I can not even imagine how I would feel if my child came home with this type of book.
These books and lifestyle choices are destructive and wrong.
Coming up, is there a new war on books?
There's a new law on the books in Missouri banning sexually explicit material from school libraries in the Show Me State.
Under the law, Missouri educators could be punished for books they have in their classrooms.
I mean, these novels have graphic pornography and graphic know material of sex.
Now the outcry has moved to public libraries.
Secretary of State John Ashcroft proposes a new rule that sends the book Ban Battle Boy over.
While state lawmakers appear to be backing off plans this week to de-fund public libraries.
Ashcroft says he's moving forward with his measure set to go into effect next month.
That would strip funding to any library offering prurient books to minors.
That means you're wrong.
That means salacious.
That means pornographic.
It does smell like book banning.
This week, Ashcroft is our guest as we hit the pause button on our regular review of the week's headlines.
We're partnering with American Public Square to take our show on the road in front of an audience at the National World War One museum, where we not only got to lift up the hood on this latest battle over books, but our glowing willingness to cancel, censor and ban all sorts of views we disagree with, including conservative speakers on our college campuses.
Speaking of fake victim groups, tonight, we are headed for another free speech showdown.
The violent protests forcing a lockdown of the University of California, Berkeley.
With so much at stake, we booked top ACLU attorney Emerson Sykes to join us from New York, but he didn't get to fly into our new airport.
He had to cancel at the last moment.
But the head of the ACLU in Kansas, Micah Kubic, is here.
So is Michael Ryan, the last conservative to be hired by the Kansas City Star editorial board?
And recovering GOP political strategist Sally Bradshaw, who ran Jeb Bush's presidential campaign and now runs an independent bookstore where she tries to dial down the political temperature.
Hosting civil conversations between the stacks.
We're not just on a slippery slope.
I mean, we are in the danger zone.
The books that are most likely to be banned, most likely to be pulled are those by black authors and by LGBT authors.
That is simply a statistical fact.
I don't know.
Maybe the ACLU thinks we should have pornography in the children's section.
We've got a new national pastime.
It's not baseball.
Funding for this program comes from the William T Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank trustee with additional support from AARP, Kansas City, RSM, Dave and Jamie Cummings, Bob and Marlese Gourley, the Courtney s Turner Charitable Trust, John H. Mize and Bank of America N.A.
Co Trustees The restaurant at 1900.
And by viewers like you.
Good evening and welcome.
So a politician and a bookseller and an attorney and a journalist walk into a museum.
Now, it is not the setup for a terrible joke, but a start on an important ingredient into a, you know, a long overdue conversation about our growing appetite to censor, ban and cancel people and things from removing library books in Missouri to blocking conservative speakers from college campuses on both sides of our state line.
Can we no longer tolerate hearing views that are different than our own?
Our politician on the panel is the man some say could be the next governor of Missouri.
He is Missouri secretary of state Jay Ashcroft, who has been making quite a lot of headlines recently after vowing to block state funding to libraries offering.
What we're told in the newspapers is prurient books to minors.
He's been wading through 20,000 public comments since he announced the move.
We are grateful to have you with us.
Sally Bradshaw knows a lot about books.
She runs an independent bookstore and served on the State Board of Education in a state where book titles are frequently challenged.
But her more well publicized claim to fame is that she was senior adviser to the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Jeb Bush.
She does is chief of staff when he was governor of Florida.
Our next guest just came from there.
By the way, up until last year, Michael Kubik was the executive director of the ACLU in Florida, where he was frequently on television and on the front page of the state's newspapers, responding to a new mandate from Governor DeSantis that restricts conversations about race in Florida classrooms.
Mica now leads the ACLU of Kansas, and Michael Ryan is a journalist who has written extensively about how conservative voices are being marginalized on college campuses, including the attack on conservative author Michael Knowles If you MKC in 2019.
Michael is a former member of the Kansas City Star editorial board who now leads the Heartland, a site that seeks to uncover what's really going on in our area schools in government stories, the site argues inadequately covered by other news media organizations.
Please welcome our panelists, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you so much for being here.
I want to start with the headline Ashcroft Wants Tighter Rules on Racy Public Library Books.
That was the Associated Press.
Missouri gets 20,000 public comments on new library rule labeled political censorship.
That was that after you announced plans to restrict state funding to Missouri libraries, offering what we are told to prurient books to children.
Now, most of us, though, Secretary Ashcroft, view the secretary of state's role, whether it be in Missouri, Kansas or across the country, as being our chief elections officer.
So why did you want to get involved in the book business in the first place?
Well, under Missouri law, all federal funds and state funds, the Missouri Constitution requires the state to provide federal funds for public libraries.
Those go through the secretary of state's office and the secretary of state statutorily is required to distribute those and provide the rules for how those are distributed.
So it wasn't that I just chose to be involved with libraries, although I've loved them since I was a child.
It's a duty that I took and I swore an oath to uphold it.
What books are you particularly worried about in schools?
