OPINION: Texas lawmakers should read “Fahrenheit 451” before deciding to ban it


Gracie Watt / Hilltop Views

In October 2021 a watch list of 850 books was distributed throughout Texas public schools on behalf of Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives. This is indicative of a new wave of “book banning” efforts across the country.

Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451, about a dystopian society where books are burned to censor the public, is one of the books being challenged by Texas parents. This is due to the use of profanity with a complete disregard for the irony of the situation.

Concerned parents and policymakers are making it a priority to avoid exposure to any type of discussion around sexuality, gender or race between students in Texas public schools. This policy is withholding children from gaining knowledge in today’s society following the recent target on critical race theory.

In October 2021 a watch list of 850 books was distributed throughout Texas public schools on behalf of Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives.

He initiated a “hunt” for any books that he believed to be causing “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of [a student’s] race or sex.” Krause has the support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott through his persistence into criminal investigations on books containing “pornographic” materials.

These actions have received strong opposition including words from “Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, [who] described Krause’s request to school officials as a ‘witch hunt,’ and a ‘disturbing and a political overreach into the classroom.’”

This attack on books and extreme censorship in Texas public schools should be considered an infringement on our first amendment right of free speech that will impact generations of students who are no longer being exposed to the reality of our world.

There is a necessity to protect our right to read books that include our own experiences and challenge the beliefs of our environment. Parents should not have an influence on the education provided statewide in terms of diversity and inclusion.

Books including storylines and messages regarding sexuality and gender being banned in schools will have an enormous impact on the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ students in school. Since the beginning of the use of the term “gay” or “queer” in a negative context, LGBTQ students have been harassed in schools.. These policies reinforce and exacerbate the cruelties that are already a reality for so many individuals in this community.

Some examples of the books that are under investigation or question are: “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, “We Are the Ants” by Shaun David Hutchinson and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. This list of a few books that include queer characters, storylines or just scenes is not even close to the amount currently up for discussion.

The debate on the books in question does not come from a place of true concern from the students who may be required or given the option to read these books. This autonomy has been taken from these soon-to-be adults who may now grow up without a true sense of the outside world or their own identities.

The argument made by concerned parents in terms of books on sexuality and gender is demonstrated by the lobbying of residents in Granbury, Texas. Residents here stated how these books, “indoctrinate children to the LGBT lifestyle” and “promote perversion.”

Following House Bill 3979 that was passed in June 2021 prohibiting “state teachers from discussing topics related to critical race theory,” there continues to be an attack of education on race in an academic setting. All communities of racial minorities are being affected by this ban including Latinx, African Americans, Asians and the Jewish community.

Examples of these books include: “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan, “When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball” by Mark Weakland, “Ghost Boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, “White Bird: A Wonder Story” by R.J. Palacio and “Michelle Obama: Political Icon” by Heather E. Schwartz.

Moreover, the erasure of experiences of people of color is nothing new. Through the implementation of education and uplifting of voices of people of color, their experiences are validated. Shielding children from the harsh history of the south and other parts of this country is a disservice to the work that so many have done in order for social progress to persist.

A campaign launched by Texas librarians called the #FReadom Fighters has played a major role in the pursuit to protect intellectual freedom. This organization shows the power of librarian’s voices when they are able to unite. Their main action has been to highlight “books that promote diversity and inclusivity.”

Some actions led by students in Texas public high schools have been to create “banned-book clubs.” They have also gained the support of local organizations and advocacy groups to supply the students with these books for free.

If we continue to allow the banning of books that include information for students about diversity and inclusion of others it will further a generation of intolerance. As minors we are already stripped of many rights, taking away our ability to seek and gain knowledge is one of the worst and most disturbing methods in which this state and many others have attempted to gain control over the youth.