North of the border, educational censorship is coming from the left
Canada once considered a library-science degree, some common sense and a way with kids adequate for the job of school librarian. But that is no longer the case. Rather than rely on the judgment of its professionals, the Canadian School Libraries Association (CSLA) has now developed a set of criteria for “equity weeding” of library collections.
Attempts to implement these criteria in the Peel, Ontario school district resulted in a purge of thousands of volumes from libraries, among them Anne Frank: Diary of A Young Girl. They have yet to publish a complete list of excised volume, but we know that The Hunger Games, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and the Harry Potter novels are among the books no longer available to students in the Peel School District libraries.
Mississauga 10th grader Reina Takata, a frequent user of her school library, noted that the shelves were bare upon her return to school this year. In the spring, Takata says students were told by staff that “if the shelves look emptier right now it’s because we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.”
The Peel School District’s attempt to implement the CSLA criteria is just the latest in a wave of pre-emptive curation where media and publishing are concerned.
As US and Canadian societies atomize, bias in the news media has, itself, become newsworthy.
Accusations of bias are plentiful in a partisan news environment–a problem particularly acute in Canada with its various state news outlets and a press that the sitting government handsomely subsidizes. Efforts to regulate online sharing of news media by recent laws have made sharing non-government news sources on social media even more difficult in Canada.
We have written elsewhere in these pages about changes made by publishers to classic texts to fortify them for the woke era. Edits, removals, redactions and content warnings now abound in the works of Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Dr. Seuss, Dame Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway and Enid Blyton. Sensitivity readers pore over manuscripts to ensure that minimal offense to readers will appear in the finished product. The effort to pre-emptively curate publishing material in production continues apace.
And as if news outlets and publishers engaging in pre-emptive cancelation wasn’t enough, writers have gotten in on the act. In the rat’s nest that is online “publishing community,” writers and editors have done brisk business in criticizing, reproving, castigating and eviscerating each other’s opportunities to publish. Writers and critics – those at the feeding end of the publishing pipeline – have proven themselves only too eager to engage in a little “cultural curation” of their own. At all stages, a loose framework of social and political values that one could characterize as “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” guide these efforts.
Authors, concerned at the cut of one of their fellows’ political jib, convene an online flash mob and cast the offender into the literary outer darkness. Publishers, aware of the emerging social and political climate, make efforts to ensure their product does not fall beneath cancelation’s ever-present guillotine. And now librarians, entrusted to archive literary and media content, are adding their own baffle to the curation filter.
Canada’s present state is a cautionary tale of the slippery slope down which Western civilization now careens. Weaponization of the federal courts and present persecution of Trudeau’s political enemies are recent examples of what you can do in an environment where those who “know better” censor and control information.
But those who “know better” can come to believe they are, in fact, our “betters.” Such self-appointed moral arbiters usually justify their actions with the excuse that they “mean well.” But history demonstrates that those who take refuge in that excuse are less interested in meaning well than in controlling meaning.