Fandango’s Provocative Question #156

How do you feel about state and local school boards and other jurisdictions banning of classic books such as those I’ve listed? Under what circumstances, if any, do you feel that banning of such books is appropriate and justifiable?

Just the other day, I posted this clip from “Inherit The Wind.”

What Darrow (the guy who really said this in a real American courtroom in 1925) said when fighting against the banning of book that discussed evolution is exactly what I think, though he certainly said it more eloquently than I could. And Spencer Tracy said it as only Spencer Tracy could.

This is what Darrow actually said from the original transcript.

Darrow – If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

The movie sticks pretty close to the original trial’s transcript, changing words only where we now use different words. The author didn’t alter the intent or meaning of the speech. What was true in 1925 is true in 2022.

Ignorance and fanaticism is forever busy and needs feeding.

Ignorance and fanaticism has gone out of control. No longer confined to backwater towns in Tennessee, it is sweeping large segments of our nation and who knows? Maybe with our help, it could sweep the world! Instead of waiting for earth to die of the damage we’ve done, we could have another war and blow ourselves to smithereens.

What an irony that Europe pretty much settled these issues five or six hundred years ago, but we never heard of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. We won’t trust anything that isn’t “American.” We act as if America is the creator of everything. We may not be God, but it would seem we are his appointed nation.

Funny how every nation — not matter what horrors they perpetrate — are sure God is on their side. I’d like to hear what God has to say about it, but thus far, all I hear is silence. Is it possible that God isn’t on their side? Or maybe God gave us intelligence and the ability to choose to do the right thing and then left town?

Banning books is the same as banning our right to think, our right to intelligently understand this world. Instead of seeking to understand, we have doubled back and joined hands with the judges who condemned Galileo.

I am so glad I don’t have children in school. I have substantial doubts — and good reason for those doubts — that this country is going to recover, find it’s center, and be a light to the world ever again. As a nation — though not necessarily individually — we have lost our way, lost our integrity, as well as our understanding of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

We are hopelessly lost. But hey, if someone’s deity comes out of the mist and pulls off a miracle? I’m ready. We need a miracle. It might be the only thing left with a chance of saving our national soul.

Categories: #American-history, #FOTD, #FPQ, Anecdote, Books, Conscience and morality, Education, god and gods, good-and-evil, intelligence, Provocative Questions, questions, right and wrong

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11 replies

  1. What an excellent post!! It’s very depressing indeed to witness that society learns nothing from the past and therefore is condemned to repeat it over and over again. A miracle? Yep. I think that really is the only thing that will save America. Because the idiots are at the gate..


  2. I agree, banning books is never OK. It’s not unique to the US either, although you seem to do it more than most. Working as a children’s and YA librarian in the 1980s in England there was some pressure not to provide teenage novels dealing with LBGT+ relationships because of legislation that banned the active promotion of homosexuality. But we librarians ignored it and bought them anyway, as we should. I have never understood the large-scale book banning I’ve observed in some US states. Aside from moral arguments against banning, it’s also counterproductive – we all know that telling a young person they can’t have something only serves to make it more desirable!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mother absolutely refused to let me be limited in what I read, even if I found it disturbing. I was troubled by nightmares and violent images, so while I wasn’t limited in what I read, I WAS limited in what I could watch. NO horror or monster movies until I was around 11 or 12, by which time I could deal with them. No TV on weeknights, either.

      I remember when a local librarian insisted I only read books in the children’s sections I think my mother gave her the only public dressing down I ever saw. I read at a very high level very early and she wanted me to pack as much knowledge as I could into my head. Sometimes she had to warn me that stuff I read was not suitable for school book reports. There are some funny stories about that.

      I know we think children are too fragile to read serious material, but I am not convinced that’s true. It really depends on the child. Maybe some are, but that is for their parents to decide, not the nation or the state or, for that matter, the school or librarian.

      I went to school. I went to college. But really? I learned by reading. Very little of the material I learned in school stuck with me as much as the stuff I learned by reading. Without it, I wouldn’t know history or religion or philosophy — so many things came from books. I would read one book and it would get me interested in the history around that book. I am the product of books.

      I only wish more kids would be interested enough to want to read above and beyond whatever “school” is teaching. There are far too few readers as it is. We don’t need to limit them. We need to encourage them!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Preaching to the choir here – as we again watch “Inherit The Wind”.

        I learned – the hard way – as a sub teacher at our local high school. You can’t buck the curriculum. I tried my hardest to breathe life into stale, old books and philosophy in History classes. I was gently reprimanded by the school’s hierarchy. Ironically, a few students later thanked me for making their classes interesting and encouraging them to read books not offered by the school system.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Inherit the Wind” is an excellent movie and is so relevant to what we are dealing with today. Whether the argument is about science, religion, racism, sexual orientation, feminism, or literally any topic, all sides should be heard and none should be silenced by the other. Great post, Marilyn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I went back to look at the transcript. I’d read it before, which is how come i remembered that much of the movie is a direct verbatim of the 1925 trial. Every time I see the movie — possible one of Garry’s top two favorite movies — it’s the movie he brought with him when we were courting. Not a love story — the Scopes trial — what a guy! How, after we went through that — and then the whole McCarthy thing — what went WRONG? How did we go so far from where we began and what we all grew up believing?

      I sometimes feel as if my head is going to explode. It’s why I try not to get too heavily into this stuff because I’m afraid my heart might REALLY explode. It’s already electronically hooked up.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango, we are watching “Inherit the Wind” again tonight. It never gets old. Great for the movie – sad for our world.

      Liked by 1 person


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