Opinion: Matt Krause's Bad Books List Another Sign of the Texas Dystopia?

Banning books, controlling women's bodies and "right" thinking. What's next Texas?
Banning books, controlling women's bodies and "right" thinking. What's next Texas? Screenshot

Students in Texas public schools shouldn't read books that involve sexism or racism because it might make them feel bad?

Armed with a list of about 850 books that he apparently finds suspect, Matt Krause, the conservative state rep (R-Fort Worth), wants an accounting from an unknown number of the state's public schools, namely: Are these books on their shelves, who gets to read them and how much money have these districts spent to put them in their libraries?

In an October 25, 2021 letter to Texas Education Agency Deputy Commissioner Lily Laux, Krause also wants to know about any other books in the unnamed school districts that touch on topics like:

"Human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously."
This comes after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the "critical race theory" bill which took effect September 1 that says teachers don't have to discuss current events and if they do, they have to present both sides — leading, of course to the immortal case earlier this month of a school district director of curriculum and instruction in Southlake, Texas, telling teachers that because of House Bill 3979 if they discuss the Holocaust they must bring up "the other side."

Krause, a self-described "faithful conservative fighter" running for Attorney General against incumbent Ken Paxton, was previously known for his bill entitled "Lemonade Freedom Day" which made kids' lemonade (or Kool Aid) stands legal and exempt from the state's health and licensing laws.

Now, it seems, he's trying to protect the kids further by making sure they don't have to read about people doing bad things to others because of sexism or racism. They shouldn't have to think about these things, he apparently believes. Where he got his reading list from is anyone's guess.

Predictably enough, the Texas State Teachers Association on behalf of its members, wasn't thrilled by the request from Krause, or his November 12 deadline for delivery of the information to him. As stated in its press release:

"Rep. Krause’s letter demanding that school superintendents provide him with lists of books dealing with certain subjects on their school bookshelves is disturbing and political overreach into the classroom. Nothing in state law, not even in HB3979 or SB3, gives a legislator the authority to conduct this type of witch hunt.
This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children’s education. What will Rep. Krause propose next? Burning books he and a handful of parents find objectionable?"
Oh and just to be clear, Krause isn't doing this as part of the House Education Committee. He's doing this in his role as chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating.

In the last year Texas has defied the law of the land and essentially banned abortion in the state, deciding that legislators not women should have control over female bodies even in the case of rape and incest. It has put in place nonsensical voting restrictions crafted to suppress the minority vote. It has drawn up a statewide redistricting map to further suppress that vote and ensure Republicans remain in charge.

As cold weather approaches we face the very real prospect of another power breakdown like the one last February when 210 people died. The Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott vowed to make sure that never happens again, and essentially did nothing in crafting legislation where loopholes abound. Abbott, trying to protect his extreme right wing flank, issued executive orders saying no government or business could demand its employees — or in the case of school districts: students — wear masks to protects against COVID-19.  Fortunately more than a few organizations are ignoring this directive.

Our only surprise is that Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 isn't on the list of books Krause wants rooted out. But we're not surprised at all that Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in graphic novel form about a dystopian society of the future is there.

Lately it seems like we're hurtling toward our own dystopia in Texas, with the prospect of warming our hands over burning books as the power grid collapses once again. Yes indeed, winter is coming. 

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing