Many may have been assigned in high school the legendary science fiction author Ray Bradbury’s inimitable 1953 dystopic novel Fahrenheit 451.
If not, briefly, it’s a story about a future America in which books are banned, and firemen (not firefighters), instead of fighting fires, are charged with the responsibility of burning books.
The protagonist, fireman Guy Montag, becomes disillusioned with this role, and quits his job to become an activist against the totalitarian regime for which he previous worked.
One of science fiction’s most prominent characteristics is its ability to provide allegories for what is and what could be.
One can also see in this work the backdrop of the dark red-scare “McCarthyism” of this period in America, when high-profile politicians, like the titular Minn. Sen. Joseph McCarthy terrorized people’s first-amendment rights in an attempt to “root out Communists.”
Ray Bradbury stated in a 2010 interview that he wrote the story in part in response to the rise in television and radio entertainment threatening the need for the printed word.
One of the most disturbing aspects of some of the finest examples of sci-fi literature is their ability to predict potential futures so accurately.
Just read George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and one will no doubt see parallels between the fiction of then and the fact of now.
The list goes on, and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit is perpetually at the top.
Well, here we are, 2022, and there are people seriously discussing burning books.
Two months ago, the Spotsylvania, Va. County school board voted 6–0 to remove “sexually explicit” books from school libraries, in a continued jeremiad against anything that might potentially resemble “Critical Race Theory” (CRT).
But two members wanted to go a step further.
Board member Rabih Abuismail proposed, “We should throw those books in a fire.”
Kirk Twigg joined him, adding that he wishes to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
In other words, “Let us be the arbiters of what’s ‘appropriate’; we promise to be fair.”
The sentiment has only been gaining momentum.
School districts from Pennsylvania to Wyoming are caving to white, suburban, rural pressure under the auspices of “protecting students from feeling guilty” about being white or being exposed to material with potential LGBTQ themes.
American Library Association (ALA)’s Office for Intellectual Freedom director, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, explained:
“I’ve worked for this office for 20 years, and we’ve never had this volume of challenges come in such a short time.”
Retired 29-year Texas librarian Carolyn Foote, added:
“In my former district, we might have one big challenge like every two years. I have to say that what we’re seeing is really unprecedented.”
Caldwell-Stone said the ALA tracked 330 challenges between September and November, and hasn’t yet finished recording all the titles.
Florida republican state legislators recently began considering passing a bill that would force teachers to wear microphones in class so parents could monitor their lessons.
Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco responded with an allusion to Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984:
“You want to play Big Brother every moment? That’s not how society should be. We need to get back to where we have trust, we have value, we have faith and we have conversations and we can work things out if something happens.”
Two months ago, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation into the Southlake, Texas’ Carroll Independent School District suggesting administrators push teachers to present “opposing” perspectives of the Holocaust.
Ask most people what “Critical Race Theory”, or “CRT”, is and even many Democrats can’t define it, let alone republicans.
Our failure to explain it, or even acknowledge it, though, has only encouraged detractors to appropriate it for their own propaganda.
In under four months, republicans’ misinformation flagship, Fox so-called “news”, mentioned critical race theory 1900 times, accusing it of a tactic to frighten white people into believing “woke” Socialist teachers are “indoctrinating” American students into feeling guilty about their inherent racism and personal oppression of African Americans.
Image credit: Media Matters
This has led to scores of republicans flocking to school board meetings in protest, sometimes violently.
Several republican-led state legislatures, latching onto this outrage, have passed “anti-CRT” bills.
But what is Critical Race Theory?
Is it actually some nefarious leftist legerdemain intended to lure innocent Caucasian children into a bottomless pit of self-loathing?
A simple Google search is all one needs to discover that CRT is a 40-year-old law school program designed to educate future attorneys about racism’s institutional legacy in American legal systems and policies.
It is not nor has it ever been taught in American schools, nor is it a “woke” Marxist educators’ ploy to denigrate white students.
So, basically, hate media is urging parents to storm school board meetings to demand schools stop teaching something they have never taught.
Democrats and the media have an obligation to correct the narrative.
But since they don’t, people go on, without evidence, about how CRT is corrupting their children.
It’s just another weapon in white supremacy’s arsenal to de-legitimize and undermine public education.
Once we start having “serious” debates over burning books, to what low will be sink next?
Image credit: Freddy Kearney via Unsplash