As it turns out, Ray Bradbury may have been more prescient when he wrote Fahrenheit 451 than even he could have imagined. Bradbury’s classic novel envisioned a society in which books were burned by “firemen” if they were deemed harmful to society. Now in Kansas, the GOP-controlled state legislature wants to criminalize the teaching of “sex, nude art, and harmful books.”
State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook has introduced a bill that would allow the state to prosecute teachers and other school administrators who give lesson materials to students that are considered “harmful.” Specifically, Senate Bill 56 calls for misdemeanor charges to be filed against any teacher who uses lesson materials which depict:
“…nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse,” or that the “average adult person” believes “lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value.”
SB 56 would include an exclusion for universities, museums, and libraries. At least for now.
Mark Desetti, legislative director of the state’s largest teachers union, says the proposed law would have a chilling effect and make teachers afraid to discuss some subjects with students. Desetti states:
“We’re going to self-censor to the point where nothing controversial is ever put before kids. How do we get kids to think critically and challenge ideas? Everybody talks about let’s think out of the box. No, let’s not. Let’s cram everybody into this little box and scare them into not doing anything that people might find an objection to.”
Introduction of the controversial bill was prompted when a middle-school teacher in Kansas City put up a sex education poster in a classroom which listed specific sexual acts. The poster was later taken down after complaints from some parents.
But where does all of this end? What if a teacher assigns The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye to a class? Will he or she be prosecuted when a parent objects? Better yet, what if a teacher has the audacity to place Fahrenheit 451 on the reading list as a way of instructing students on the dangers of state censorship? What then? Does Kansas build a bonfire and burn everything a few people find objectionable?
Step aside, children, let the firemen through.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org.