What the what the rule does is it says that if there are books that appealed to the purest interest of the children, that was the original one.
We then changed that before the rule was finalized to go to actual obscenity and pornography definitions and statute.
We said a library is not allowed to use state taxpayer funds to buy that obscenity or the pornography.
And then there are other rules that are part of that that would say if you do have a book that the library has said is appropriate for, let's say, teenagers or adults, the library can't have it in an area that's designed for young children.
What terrible thing is happening in the state of Missouri, you think, because those books are currently on the shelves in our libraries across the state?
Well, my hope is that we won't have any terrible things happen in the state of Missouri.
My hope is that under these guidelines, any books that patrons want to be able to get from the library, they'll still be able to get.
But we won't have books that at least the local community adjudicated as inappropriate for young children being shoved in the faces of young children.
The Missouri secretary of state has been accused of political censorship in the opinion pages of our newspapers and by library leaders who say he's infringing on intellectual freedom.
Most of us sort of a familiar right now with the phrase you don't scream a fire in a crowded theater.
Is it legal?
And reasonable for an elected leader to restrict words if the goal is to protect the health and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens, our children?
You know, I think that it is absolutely true that the First Amendment still exists in this country.
There are folks who believe that it is under attack, but it still exists.
And that means that censorship by the government remains a problem no matter where it happens, no matter where it is taking place.
These sorts of book bans, these sorts of restrictions, regulations on libraries and others oftentimes do not result in content that is actually objectionable, being withheld, but are instead in a sort of covert tools for stopping communities of color, LGBT authors and others from having their work distributed and creates an environment of fear and harassment and intimidation.
Whether that is the goal or not is irrelevant.
That is why we have the First Amendment in the first place to try and not have the government creating that environment of fear and harassment.
Respond to that.
Well, I'd love for him to point out any book that's banned by the rule.
What I can talk about is what's happening in Kansas.
Certainly where there are similar proposals, including in small towns across the state where individual books have been precluded.
And of course, there are examples of school districts in Missouri, like the Independent School District or the Wentzville School District, that for a while tried to ban Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye, a sort of classic of literature.
And I think if we look at the broad scope of these around the country, you'll see example after example like that.
Well, so who decides what's in a library?
Are the taxpayers, the people that pay for that library allowed to do that?
Or are you saying they have to have every book that's ever been published?
Therefore, they have to make a decision.
Missouri's rule doesn't ban any books from being in a library.
It may require certain books to be in an adult section and stored instead of the children's section, but it doesn't ban any books.
Even if I might like to.
That's not my right.
But what it does do is it gives local libraries the ability to decide where they want to place materials and what materials they want to buy.
And they have to publicize how they do.
Who decides in your rule what is appropriate, though, and what is prurient and not appropriate under the law?
It's decided by the local library.
What I did was I required libraries if they want to receive the state funding, which is generally a couple of percentage points of their total funding to have a policy.
The policy has to take into account what's age specific and what's age appropriate and where that should be.
But the policy is not written by me.
It's not written by the state.
It's written by the library board or who, whomever they delegate that to.
So if there is any censorship, it is self-censorship by the people that are spending the money which is allowed in this country.
Sally Bradshaw You've got your own bookstore and have certainly overseen plenty of libraries when you were a member of the State Board of Education in Florida.
Should there be any limitation on books provided to children or adult?
Although I respect what the Secretary is saying that the unintended consequence of rules that will be established as a result of this law if it goes into effect, is that librarians are either losing funding as a result, potentially of picking a book that is offensive to as few as one parent or in the state of Florida, where this is in play right now, potentially is a five year sentence in a jail.
The loss of your career, I mean, there are significant unintended or unintended consequences of this rule.
And as a result, we're actually seeing authors who would come to schools in Florida expressing concern about coming because of what it might do to librarians and media specialist.
And so but it hit me in the free speech campaigning business, still a bipartisan issue.
Consider, for instance, recently it is the superintendent of the Burbank School District in California dropped To Kill a mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and of Mice and Men, after parents complained about the use of racial epithets in those titles.
Both parties are to blame with respect to some of this, and we see it in multiple ways.
It's an interesting story about the American booksellers Association, which is the member Organization for Independent Booksellers and supposedly is a bastion of free speech and free expression.
But the Booksellers Association sends books monthly to booksellers advance, to reading copies that they want us to read, and then stock if we like them in our stores.
They do the same with libraries.
There was a book that was authored by a Wall Street Journal reporter in the last several years related to the challenges of the transgender movement.
With respect to young women going through puberty.
It was sent out.
A bookseller objected.
The American Booksellers Association immediately apologized for sending this book out and changed their rule on freedom of expression and saying, essentially, we're not going to send something that would be offensive, that would be a trigger.
So it's not just conservatives that are responsible for this censorship that we're seeing.
Well, I mean, first of all, I'd love to get a fact check on whether or not the rule actually bans books in Missouri.
