John Turpish for Georgia State House

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Kids’ Library Books


There was a question in the debate that I know at least one person heard differently than I did, and if one person had that understanding someone else did, too. So let me go ahead and clear up my position for anyone who might be confused: I do not want state law involved in deciding which books are stocked on which shelves of which libraries. I oppose SB-154 for that reason.

A different person heard it differently still, and thought I was equating these age-driven content restrictions with book banning. Closer, but wrong. There are materials that are inappropriate for children, and reasonable people can be concerned about that and want government-owned institutions to reflect their concerns. Book banning would punish adults for being in possession of certain books and/or destroy those books wherever they are found. These are different things.

As always, I believe the parent is the best advocate for their own children and should be relied upon as the trustees of their future. So what can a parent do if they’re concerned about what books their kids can easily check out of a library?

Librarians

First of all, you could try talking to your librarians. Most librarians have spent a fair bit of time thinking about this sort of issue, so if you’re willing to have a respectful and thoughtful discussion it could be quite productive. Maybe they failed to notice or look into that book. Maybe they are aware of the concern, but after hearing from you they might reconsider. It’s entirely possible they may get you to reconsider, too.

Obviously there’s a lot of individual differences between people of any group, and librarians are no exception. I’ll give you a couple examples from school librarians in my own childhood.

In one of my high schools I was a part of a friend group that hung out in the library. One of the librarians once asked us: “What do you think about censorship?” We all disliked it to varying degrees, as I’m sure you’d guess. She largely agreed, then continued: “If we get a book donated and I refuse to put it on the shelf, is that censorship?” The general consensus among these teenagers was that it was a form of censorship, but we were already getting a bit less strident. “We get in far more books than we have shelf room for. If I shelve that book, I have to take something else off the shelf. Am I censoring that book now?” It’s a worthy question.

In one of my elementary schools, a friend was waiting to check out a picture book and found a full-page picture – a drawing – of a family on a beach. It included two little kids – a boy and a girl – playing in the sand wearing swimming suit bottoms. Being a little boy he started to snicker and show his friends who started talking about it. The librarian asked to see what we were looking at. She found a permanent marker the same color as her bathing suit and drew a top on her.

I suspect both of those librarians had given quite a bit of thought to what’s appropriate material to stock in their libraries, and they might not have agreed with each other. The people who operate the library your kids check out books from – what are they like?

Administrators

SB-154 deals specifically with libraries in K-12 schools. If that’s where your concern lies, there’s a rather obvious way to go over the librarian’s head. Administrators are quite used to dealing with parents who are concerned with what their kids are exposed to – it’s their job; what they’re paid to do.

School Board

If you don’t like what the school administrator had to say, you can go to a school board meeting. These folks are elected to represent you, it’s a position specific to schools in your area, and they’re elected and serve much closer to home than Assembly. They certainly should be very accessible.

Vote

Of course if your school board isn’t representing you, vote them out.

Run

If you don’t have a candidate to vote for, run yourself. In our area you could probably win on this exact issue.

Opt Out

If you disagree with the voters around you and can’t effect change that way, or don’t want to wait for it, opt out. After all, if you don’t see eye-to-eye with your school on what material is age-appropriate, you probably disagree with lots of other things they’d expose your kids to, maybe without you noticing.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. There aren’t enough private schools existing in Georgia today, not enough variety among them, they’re too expensive, they might represent a particular worldview you don’t want your kids brought up in, and lots of other valid concerns (I haven’t even addressed my top 2 concerns). Homeschooling can be a tough road, especially in households where all the adults are working. HSAs are few and far-between, not just here but in general, and many don’t have drop-off programs anyhow, certainly not regularly, so we’re back to the working parent’s dilema.

I absolutely support educational freedom on multiple fronts. I absolutely want to make opting out of government school (or even just choosing between them) more practical.

But that’s a long slog. Any change in the Assembly is. It might come too late for your children. And state law really is a giant, one-size-fits-all hammer. Sometimes it’s just the thing – like murder laws which should be the same all across Georgia, no matter what. But your child is not a nail.


2 responses to “Kids’ Library Books”

  1. Hi, I am trying to figure out who to vote for in Feb. You are clearly an intelligent man, but have not commented on the issues on which I am most concerned. (1) Do you have concerns on election integrity? If so, what would you do? (2) What did you think of the handling of covid and mandatory vaccination using untested gene therapy? (3) What do you think of Fani Willis and weaponizing the court system?

    • Thanks for reaching out! Some of these points might deserve a post of their own, but I’ll try to briefly reply here.

      1) A significant number of voters have concerns, and that’s what’s important. For elections to do their job of allowing peaceful change, people need to have faith that they are fair.
      And to build that faith, we want them to be as auditable as possible.
      I think the obvious first steps are hand-marked paper ballots, and any machine reading/handling must obviously be done with open hardware and open (freely-available) software.
      To answer the question directly: I personally suspect the elections are operating as advertised, which is to say badly (but that’s a whole different set of issues). But my estimation is not the only one that counts.

      2) A medical treatment shouldn’t be mandatory. It should’ve been legal to take the shot anonymously. The state database of who has taken what shots should be opt-in. Adults should’ve been allowed to sign up for a challenge trial. A wider variety of treatments should be approved for use under strict informed consent – without subsidy. Private actors should be allowed freedom of association. And, for the Assembly in particular, emergency powers for a singular person need to be treated with MUCH greater skepticism.

      3) Excessive use of RICO charges is concerning, and not only in the case of Young Thug. Some believe Ms. Willis needs to be investigated for corruption; I don’t have a strong sense of whether she actually is corrupt but in general I’m in favor of investigating government officials when there’s a question.

      Hopefully that helps explain where I’m coming from, but don’t be afraid to reach out if you have further questions. My email & socials are linked on the front page – john@turpish.vote

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