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1988: Restricting reading material is a familiar story in Indiana schools

Posted at 5:28 AM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 05:28:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Talk of restricting reading material for children is once again making headlines in central Indiana as Senate Bill 12 winds its way through the Indiana Statehouse.

Critics say the bill could send librarians and teachers to jail for teaching sex education or letting kids read certain books.

But the practice of challenging books is a tale as old as time.

WRTV reporter David Klugh delivered a series of reports on book bans 35 years ago. The report stated the number of attempted book bans had tripled since 1980.

Klugh visited the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom in Chicago where he spoke with folks on both sides of the issue.

“It seems that individuals today are more anxious to limit the perspectives available than they are to ensure that a wide variety of points of view are available,” said Judith Krug, the director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association. Krug called librarians the, “marketplace of ideas.”

But not all ideas were welcome in some households.

One advocate for limiting material deemed harmful to children told Klugh, “In a classroom where a child is forced to read this material, it need not be there if it’s controversial. There’s too much good stuff out there that’s not controversial.”

And that’s exactly where the American Library Association drew the line according to Krug.

“Our policy says that it is the responsibility of parents and only parents to guide their children and only their children in appropriate reading material. It is the responsibility of the individual to determine what he or she is going to read and having read it whether or not they will accept it.”

Central Indiana had several instances of book bans in the early ‘80s. Parents Against Vulgarity at North Central spoke out against John Gardner’s “Grendel” which was perceived to be anti-Christian, anti-moral, and vulgar. At Carmel Junior High, parents lobbied against a list of four titles including George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Illustrated Man, and The Terminal Man by Michael Chrichton.

“All of them were depressing,” said another supporter of restricting books. “All of them offered hopelessness. The profanity was extreme. My idea of literature is one that is well-rounded. What’s wrong with giving the kids something to laugh about?”

The latest effort to restrict material will likely not be the final chapter on the matter, but according to another person featured in Klugh’s report, “What happens in the United States, which is a strength and a weakness, and it always has been, is that you may have to support something you find abhorrent in order to protect the principle.”