I'd like to point out that you're not against all impediments for kids getting books because you sell them so clearly.
You do want to get paid for the books.
So that's that's no.
But in fairness, it's easy to say you don't want to have impediments when you're doing a full time volunteer in my bookstore.
And I started the bookstore for this exact reason.
So I do want to thank Alan and American Public Square, because there is not enough civil debate.
There's not enough discussion.
Book banning censorship, whether it's cancel culture or it's rules on librarians restricting finances to get books for their libraries is censorship.
It's censorship, plain and simple.
And the fact of the matter is, we have the right to free speech.
We have the right to freedom of expression.
We have the right to keep and bear arms.
We don't have the right not to be offended by people.
That is not a right and with respect to children, librarians and booksellers and teachers are choosing books that are age appropriate all the time in our bookstore, for example, I've had books come in the door where a publisher has said This book is middle grade appropriate.
I have four children.
I've spent years looking at whether something is age appropriate.
If I don't feel it's appropriate, I'm going to put it in the graphic novel section or I'm going to put it in the adult section.
Are there some books you would never put in your bookstore?
That's a good question.
I would not put something that I considered child pornography pornographic in my bookstore.
I would not do that.
But bookselling, to be honest, just to just say you're aware of this, because I think it's important for you to understand, at least in the context of of bookselling booksellers after they sell a hardback for $32 and change, including tax, bring home about $0.25 a book.
If you're in the book business, you're not in it to make money.
You're in it to build a civil dialog and discussion and to protect freedom of expression.
I think the most important thing she said there was she talked about teachers, librarians, and then she said, as a parent, I have made decisions for years about what my children should read.
We've been talking about bookbinding.
I want to talk about something broader than that, which we're also seeing on both sides of our state line.
When people clutch their pearls and express indignation that there are elected officials who will want to restrict a book.
Yet we have conservative speakers on both sides of our state line, Michael Ryan, who can't get into certain university classes because of their conservative views.
College campuses have become an angry reflection of a divided country.
On this night, police and protesters are out in force at the University of Utah.
Tonight, we are headed for another free speech showdown.
The violent protests forcing a lockdown at the University of California, Berkeley, last fall.
Berkeley became a battleground for protesters on the far left and far right after Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at his talk was canceled.
And more violent protests follow new video emerging of a protest at Yale Law School last week.
Moments before the cops had to be called in, a federal judge was shouted down and heckled during his speech at Stanford Law School campus clashes never seem to be out of the headlines, but you don't have to go to the big coastal city schools to experience the friction.
Last fall, the Kansas Supreme Court justice resigned his teaching position at the CU law school in protest of what he says was an effort to block a conservative attorney from speaking.
In a letter, Justice Caleb Steagall accused the CU law school of bullying and censoring tactics.
And just before COVID hit, um, Casey was in the spotlight.
And that breaking news on the U.
And KC campus where a guest lecture and protest got out of hand tonight.
Video today reveals the moment.
Um, Casey, police arrested a protester who they say yelled and threw liquid substance at a speaker last night.
The speaker was conservative author Michael Knowles, and they tacitly are permitting political violence to fester on campus.
Instead of presenting arguments, they exercised the heckler's veto and just scream down anyone who disagrees.
Is that the same thing as restricting a book?
Is it just the flip side of that same coin?
You know, I wasn't in Kansas City when the situation happened at, um, Casey with Mr. Knowles, but I was utterly heartbroken to see what my future newspaper colleagues thought about the sanctity of free speech.
I mean, their their opinion was basically, you know, what's a little spray and wash on a conservative speaker who's not even an A-list?
I didn't say anything, but my response to that would have been, I didn't know that you had to have a certain point of view or a certain status to be able to speak your mind in public without being assaulted.
Is the ACLU as outraged about that as they are restricting books in the state of Missouri or in the state of?
The ACLU is perpetually outraged.
So so with incident with Justice Steagall, I mean, I do think this is a place where some of the facts are still in dispute and where the account that Justice Steagall has given is not actually consistent with the account of other students or of the administration itself.
And I think it's important to note that the speaker was, in fact, still permitted to come to the speech, did, in fact, happen.
It was, in fact, a civil event.
There were difficult questions posed by students who who disagreed with the speaker from the group called Alliance Defending Freedom, which is sort of a notoriously anti LGBT legal organization.
But the event happened without any incident whatsoever.
And instead, it seems as though Justice Steagall objected to the fact that the administration told the group, sponsoring the group, that they should think about the consequences of their actions, that they should think about the implications of that.
And I don't know of any other incident where a justice has been upset that someone said, think before you act, and that is precisely what happened in this situation.
I think instead it was a nothing burger in search of a controversy in order to fill it in to a pre-established narrative about rampant cancel culture rather than something that reflected the actual facts on the ground, which is what I think is happening in a lot of these situations on college campuses around the country where I think there is much less there than meets the eye and where our focus should instead be on the incidents of government power trying to ban books, trying to restrict speech, rather than what ought a motley crew of undergraduates think in the school cafeteria.
