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Social Studies Texts Under Attack In Michigan

Michigan State Capitol, via www.senate.michigan.gov

Key social developments of the 20th century may be relegated to a footnote – literally – as Michigan state Senator Patrick Colbeck oversees revisions to textbooks in his state. As reported by The Bridge (and colorfully elaborated upon by Wonkette), references to the NAACP, the struggle for LGBT rights, and Roe vs. Wade are being minimized or excluded entirely – and strangely enough, so are mentions of the KKK. This is part of a quest to eliminate “core democratic values,” which as Wonkette points out, should offer a great lesson in the difference between a capital-D “Democrat” versus someone whose values are “democratic” – as in, one who participates in a democracy. Whatever values Michigan’s choices represent, they line up quite neatly with restrictions imposed on reading material for those in the state’s prisons, banning books by authors such as Frantz Fanon, who observed in Black Skin, White Masks: “There is no forgiveness when one who claims a superiority falls below the standard.”

Just how intense is the security on the set of “Game of Thrones”? Actors on the set of the series eighth season report that their watermarked digital scripts disappear moments after a scene is filmed: “When we’ve shot the scene it just vanishes,” says Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. “It’s like Mission: Impossible, ‘This will self-destruct.’” As the number one most illegally-downloaded show, GoT really does have to adopt secret agent techniques. The article points out a few other tricks of the trade: “Disney prints all of its Star Wars scripts on dark red paper, which is impossible to photo copy, and, during the filming of ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ it required all scripts to be shredded at the end of the day.”

Speaking of destruction, authors nowadays can’t help puzzling over how to address climate change in their stories. While some tackle it head on in a subgenre known as “cli-fi” (which tends toward the apocaplytic), literary fiction may require a lighter touch. In an interview with Electric Literature, Lauren Groff speaks about “using a scalpel, not a hammer” to address the subject. “Dread is useful,” she says. “Since it’s an outward projection, it can encompass the reality that nature is in fact robust, nature wants to thrive, and if humanity committed fully to trying to mitigate climate change, we could do so, and with some ease. Dread can have hope and movement in it, not ataxia and flight.” Her latest book of short stories, Florida, is an exercise in exactly this kind of dread, but she remains sensitive to the needs of readers dealing with “days in which the news hits like a 2-by-4 to the face.”

Anyone who’s tended a “little free library” on their property will tell you the experience is not always inspiring as one imagines it will be, but few have to deal with systematic book theft the way a group of volunteer librarians in Chicago recently have. That’s right, someone’s been going around poaching entire collections, presumably with the intent to re-sell them, and the lessons these citizens learned will help arm all little free librarians with the tools to deter theft – or at least, the legal language that will allow them to pursue justice. And on the bright side, as a result of the thievery, local library-havers learned the importance of organizing: “Many of the area stewards now stay in touch with each other, offering ideas and support.”