When you’re hiking up one of the high peaks in the Adirondacks (Giant Mountain, 3,000 feet elevation gain), you can’t spend the whole time whining and complaining about the steep pitch, the huge rocks you have to walk over, the hands-and-feet-scrambles, or your sore feet and legs. Because—this hike was a choice you made.
You have to spend time talking about other things, and because I was with my writer friend, JP, we had writing and books to talk about. One conversation that struck me was discussing the recent Drag Queen Story Hour held at our town’s local public library in Bethlehem.
When I heard about the event, I didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other. I like drag queens just fine, I like reading to kids even more. I had mostly positive vibes about the event because it helped promote tolerance, acceptance, inclusivity, equity, and diversity. Naturally, there are dissenters, who believe kids are too young to be exposed to a drag queen.
The queen in question read a book to the kids about unicorns, narwhals, and rainbows; a confusing book about pronouns, and a book called “Jacob’s New Dress” about gender nonconformity. JP pointed out that these weren’t classic kids’ books—not Frog and Toad, or Arthur, or a worm’s diary, or about a pig named Olivia. The books read by the drag queen clearly had an agenda. It happens to be an agenda I mostly support.
But then JP said what if the library invited a United States Marine commander to come in full uniform dress to read to kids at another story hour? And the books would be about the importance of patriotism toward our country, and supporting the armed forces that keep us safe, and encouraging kids to someday consider joining the military.
I believe there would be dissenters to this story hour. And suddenly I was a little less comfortable with the idea of a drag queen story hour.
The library is publicly owned and funded, and is run by an elected board of trustees. But our taxes fund a lot of things we might not personally support. And parents can easily decide whether they want their young children to attend a story hour.
The issues get magnified and complicated in public schools, with each side accusing the other of indoctrinating students. I went on a bit of rant last week about what Florida is doing in its public schools by offering climate-change denial videos and other right-wing content produced by the conservative PragerU. One reader commented “I agree with your essay, but it’s too one-sided. The liberal left too, has an agenda they are forcing down the throats of our kids but you completely ignore that fact.”
First of all, dear reader, when will you realize that I write what I want without regard to fairness or classical rhetorical debate rules? And second, it doesn’t seem to me there are two sides to some of the “liberal left” agenda of inclusivity, acceptance, and tolerance, whether it’s at a public library or in a public school. Nor are there two sides to climate change. But, yes, you can always debate about the age appropriateness of any type of content.
I’m telling you, it’s complex this indoctrinating of our youth. But hiking is complex: one foot in front of the other, pay attention so you don’t fall, and keep going. Let’s instead talk about the cold beer waiting for us when we get to the bottom.