And as Roger asked us from Overland Park, do we need to be giving students an annual pep talk on the First Amendment as we do an annual pep talk on bullying, drugs and diversity?
I always invite people to learn more about the Constitution and civics.
I think we could all use a refresher on that all the time, and I think there is no harm in that at all.
Could I just add to that?
There was a survey earlier this year of college professors.
52% of them said that they self-censor out of fear for their jobs or reputation.
And when they looked at conservative college professors, it rose to 72%.
At the same time, conservative students on college campuses are self-censoring at much greater rates than their liberal peers.
Now, however, you want to look at it, that's not a good thing.
That's a chilling fact.
And it seems to me that it's not only sad, but it's unhealthy for both an education and a free country.
So Claire asked, Is it safer to permit all speech, however objectionable?
So that would allow any speaker on the campus and let any book be at the library.
I think no one has a constitutional right to a platform on campus, just as I agree that no one has a constitutional right to have their book present in the library.
But I do think in general that more speech is better.
I do think that controversial speakers should be allowed on campus, are required to be allowed on campus under the Constitution.
And I also think that that doesn't mean that the rest of us have to listen to them or agree with them, and that we do not have to sit in silent reverence to any presentation that they make.
So it's just going to say the irony is we don't really have a right to civil debate either.
Organized actions like this advocate for civil debate, because civil debate in our society is what leads to progress in solving problems and getting things done.
I don't think this divisive comment we're in to take sort of a 10,000 foot perspective is going to be solved at the federal level.
I think it's going to be solved at this level.
I think it's going to be solved when everyone leaves here tonight and thinks about censorship and the fact that really there's not a difference in banning a speaker on campus or pulling a book from a library because one person objects to it and then decides, how are we going to make Kansas City different?
What are we going to do in Missouri to protect and preserve the rights of parents, but to ensure that we have free speech?
We're going to get some questions that I love, questions.
I got tons of my own.
We want to hear from you.
Vicky de la Camacho is our roving reporter who's been collecting your thoughts, your questions for our panelists.
What have you got for us, Vicky?
We've got a few questions for Secretary Ashcroft.
What was the impetus behind this role?
I was at a library directors meeting in Columbia, Missouri, where the library directors were talking to me about challenges, about materials.
And eventually, one of the librarian ladies, I won't give a name.
I can, if you want, later said that she should have the right to put anything in her library she wanted and that the taxpayer shouldn't be able to decide that.
I said, No, it's they pay for it.
She said, No, I have something in my library that represents everyone.
So I thought I would use absurdity, which never seems to work and say, No, you don't have something.
You don't have books on how to be a child molester in your library.
I thought that was absurd.
Her response was that's because they won't publish them.
And at that, I said, we need to have guidelines so that we don't run into these problems in Missouri.
Book bonds, we're told, violate the First Amendment because they deprive children or students of the right to receive information and ideas.
But do we only care about that when it supports our position?
What are we to make of the lawsuits maker, including from the state of Missouri, by the way, against the Biden administration for, quote, colluding with social media companies to silence opposing views on the COVID epidemic.
We even see the Missouri attorney general currently talking about how Tucker Carlson was being told or being removed from Facebook by the White House.
Why isn't the ACLU protesting that or is that different?
So I think there clearly is a difference between the activity of a private company, which off all of these social media enterprises are and those of a government.
At the same time, I think we should note that the ACLU does, in fact, believe that many of the terms of service agreement from these social media companies have, in fact, gone too far.
I can't tell you how many hate notes I get from the fact that the ACLU supported the decision of Facebook to restore Donald Trump's Facebook account or his Twitter account, because we believe that Social media is a new public square.
So we do, in fact, find something objectionable there.
But to equate the actions of private companies with that of government is, I think, an absurdity, not reflective of the First Amendment.
And I also want to go back to this other point to say that it is fine for parents for us to say that parents can make decisions for their own children.
But what is happening in many of these situations is a parent is making decisions for everyone else's children in the process.
And beyond that, it would be a wonderful, wonderful world indeed, if every parent was supportive and kind and loving to their child who may be going through some very difficult things, especially LGBT youth who have exceptionally high suicide rates.
It would be a wonderful thing indeed if every parent said that they wanted those young people to get information, to help them discover themselves and be at peace and be happy and healthy and whole.
But that is the world we live in.
And for many LGBT youth, in particular, the library, the public school are the only sources of respect that they have, the only place where they can find comfort and wholeness.
And to erase that from the conversation, I think is an error and a sin.
I'm the son of a Southern Baptist preacher and a librarian.
And if that ain't a conflict between censorious ness and free speech, I don't know what is.
But that's why I say it is a sin to treat people in that way and that is one perspective on this issue.
John AJ, I would just like to point out that he didn't actually answer your question.
You asked about the lawsuit against the federal government for the federal government exerting its power to create censorship by a private company.
He just talked about the rights of a private company.
He totally ignored the fact that the federal government was involved.
