During the last school year, in the fog of COVID-19, the entire library at Pescadero Middle and High School was removed. It was replaced by a “social justice library” with the caveat that only “approved” books could be added. Obviously, this draconian action has been met with some resistance. So, here are some questions:

Were the teachers consulted? Was the school community consulted? While improvement of the facility and an inventorying of the books are appreciated, common courtesy, not to mention a collaborative exploration of educational goals, would seem to necessitate a process that respects the ideas of our faculty and other concerned adults, no?

What is a “social justice library,” and does it preclude other topics? What goes in the math and science sections? What goes in the arts and humanities sections? What reference materials are (and are not) there? What about social injustice? What is the criteria for inclusion, and what are the consequences of exclusion?

Is this not extreme censorship? “Fahrenheit 451”? Cancel culture run amuck? All those classic titles and reference books, are they trash? All those books about science, ecology, and environmentalism (along with others that I donated), are they garbage? Was there nothing “socially justicey” already there at all?

Did the Half Moon Bay Library, which funded the grant and provided the “social justice” books, know that all the other books in our school library would be eliminated in favor of their collection? And is that OK with them? I understand that what happened at the school is not their fault, but should they not take some responsibility for what has occurred?

Where do these titles fit in the standards-based curriculum for all subjects that we are supposed to deliver to all students? What metrics will determine the success of this initiative? If the internet fills in for all the books removed, what happens when the power goes out? What about the child who is curious about a topic but cannot find it here?

We should all be curious! If “it takes a village to raise a child,” what happens when the village is damaged? If doctors study disease (and educators should study stupidity), shouldn't students of social justice study injustice? Here’s an opportunity! We, some of the teachers, saved many books, which we have stored in our rooms, but at this writing, mired in this Chinese Cultural Revolution, we are not allowed to restock our school library. Why?

I'm sorry if I sound like a complainer. However, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. were complainers, and thus do I post my theses, these questions, from the Birmingham-jail-of-not-having-a-seat-at-the-table. Where is the suffrage, the respect? Where is the consensus building? Where is the collaboration and common purpose? Where is the justice?

R. Frank Vail is a teacher at Pescadero Middle and High School.

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(2) comments

cuck

Randy. My man. I literally helped set up the Social Justice Library so I can say with complete confidence that

a) your classroom is directly next to the library

b) you were there the majority of the time

c) you did not complain once during construction

if you felt like it was such an extreme example of censorship, cancel culture, and an affront to our school, you really should have said something while it was in construction, or even when Ms. Talbot was still in the process of getting approval for the project. I knew about it months in advance, she certainly wasn't quiet about her plans. If you had specific books you wanted to keep, you should have brought it up then, when something could be done, rather than waiting to post a whiney undedited article that you wouldn't have given me a passing grade for in the Review once the library was already complete.

The great men you mentioned as "complainers" in your "theses" actually did something about the problems they spoke against, so your comparison is not only in poor taste but factually incorrect. They were activists who fought to change and better the world they were living in. You are a man fighting to keep the old, dusty, breaking books that nobody read in a library rather than replace them with progressive books and entertaining novels that kids actually want to read.

And honestly, I think we can function without our 30 out-of-date encyclopedias and falling apart editions of The Babysitter's Club.

John Charles Ullom

This is one of the dumbest rants I have seen published in the Review. Is this person really a teacher?

"What is a “social justice library,” and does it preclude other topics?"

A social justice library is like a law library. It focuses on certain areas of human activity. Just like a children's library does. The concept precludes nothing.

"Is this not extreme censorship? “Fahrenheit 451”? Cancel culture run amuck? All those classic titles and reference books, are they trash? All those books about science, ecology, and environmentalism (along with others that I donated), are they garbage? Was there nothing “socially justicey” already there at all?"

No it is not. There was no book burning party. This editorial reads like a Sebastian Gorka screed at a Trump rally. Chinese Cultural Revolution. Really? Cancel culture run amuck. How cliché? “Socially justicey”. Are you trying to be funny or disrespectful? Fahrenheit 451? Has she even read the book?

This kind of over the top rhetoric is driving social discourse these days. Does Vail really think that what he objects to is comparable to Mao's Cultural Revolutions? Does he know any history? She spits out cable TV talking points like a pro. He doesn't list one, not one single book she feels should not have been removed. He doesn't cite one problem he had with a library that didn't include LBGTQ voices, Hispanic voices, or Indigenous voices.

Instead, she sells outrage. Does he sell the same to the students she teaches?

"What about the child who is curious about a topic but cannot find it here?"

Isn't that sort of the point that the social justice library is trying to address? When did she start asking himself that question? Something tells me it wasn't until the social justice library.

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