SKIPPER: Library books, a matter of local control | Columnists


Iowa Senate Speaker Jake Chapman, R-Adel, and Judiciary Chairman Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, back a plan that would effectively allow the state legislature to determine which books would be appropriate for classroom learning and for school libraries.

In fact, the bill would allow for criminal charges to be laid against teachers and librarians who violate what the Legislative Assembly deems improper.


Globe Gazette file photo

“It has become increasingly clear that we live in a world in which many, including our media, wish to confuse, mislead and deceive us, calling good evil and evil good,” Chapman said on the day of the opening of the Legislative Assembly.

“The attack on our children is no longer hidden. Some teachers disguise sexually obscene material as a desired subject and profess that it has artistic and literary value,” he said.

Clearly, this is a cause in search of a constituency. It is the radical right that accuses the radical left without providing any evidence to back up their claims. And even if that were true, do we really want the government to tell us what we can and can’t read or what we can or can’t teach?

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The solution is local control with decisions made by local school boards and school authorities with healthy and helpful input from parents.

Republicans have always been the party that advocates less government regulation, not more. It is therefore a real reversal of philosophy. Sometimes that’s called hypocrisy.

So let’s stop this nonsense before it gets out of control. And it can get out of hand. Oklahoma’s legislature will consider a bill this year in which lawmakers will determine the suitability of school and library books — and issue fines of $10,000 a day for noncompliance.

In Iowa, state Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, a former longtime teacher, said procedures were already in place for school officials to review and approve or disapprove reading materials. . She said the system was working.

“I think we have to leave things as they were,” Steckman said.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, who controls the path of much of the legislation, thinks fellow Republicans Chapman and Zaun may have gone to extremes in their bill.

“I think we’re very strongly of, obviously, that pornography shouldn’t be distributed in a school. However, how can we do this in a way that local school boards are the ones making sure the issue is addressed? said Grassley, grandson of US Senator Chuck Grassley.

I was reading a book the other day full of violence, prostitution, infidelity and idol worship. In the broadest sense, this would be the kind of book Chapman and his fellow Republicans would want to keep out of the reach of children. The book is the Old Testament of the Bible.

Is the Bible obscene? Of course not. Is the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” obscene? Of course not. Is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” obscene? Of course not.

If parents in a community have a problem with the books that their children should read or that are available in their public library, there are local procedures for handling such complaints. And what meets a community standard in Davenport might not be acceptable in Council Bluffs. That’s what local control is for.

The Legislature should be concerned with properly funding our schools, paying a lot of money for good teachers and good facilities, and after that pretty much minding its own business.

John Skipper retired from The Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in the newspapers, mostly in Mason City covering northern Iowa government and politics.

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