And that is something that if the ACLU were true to its roots, they would abhor because that is government content based censorship.
The second thing I would say, if it comes down to where the apparent gets to make the decision for a child or a librarian, I'm always going to be with the parent.
And you just said you were always with the librarian.
What can I interject?
I know this is a debate.
Is that appropriate to do?
What I heard him say, actually, was that there are situations where parents are not involved, they are not supportive of their children or they're working two and three jobs.
I've been in a lot of Title one schools as a bookseller.
The number of parents who actually are involved at that school are almost nonexistent.
And in those instances, librarians and classroom teachers and principals can guide these children and help pull them out of poverty by exposing them to materials.
I completely agree 1,000% with the secretary.
The parents should be more involved and parents should have the say over what their children are reading.
One or two or three parents are showing up to school boards and they're challenging books and these are not the books that you read about necessarily that create such controversy.
Are certainly plenty of those.
These are To Kill a mockingbird.
These are books that you and I have read, like James Patterson's Maximum Rod series, which my children loved, especially my son.
And so I have a problem with other parents deciding for me as a parent what is appropriate.
And if books are pulled from libraries as a result of this, now, you're not directly banning them.
That if a librarian feels they're going to lose funding, but because a book is questionable, then that book is not available to other children.
And that's my concern.
That's my concern.
I wondering, Secretary Ashcroft, if you leave this office, become the next governor of Missouri, somebody else comes in, a Democrat comes into your office, and they issued a rule that said, any books that had the N-word in it, we're going to remove and any books that have vaccine critics involved or even a Tucker Carlson book would be removed from a library.
How would you feel about that?
That is an elected official deciding those were harmful.
Well, first of all, let's just point out the difference in the rule that I promulgated.
The authority to decide what's in libraries stays with librarians.
I don't remove that.
But what we require them to have is a policy of how they decide what's age appropriate and how they make sure that parents can be in charge of what the children get.
We don't remove any books.
Saying that we should remove books based on content by the government.
Is a little bit concerning unless we move into obscenity or something like that and make a is governor voter Kelly a Democrat violating freedom of speech by having a clamp down on tik-tok as a platform for her government employees?
Isn't that silencing speech?
So I think there is some concern about that, absolutely.
I do think with tech talk, there are some other national security concerns that folks have identified.
But separate from that, I do think it is problematic for the government to try and restrict that sort of content.
The government can certainly make regulations about what types of companies operate within the state, make sure that they're consistent with their business practices.
But if they were going to ban social media in its entirety, for example, I think that would be a very serious infringement on free speech.
I personally would be happy because I don't like this stuff.
I don't use it, but it would still be a problem and I would be outraged about it.
I will tell you, Secretary of State Ashcroft does have a very good dance video on TikTok.
You can see in your leisure.
But I have lots of my own questions.
But we want to hear from Vicki because she has your question.
Can a child check out a book or even look at material without the parent being present?
I find it hard to believe it wouldn't be possible in any library for for children at least, to grab books and look at them themselves.
But the local library will make that decision, and I assume that will be done by the library board, which is elected by the local district.
Before we have a tape, this program, because we were doing it, we got lots of questions from our own viewers, including Janet in Michigan, who this is directed to you.
Sally, would you stop the new cleaned up versions of Roald Dahl books in which titles like Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach have been edited to be more inclusive by removing the word fat to describe characters like Augustus Gloop and even eliminating the words boy and girl and replacing it with the word children.
That's a great question, and it's interesting because it reminds me also we talked earlier about is there censorship on the right and left in there is Roald Dahl is an example of that.
I mean, who did not read James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory growing up?
And yet there is sensitivity to language that has been expressed in those.
And his publisher, Puffin, has actually hired sensitivity editors to rewrite those books so that they won't be offensive.
Back to my point that we don't have a right not to be offended would you stop those books?
I will stop the older books and I'll stock the newer ones, just as I've done with Dr. Seuss.
In fact, the day that this his family foundation came out and withdrew.
So that you think you saw it on Mulberry Street?
I shouldn't say.
I ran to a competing bookstore and bought every copy they had from a bookstore.
I'll start both so that that gives people choices and options.
Now, Netflix actually owns the rights now to the Roald Dahl books, and that's a private company, Mike.
So does it matter that they want to do that?
That's not a government doing it.
They can do whatever they want.
And folks have the ability to either watch it or not.
I think it's horrible, you know, and I wouldn't want that to happen to my editorials.
I mean, nobody wants to get edited.
But, you know, just you're trying to rewrite history.
And I think it's it's awful.
I'd like to if you don't mind, I'd like to go back to the second question that the secretary was asked, kind of why all this is bubbling up now.
I think there's a couple reasons for that.
One is I think there's more books out there than there used to be.
They're pushing the envelope on a lot of these things.
And I think the other thing is, with the rise of the pandemic, we had parents more engaged in education than ever before, homeschooling, basically.
And so now they're more engaged.
