Teachers’ union adds ‘not recommended for students’ disclaimer to its summer reading list despite decrying ‘book bans’

The National Education Association — the country’s largest teachers’ union — recently made headlines for its public summer reading recommendations for educators that include books promoting sexual content and practices.

Last week, a disclaimer was added to the article: “Educators read diverse books so that they can better understand their colleagues, students, and families they serve. The books here are not recommended for students.” [Emphasis added]

I point this out because one of the books on the list, Gender Queer, is available to students in school libraries. And yet, when a school board has decided to remove the book from its school library due to its sexually explicit and obscene content, the teachers’ union and its affiliates often decry such a move as “extreme” and an example of “book banning.”

So, which is it?

The fact is that most of the content being called into question is obscene and sexually explicit. This is not about “book banning,” this is about public school libraries having non-age-appropriate books available to children. (In fact, according to the American Library Association, any book that is challenged is then considered to be a “banned” book, reported ABC News, even though most book challenges fail to remove books from the classroom or library shelves completely.)

It’s baffling that protecting children from explicit material is controversial. It’s particularly baffling that doing so in a public school setting is controversial.

But the teachers’ union knows it is talking out of both sides of its mouth. When a quote from Gender Queer was posted in the comment section below the recommended reading list, it and other comments were deleted within an hour and the comment section on the post was closed. “The book is listed under the heading ‘Banned Books: Celebrate the Freedom to Read!’ But the NEA doesn’t want people actually to read it,” writes Dave Seminara in The Wall Street Journal.

School library bookshelves are prime real estate. There is only so much space for so many books. What books aren’t on the shelf that could be? If the teachers’ union truly believes that certain books should not be recommended for students, it needs to stop condemning efforts to remove said material.