating those with different political views.