There are more organizations popping up all the time across the country of moms and parents, kind of watchdog ing the schools and looking out for things.
And so you talked about negligent parents who are not involved in in some legit know, but people who know I'm making multiple might have talked about, you know, when the parent is not really in tune with the child.
The flipside of that is there are a lot of parents now that are and they're just more vocal than they used to be and they're showing up to school boards and to principals offices.
And a lot of times they're getting stiff armed.
And I think it's important to remember that parents need to be partners in all this.
You know, ideally in back in the day, you know, parents, teachers and administrators would collaborate on these things.
I think we need more of that today.
Can I ask a question?
Can parents in Missouri right now, Secretary Ashcroft, go to a teacher or a librarian and express concern about a book that their child is reading?
Can that already happen?
If I'm a parent, can I go into a school in Missouri and say, you know, I've heard about this book, I'm concerned it would be helpful to me if you would work with me.
I'd rather my child not check out this book.
Can that be done now or is can that only be done through this rule?
This rule only applies to public libraries.
It doesn't apply to school libraries because they don't provision the funds to them.
A parent can reach out to the school.
What the response will be varies.
I could do the same with the public librarian.
And one of the things that this rule does is if a parent does reach out to a public library with a complaint, the the library has to publicize how the what the outcome of the complaint was, because we had a lot of parents that would have a complaint and they felt like they didn't know if anything happened.
Before we go back to Vicki with more of your questions, I should point out this hasn't gone into effect you.
No, probably May 30th, May 31st.
And does the public have any say in it prior to May before that rule goes into effect?
There was a question or a public comment period that we extended and your legislators can still speak to it.
So right now, the best way for the general public obviously can say whatever you want, but you can reach out to your your state House members, your state Senate, if they want.
There's a joint committee on administrative rules that could hold a hearing on it.
So, yeah, if you want them to do that, you should reach out to them.
More of your questions straight ahead.
But first, what are all these books?
Parents are getting upset about in our courts, all not created equal?
Well, To Kill a mockingbird has over the years been one of the most banned books in America.
Here are the current top ten challenged books, according to the latest survey from the American Library Association.
Vicki, your questions, please.
Thank you so much.
Racial bias potentially informs how libraries segregate books.
Discriminatory bias limits what books parents allow their children to read.
Are you okay with that?
I believe that parents should be in charge.
If you disagree with that, we're just going to politely disagree.
And then we can argue which is the best case.
Barbecue with the first part.
I'm not sure I see how that comes into the rule unless they think that the people running the library are racist, which I disagree with.
Even if the panelists agree, the Missouri rule does not ban any books, what impact do you think this kind of role has on our polarized climate?
I think it can be devastating.
I mean, I talked about intended or unintended consequences.
And my view on censorship is that censorship to me is less about morals or values.
It's more about fear and power.
And so I the risk is in a lot of states where you're starting to see this language, which is very similar.
Secretary Ashcroft mentioned he's looked at other states as well.
And what they're doing and I know as a political consultant that's frequently or I used to a recovering political consultant.
That's frequently what we used to do is borrow ideas from other states and sprinkle them into the mix.
There's there's huge risk with what happens downstream.
And we're not just on a slippery slope.
I mean, we are in the danger zone now where, again, you can censor a book in a library and not make it available in the state of Florida, because a librarian who can barely put food on the table is scared they're going to prison.
And I just find it hard to believe when I think librarians should be focusing on where their third graders are reading on a third grade level that they're having to deal with one parent who's able to pull a book from a school library, it may not be a book I want my child to read.
One last point, but it is something that maybe another parent would have their child read like.
Yeah, I'd like to hear the secretary's answer to this, but first, you know, I talked to a Kansas mother anyway who found a book that she just could not believe in the children's section of a public library.
She couldn't even get the librarian to consider moving it to a different section, not ban it, but just move it.
I see the rule as doing is just giving voice to many concerned parents out there who don't think that anything goes.
Did you want to respond to that when you're talking about the First Amendment and censorship?
And we really haven't talked about this.
There is not a First Amendment requirement that a library have every book that someone else might want it to have.
We cannot have every book in the library.
What we ought to do is try to make sure that we do a good representation of the library district, and that will change.
And then there's been a lot of talk about this Florida rule.
And like you, you don't know the Missouri rule.
I don't know the Florida rule.
But earlier you said that the five year thing was if it was considered pornographic.
How many books are teachers really having to say, you know, this might be pornographic, but I think I'll give this to this child?
Is that really happening or is that scare tactic?
While the bill itself is not tied to the statute?
The State Department of Education in their training materials says if you have a book and there is a word in there, you would be uncomfortable reading out loud in front of certain groups.
Pull that book from the library, air on the side of caution because there is a risk you could be prosecuted in Florida under the pornography statute.
So when I talk about unintended consequences, that's what I mean.
I'm not saying that the governor of Florida's language bans books any more than your rule bans books.
But I'm saying that when government is driving the implementation of this legislation, there are huge consequences that I'm not sure people are thinking about.
