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High school book ban reveals culture of hypocrisy, contradiction and fear

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Nearly half of the state’s school districts banned more than 1,100 books total during the last school year, according to a report by the nonprofit Pen America. Dave Eggers’ “The Circle” was plucked from my high school reading list in Rapid City, South Dakota, so I went to research and wrote an article for his post in Washington.

“The Circle” is a dystopian novel about the dangers of technology and its impact on humans, he told KCRW.

“It’s also the first time it’s been banned. It’s not usually controversial in a way that affects teachers and schools. But [school officials] I found a few pages, a few passages with obscure sexual content, but I think that was enough.

“The Circle” has been quietly removed from the advanced reading list for 2021, but Eggers didn’t find out until May of this year. After that, he went to a local bookstore called Mitzi’s. He offered to pay for his book and four other copies of him that had been banned along with it. Will the store give those books to high school seniors who want them for free? Mitzi agreed. Eggers says he handed out more books to his seniors in Rapid City than they were originally allotted for, just days after hearing the ban.

“I went there a week or so later and met a lot of seniors. Oddly enough, they are over the age of consent in South Dakota, so they are allowed to have sex and are allowed to get married at 17. You can’t read about sex in a book, so the students resented this contradiction and hypocrisy,” he says.

Who pulled “The Circle”? Eggers explains that in the spring of 2021 he will have four new members join the school board. They all advertised being church members and promised to “reverse some of the arousalism they thought the school was suffering from.” He adds that they have benefited from his parents’ complaints about COVID restrictions.

He said that before the start of last semester, a teacher (whose name has not yet been disclosed) emailed the principal asking him to fill out several assigned books that he believed contained inappropriate content. It explains that I told you to investigate. So the principal withdrew the book so as not to upset the new conservative school board.

The board didn’t issue the order, but Eggers said there was an atmosphere of fear.

‘they [teachers] Think, “Well, who’s going to be offended by this?” …we have to watch our backs. These books were a series of books that seniors could choose from in their advanced English and contemporary literature classes. So they didn’t have to read these books. They were just on a list of books to choose from. ”

He notes that his parents are not known to have objected to the book.

The ban was preemptive, and then attracted attention as members were discussing what to do with old equipment and property at school board meetings.

“They had no intention of donating them, selling them back, or donating them to the library. They were intent on destroying these five books, and that got everyone’s attention.”

Some teachers have demonstrated leadership and raised their voices, including at school board meetings.

“Then, frankly, I and others feel that the atmosphere is too toxic that you can’t put your job in jeopardy … and because online retaliation was far more toxic, Many teachers have said they fear online reprisals over the past few years, and the political atmosphere in the town has lasted three years.So, naturally, teachers fear such backlash.”

Since then, 185 copies have been kept. Eggers recently learned that they all “mysteriously disappeared last week.”

“Nobody knows where they went. I don’t know if there was security camera footage or if they showed up in Mar-a-Lago or something, but they disappeared. That’s what the local press said. It just went viral and gave it another weird twist.”

But the president of the school board says it’s a misunderstanding to say books are banned.

“This is the semantics. How do you ban a book? They took it off every shelf in the classroom and took it out of the library. …these are very similar strategies being practiced across the country.”

He points out that Rapid City Board of Education president Kate Thomas has seven children who are all homeschooled.

“She is a devout Christian, and it doesn’t matter at all, but she doesn’t invest in the school system. It has nothing to do with Kate Thomas or her family, hence why she wields such great influence over the town and school system. It is very strange that

Meanwhile, the Rapid City Board of Education changed its structure again. One person who was elected last year has withdrawn. Another one of his was ousted in this year’s election by a former teacher who is now the first member of the board to come out as LGBTQ. A black woman was also elected to the board for the first time. So is the pendulum moving away from conservatism?

“People are optimistic and very happy with the results. The leaders who were perpetuating these bans are very unsympathetic to those teachers…the teachers have gone and it’s happening in all these school districts…reading list Teachers who give freedom to their children and expect them to be able to teach as they see fit are bound, questioned, judged, and running out of school districts. Go and be treated like a pro.”