Pre-2008 Books Destroyed to Enforce ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’

The Ontario Ministry of Education directed school librarians ‘to focus on reviewing books that were published 15 or more years ago’ as part of its ‘diversity audit’

‘Book Burning’
‘Book Burning’ (photo: MVolodymyr / Shutterstock)

Library collections — public, school, university and personal — must be curated and managed, which sometimes requires that titles be removed from circulation, a process called “culling” or “weeding.” Often this is for purely physical reasons, such as running out of space on shelves or when a book, DVD, CD or other library resource is damaged and cannot be repaired. In the case of school and university libraries, it might be appropriate to remove an old, out-of-date edition of a textbook to make way for a new edition.

This is all reasonable and prudent. 

But recently a school district in Canada went way, way overboard. Here’s the headline from a Sept. 13 article from the Canadian Broadcasting Company: “‘Empty shelves with absolutely no books:’ Students, parents question school board’s library weeding process.”

Students arrived at school this semester to find some school library shelves half-empty. The reason for the drastic reduction in the library collection? 

Wait for it …

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

By now we all know what this means. “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” is a code-phrase for sexual libertinism, homosexuality, transgenderism and racially based bigotry that entangles human beings of every ethnic heritage in a never-ending lose-lose conflict. That phrase should put all Catholics, all parents, and all reasonable people on high alert.

But, for now, let’s skip over the removal of books from an institutional library because “they are not inclusive, culturally responsive, relevant or accurate.” Let’s skip over the many thorny questions that arise from such an endeavor, such as who gets to define what the terms even mean, which criteria determine whether a book meets the definition of the terms, and who applies the criteria to the books in question.

Let’s also skip over this interesting thought exercise: after cleansing “problematic” books from many, many linear feet of bookshelves in that Ontario school district, how much do you want to bet those same school libraries still have copies of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, and Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen, which according to Kirkus Reviews “puts the graphic in the graphic-novel format …”

And finally, let’s skip over the fact that you could spend all day watching videos of irate parents from all over North America objecting to sexually explicit material found in their children’s school libraries or assigned to their children in class. These parents sometimes read aloud excerpts from the objectionable books and are then silenced by the school board members because the texts are so disgusting — or even violate the law — which only proves the parents’ arguments.

No, let’s skip over all that for a moment and get to the really absurd part of this story. 

According to the directive from the Ontario Ministry of Education that put this “comprehensive diversity audit” in motion, school librarians were instructed, “to focus on reviewing books that were published 15 or more years ago — so in 2008 or earlier.”

But rather than undertake the painstaking task of actually reviewing the books, of curating, culling and weeding titles based on a list of criteria (questionable as those criteria may be) some libraries simply removed any book published before 2008. 

Wait. What? 

You read that correctly. Whether a book got to stay on the shelves or whether it was consigned to the rubbish heap was based on this alone: If it was published before 2008, down the memory hole it went. 

According to a school board trustee quoted in the article, “When you talk to the librarian in the library, the books are being weeded by the date, no other criteria.”

At one school in the district, Erindale Secondary School, school staff informed the students that “we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.”

So, during the summer, when nobody was watching, hundreds, maybe thousands, of books were fed to the DEI buzzsaw.

And I mean that almost literally: the removed books were not transferred to another school district. They were not sold. They were not donated. They were destroyed

Why? Because according to the authorities, the library resources marked for removal “are not suitable for any learners.”

That’s right. According to the Peel District School Board in Ontario, Canada, anything published before 2008 is not suitable for anyone to read.

People who say things like this, who valorize and value everything new and recent and dismiss as irrelevant anything from the past, are engaging in what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” — “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”

Lewis argues that before an idea or practice from the past can be dismissed or discontinued, it should at least be investigated: “You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also ‘a period,’ and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions.”

Chronological snobbery is a variation of the “progressive fallacy” or the “myth of progress,” which is the assertion that mankind is forever on a march towards improvement and that because a thing is new it is automatically better than what came before. Chronological snobs are the type of people who dismiss religion as something modern man has outgrown — and Lewis ought to know: he was once himself a materialist atheist who did exactly that.

Who knows why 2008 was the cut-off point? And how many books were disappeared by woke DEI chronological snobs? Hundreds, at least. Probably thousands. Examples of books that did not make the pre-2008 cut-off include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

However, according to David Green, Chair of the Peel District School Board, the removal of all pre-2008 books was due to “a miscommunication.” The teachers and librarians of the Peel District were supposed to be guided by other criteria as they embarked upon their book purge … ahem … “comprehensive diversity audit.”

Miscommunication or no, C. S. Lewis has another term that’s apropos to this incident: people who take it upon themselves to decide what is suitable for other people’s children to read or not to read, are what he calls “moral busybodies.” (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics). It’s time we booted these woke moral busybodies off our school boards and purged our state and provincial governments of DEI acolytes.

Books that are “not suitable for any learners” because they were published before 2008 include:

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Sister Wendy’s The Story of Painting
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Holy Bible
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
  • Beowulf
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
  • The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  • And, ironically, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

That is just a short list, off the top of my head and after a cursory perusal of my own bookshelves at home. I’m sure we can think of plenty more. Readers, I invite you to fill the comments section with pre-2008 titles you and your family have enjoyed!

I also invite you to list any title written from 2008 until now that you as a Catholic consider “suitable for all learners.”

If there are any …