And the risk of that is significant.
I just want to add, the First Amendment is not just about what the state government does.
It's not just about what the federal government does.
The fact that the rule, any rule, whether it be the one in Missouri or anywhere else that it's deployed by the local library, doesn't mean that it's not censorship or that it's not the level of government.
Doing the censoring is not the determinant of whether it's censorship or not.
It's the fact that the government power is doing it in the first place.
The other thing I think is important to note here is that in many instances we sort of muddy the waters when we talk about what the library is doing.
It's not necessarily, again, the librarians, the professional librarians, the professional educators that doing it.
It's the local library board, the local city commission.
And to pretend like there's not going to be a pattern of racial discrimination, of gender discrimination, of LGBT discrimination taking place, there is just divorced from the reality of what we know about the grand pattern of American life and what we know about how similar policies have been deployed elsewhere.
We know that time and time and again, marginalized, vulnerable groups are the folks who are said that their content is incendiary, is difficult, is too much for young people to handle.
We know that as a statistical fact in the grand scheme of things.
And then think about how that might apply.
And lots of little towns across Missouri and Kansas and this nation as a missourian.
I think it's ridiculous to say that we're more likely to have racist decisions when we make them in the light of day, when we have public written policies for how we do it, as opposed to one individual making that decision without public guidance.
I think the idea that a local government body couldn't make a racist decision because it happens in public is again not really connected to what we've seen in the grand scheme of American history with respect.
All right, folks, thank you.
And I would just say, again, the pattern is very clear.
We can hope for the best.
We can believe in the good intentions of people who are doing a difficult, unpaid job all around the state, all around the country.
But the statistical pattern is that the books that are most likely to be banned, most likely to be pulled are those by black authors and by LGBT authors.
That is simply a statistical fact.
And to ignore that possibility moving forward is a problem.
You can look at St Mary's, Kansas, the city of Saint Mary's, Kansas, where the city commission literally threatened to close the entire library to evict it from public property because they did not like books in the library.
What those books?
They were LGBT books.
They were not pornography.
They were not obscenity.
They were books about the LGBT experience.
And that town for a while literally would have preferred to close the entire library down than allow those handful of books to sit on the shelves.
To ignore that is to ignore reality.
Look, it's much easier for someone to be racist in the darkness.
We are putting things out in public.
We are requiring written policies so that people are accountable for their decisions.
It's much easier.
Easier for a single individual in the back room to be racist and not be held accountable to it.
I think it's better that we're putting it out in front.
We have policies.
I think we're much more likely to have better decisions for everyone that way.
Vicki, have you got more questions for us, please?
Yes, I do.
This comes from a middle school English teacher at a private Missouri school who says, I luckily get to pick what I teach.
However, there is a nationwide teacher shortage.
These laws, book bans, etc.
are driving educators out of the field.
What can Kansas and Missouri do to draw people back into teaching?
Can I ask Michael to respond to that?
I mean, it doesn't this have a chilling effect on teachers?
And isn't this a driver as to why some teachers are leaving the classroom?
It's absolutely possible.
But there's also some rogue teachers out there that have been hitting the news, that are doing things that neither the school or the school district or the parents like.
So, you know, I think it it evens itself out.
But I think it's important for parents to have input to this and increasingly, they're not able to when school boards listen to maybe somebody reading an excerpt from one of these books that they find objectionable, but it's too raunchy for the school board to hear.
We had in a situation in Lee's summit where a man was basically escorted out of the school board for trying to do that.
So, you know, I think we need to look at both sides.
Anybody else want to respond to that?
Lisa in Lee's summit asks How do we create workplaces, classrooms of universities that were respectful of divergent perspectives?
Micah I mean, I think that is a long term proposition.
I think that in a lot of ways democracy itself is under attack today.
And that means not just voting, right?
Not just voting.
Sometimes when I say that people think I mean voting really democracy is an idea that everyone counts, that everyone matters, that everyone has a seat at the table, that everyone is allowed to be heard, not necessarily agreed with, not have their will implemented, but heard.
And I think so many of the policies that we see around the country, not just on this issue, but on so many others, are really about kicking people out of our shared community.
They're about excluding people.
They're about writing people out of the American story.
And I think until we reclaim that democratic ideal, we're never going to get to a place where we can even have a conversation about what it looks like at the grassroots level or anywhere else.
We have to reclaim that idea of real, true, small d democracy if we're going to have any hope at all.
So how do we create those workplaces and universities and schools where we can respect divergent perspectives, as Lisa asks?
Michael I would say two things and it's going to sound hokey.
Number one, humility.
Number two, love.
Humility would just be a good start to begin with just the admission that I don't have all the answers.
And number two, I certainly don't have the right to shout down other people.
So I think humility and love would be a good idea.
You know, there was a great little vignette during the era of Ferguson where Pepsi had a commercial of the protester giving a cop a Pepsi.
Now, how many people remember that?
It wasn't out there very long.
