The Diary of a Young Girl by Holocaust victim Anne Frank, the massively popular Harry Potter series, and the Newberry Medal-winning novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry about racial conflict in 1930s Mississippi are some notable examples of books that 10th grader Reina Takata can no longer find in her public high school library in Ontario, Canada. Why not? Because those titles were culled as part of a new “equity-based” weeding process implemented by the Peel District School Board (PDSB) last spring, leaving library shelves as bare as supermarket shelves in Biden’s America.
Miss Takata told CBC Toronto that the shelves at Erindale Secondary School were full of books as recently as May, but gradually began to empty out. When she returned to school in the fall, “I came into my school library and there are rows and rows of empty shelves with absolutely no books.” (Takata herself took the photo above, of the bookshelves in her Mississauga high school’s library.) She estimates that more than half of her school’s library books are gone.
Libraries across Canada and in the United States have long followed standard weeding plans to dispose of damaged or outdated books; this is understandable and reasonable. But Reina Takata and many other students and parents are concerned that this new process emphasizing the leftist buzzwords “equity” and “inclusion” seems to have led some schools to remove thousands of books simply because they were published in 2008 or earlier.
Libraries not Landfills, a group of parents, retired teachers, and community members, says it has no issue with standard weeding but is concerned about both fiction and nonfiction books being removed based solely on their publication date. The group is also concerned about how subjective criteria like “inclusivity” are to be interpreted from school to school.
In a May 8th board committee meeting about the equitable weeding process, trustee Karla Bailey complained that “there are so many empty shelves” in the schools. “When you talk to the librarian in the library, the books are being weeded by the date, no other criteria,” Bailey told the committee. “None of us have an issue with removing books that are musty, torn, or racist, outdated. But by weeding a book, removing a book from a shelf, based simply on this date is unacceptable. And yes, I witnessed it.”
“Who’s the arbiter of what’s the right material to go in the library, and who’s the arbiter of what’s wrong in our libraries? That’s unclear,” Tom Ellard, a PDSB parent and the founder of Libraries not Landfills, told CBC Toronto. “It’s not clear to the teachers who’ve provided us this material, and it’s not clear to me as a parent or as a taxpayer.”
It’s clear to the PDSB, though, which seems to believe that progressive ideology is the arbiter. The board issued a statement that explained, “Books published prior to 2008 that are damaged, inaccurate, or do not have strong circulation data are removed.” So far, so good. But the board added that older titles can stay in the collection if they are “accurate, serve the curriculum, align with board initiatives and are responsive to student interest and engagement.” [Emphasis added]
Translation: titles older than 2008 can stay on the shelves as long as the content doesn’t challenge the prevailing woke worldview that the curriculum promotes.
“The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society,” declared the board.
And therein lies the problem, because we all know who gets to decide what is relevant and inclusive: the progressive activists who utterly dominate schools and libraries, and who have a woke agenda to control what information and ideas are available to the young, malleable minds of their students.
CBC Toronto reviewed internal PDSB documents, which include a manual for the process titled “Weeding and Audit of Resource in the Library Learning Commons collection.” The documents lay out an “equitable curation cycle” for weeding, which it says was created to support Directive 18 from the Minister of Education based on a 2020 Ministry review and report on systematic discrimination within the PDSB. Directive 18 instructs the board to complete a diversity audit of schools:
The Board shall evaluate books, media and all other resources currently in use for teaching and learning English, History and Social Sciences for the purpose of utilizing resources that are inclusive and culturally responsive, relevant and reflective of students, and the Board’s broader school communities.
PDSB’s “equitable curation cycle” is described in the board document as “a three-step process that holds Peel staff accountable for being critically conscious of how systems operate, so that we can dismantle inequities and foster practices that are culturally responsive and relevant.” [Emphasis added]
First, teacher librarians were instructed to focus on reviewing books that were published 15 or more years ago — so, in 2008 or earlier. Then, librarians were to go through each of those books and consider the criteria of the “MUSTIE” acronym adapted from Canadian School Libraries:
- Misleading – information may be factually inaccurate or obsolete.
- Unpleasant – refers to the physical condition of the book, may require replacement.
- Superseded – book been overtaken by a new edition or a more current resource.
- Trivial – of no discernible literary or scientific merit; poorly written or presented.
- Irrelevant – doesn’t meet the needs and interests of the library’s community.
- Elsewhere – the book or the material in it may be better obtained from other sources.
Step two of curation is an anti-racist and inclusive audit, where quality is defined by “resources that promote anti-racism, cultural responsiveness and inclusivity.” Step three is a representation audit of how books and other resources reflect student diversity.
Keep in mind what these innocuous-sounding terms actually mean:
- “Anti-racism” is not opposition to racism, but discrimination against whites, since only whites are deemed to have the political power to be racist;
- Similarly, “equity” is not “equality”; as the bestselling author of How to be an Anti-Racist Ibram X. Kendi (real name Ibram Henry Rogers) himself admits, equity is present discrimination to remedy past discrimination;
- “Inclusivity” and “diversity” mean the embrace of identity politics, which is by its very nature divisive, and which includes only the left’s designated victim categories; it excludes the “heteronormative” white males and anti-feminist women who are deemed to belong to the oppressor category. (It goes without saying that “inclusivity” also excludes people with opinions and beliefs that are on “the wrong side of history.”)
- “Cultural responsiveness” refers to those books that support and promote the prevailing cultural trends, i.e. wokeness; insufficiently woke classics from eras prior to our current state of enlightenment (i.e. before 2008) are considered to be “causing harm” and therefore cannot even be donated, as “they are not suitable for any learners.”
Trustee and chair of the board David Green told CBC Toronto that the weeding process “rolled out wrong.” Indeed it did. He said the board has asked the Director of Education to make sure that if books are being culled simply because they’re older, “then that is stopped, and then the proper process is followed.”
A motion was passed at a May 24 board meeting to ensure that, going forward, those weeding books during the anti-racist and inclusive phase of the curation cycle would need to document the title and reason for removal before any books were disposed of. That’s not nearly enough; the curation cycle should include no anti-racist and inclusive phase whatsoever.
For all of the Left’s shrill, false charges that conservatives are frenzied, anti-intellectual book-banners, it is the totalitarians of wokeness who are actively engaging in the online stealth editing of classic fiction, the mob cancellation of insufficiently woke authors, and the quiet culling of books from library shelves to accommodate the ideological requirements of “equity” and “inclusion.”
This neo-Marxist agenda is being perpetrated, meanwhile, at the same time that its fanatical activists are hell-bent on ensuring that school libraries stock pornographic works of gender ideology aimed at prematurely instilling a sexual consciousness in very young schoolchildren. Parents who object to this blatant grooming are smeared as bigots and investigated by federal law enforcement as domestic terror threats, because leftists don’t believe in parental rights; they believe the State should be raising our children.
Although the aforementioned “equity” book weeding policy was implemented in Canada, make no mistake – a similar woke targeting of the West’s literary heritage will be coming to school libraries in America, if it hasn’t already, and possibly even to public libraries and bookstores as well. And this agenda to erase the West’s literary heritage is only going to intensify unless and until it is stopped in its tracks by a determined, righteously fearless opposition.
Meanwhile, anyone who cares about passing that heritage on to the next generation should begin collecting and hoarding physical copies of classic books in home libraries, because our school libraries, public libraries, and bookstores today by and large no longer see themselves as the caretakers of that civilizational legacy but as the agents of a revolution against it.
Follow Mark Tapson at Culture Warrior.