They pulled it down pretty quick because there were objections that it trivialized the situation.
I understand that, but I like the ad and I really like the point that it made.
And the point that it made is that even righteous anger doesn't have to be accompanied by or met by hostility.
And I think we need to remember that in the workplace as well.
We certainly doing this today, Sally.
We have to teach critical thinking.
I mean, we are in an era that we are so spoon fed by algorithms on social media of content that agrees with us.
And we really need to be teaching students to look at things to to question, to read multiple sources, to respect other people.
And I worry that critical thinking sometimes is seen as, you know, a political hot button.
No, we need to be teaching our students to think critically that make a huge difference in how we interact as a society.
You know, one thing we could do is lower the temperature with our press.
There were several questions that said book bans like this and yet no one in the state has been able to show me where this bans a book.
I think media, unfortunately, is chasing clicks, is chasing dollars and that's helping to tribal wise discussion that's making it more difficult to have a reasonable discussion, even an argument.
But you didn't go get a beer and some some barbecue.
It's it's there's nothing wrong with arguing.
There's nothing wrong with having vigorous discussions.
But you need to be able to leave them at the table or leave them where you had them and not believe that someone is evil because they disagree with you.
And to add to what Michael said, you talked about, I would do humility and love.
I would add grace.
We all need grace.
None of us are perfect.
And it's really easy to get self-righteous in heated discussions and forget about that and not carry the fact that we all need grace with us.
We clearly have a division on the the school, the book issue.
We have divisions on our university campuses about what speakers are allowed there.
Clearly, we talked now about the media creating division.
Do you look at any institution, group or organization and say they are doing it well?
Well, I think we all think that everybody else is doing it wrong and we're it right.
I don't know.
I think we're all trying to figure it out.
Unfortunately, as a nation, we've become very tribal ized.
And, you know, one of the things that I love about Missouri politics is there's a lot of things we disagree on, but there's a lot of things where we work across party lines, where we have agreement.
And that's just what we need to encourage each other to do.
We're not going to agree on everything, but when we can, let's try to do it and try to build some faith.
Oh, I think PBS.
I was one in one of those aprons.
I said that public broadcasting, a rare medium, well done.
I would submit that.
And I thought, we will be giving you a Kansas City PBS mug as a result of being here.
You say something else nice.
You might also get a tote bag.
My product placement.
When I mug for the cameras.
I've said for a long time that we've got a new national pastime.
It's not baseball, it's overreacting.
And I think it's almost everybody, everything, everywhere, all at once.
We've become a nation of Barney Fife and Google that if you're too young.
I did a I did a book about Viktor Frankl, a legendary Holocaust survivor.
And one of the things that he taught me was that there is a wide expanse in our minds if we choose to use them.
Between stimulus and response, nobody can trigger you to any particular response that your response is your response ability.
So, you know, kind of a mindset like that from Viktor Frankl could, I think, lower the temperature a little bit.
Very good, Vicki.
Let's see if we go to Byron, burn a standing ovation style question that we could use here at the end to wrap up our conversation.
What is a really a contentious issue?
It's actually a question for each of you.
What is something that you've learned from one another and did it make you change your mind?
I like that.
I think it's for me, it's really reinforced how people can look at the same facts and come to different conclusions.
You know, resourcing your rule as a result of this conversation, you know, I believe that parents should be in charge.
But I think it's it's easy to to think that everybody sees things your way because you've seen the facts and you know them.
And and sometimes there are variances and sometimes maybe they're seeing something that you didn't because of where they're coming from.
And at least when you're having a discussion, you need to say, well, wait a minute, I disagree with this guy.
Michael's completely wrong.
Why is he saying this?
What am I missing?
And I don't mean you.
Seriously, Sally, I've learned that as a result of the secretary's rule, no book has actually been banned in Missouri yet.
I thought so.
Now I actually was taken with your defense of campus speech because I really do feel this is an issue where people on the extremes of both parties, you know, struggle with this.
And I was glad to hear someone from the ACLU stand up in defense of all free speech on campus.
I think that's important.
Micah, I learned that there is something about Florida that I like.
Oh, thank you.
Micah Michael Well, me too.
I don't know that I've learned it, but I've been reminded of the hope for civility.
And I think this event, if, you know, if we did it right, could be a model for the nation.
Nick Haynes and I am also reminded of how great Kansas City is, are you know, my newspaper career took me away from Kansas City for many years and I missed it a lot.
And I been reminded of that tonight.
And I give you a lot of credit because when we wanted to put this program together and talk about this issue and bring a wide ideological divide together, everybody leapt at the opportunity and said very graciously and with grace, yes.
And we are very grateful to you for that.
You have been working, canceled, censored, banned with Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Sally Bradshaw, Micah Kubik, and Micah.
I'm Michael Ryan.
And I'm Nick Haynes from Kansas City, PBS.
And from our partners here with American Public Square and from the National World War One museum in the heart of downtown Kansas City.
Keep calm and carry on.
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