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furries in school, wikpedia

Educationally Yours: Joe McCarthy Is Banning Books, Race, Sex and Pooping Furries

Abby Zimet

Apologies for returning, Groundhog-Day-like, to the angst and bedlam of our schools, but OMFG: The crazy is strong, and possibly winning. Across the country, panicked pols, "parent heroes" and other overwrought members of the Party of Perpetual Grievance, rapt with fearmongering 'cause what else they got, are vowing to "TAKE BACK our schools" from the mortal if nebulous dangers of a "liberal agenda," which it turns out kinda encompasses.....everything. Sex, gender, color, class, racism, critical thinking, any "pervasively vulgar" content, any “doctrine” promoting a “negative” account of the U.S., any divergence from "closely held religious beliefs," any frightening subversion of a status quo they fervently believe in and don't wanna question, any topic - history, algebra, science, gym - that could make them feel "discomfortable," and, yes, furries - all of it can be used as fuel for a voracious outrage machine to demonize, distort or just shut up, like Minnie Mouse in a pantsuit, as part of a plot to "destroy fabrics of our society." Such as it is. Little wonder that teachers, embattled on all sides - by contentious masks, "pornographic" books, endlessly enraged bigots who often see them as deadly players in that plot - are leaving in droves, especially in Stasi-esque states like Virginia where vigilantes have offered bounties to rat them out.

Thus, a record-level deluge of GOP efforts to ban books and thoughts is rolling through schools increasingly overrun by racist cranks and control freaks who think they have the "right" to know if their kid joins an LGBTQ+ club and what she's reading, because who controls the past controls the future and what privacy? And they keep coming: In Texas, the newest hire to oversee social studies curriculum is an anti-immigrant, white nationalist conspiracy nut who's called Biden's win a "coup." He joins a GOP yahoo who's targeted 850 books - here, here - for "inappropriate content," ie sex and race. Of the first 100 titles, it turns out, 97 are by women, LGBTQ+ authors or people of color. Books already pulled from school libraries - 400 in one district - include two about black kids at a mostly white school (indoctrinates "victim mentality" and white guilt); a book about black Olympian Wilma Rudolph (mentions racism); Jack of Hearts (a queer teen sex advice column, based on real kids' questions); a memoir by a black queer writer ('nuff said); a book by civil rights icon Ruby Bridges. Also proposed: replacing four books about racism with Bibles. Faced with possible criminal charges for not removing books, some librarians are quietly "self-censoring" - "Who wants to be called a pornographer?" But as distraught parents at meetings cry, "Why are we sexualizing our precious children?" or "I would like to protect my kids' hearts and minds from this," many of their kids are aghast at being denied safe spaces or basic info they need - especially queer students who often already feel unwelcome in their communities. "You should be able to see yourself reflected on the page," says one teen girl. "For me, a lot of these books offer hope."

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire - "Live Free If Deeply Ignorant" - GOP witch hunts have reached what one advocate calls "the next step in a campaign to whitewash our history by re-writing it." After banning CRT, a new bill would bar any “doctrine” or “theory” promoting a “negative” account of U.S. history, especially the notion the country was “founded on racism”; it piggy-backs onto a Cold War-era law that forbids teachers from saying anything "pro-communist, socialist or Marxist," adding racism to crimes that shall not be named. The evil kicker: An "Act Relative to Teachers’ Loyalty" would ensure teachers toe the totalitarian line by threatening them with draconian sanctions, including the right of parents to sue them. Even cooler: Moms for Liberty will pay a $500 bounty to the first snitch who “catches" a public school teacher breaking the law! Falsely claiming CRT is "all over" the state - not - Rep. Mike Moffett argues teachers with, say, BLM logos on their cars "warrant scrutiny regarding their judgment, their values, and, yes, maybe their loyalty.” On behalf of teachers now "terrified (of) simply trying to teach," their union has sued to stop a law that's unconstitutionally, deliberately vague and a violation of free speech. Many are furious about a law that "(Joe) McCarthy would be very excited by." "The idea I show up to work every day for low wages in unsafe conditions and I'm not loyal - I'd love to know what your definition of loyalty is," says history teacher Jennifer Given. "I teach my students there are lines - slavery was wrong, Nazis are wrong, fascism is wrong, (when) people lose their lives (or jobs) for expressing their ideas, that's wrong. Exactly what this law is attempting to do."

To each his own weird obsession: In Oklahoma, GOP lawmaker Rob Standridge can take or leave racism but is really hepped up about sex and religion. He recently proposed a bill to prohibit public schools from having any books about - ewww - sex, per parents' requests to remove them. Any books: "Addressing the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, gender identity," or books with any eww sex "a reasonable parent (would) want to know about," but maybe not him. His fearful focus is clear - he cites Trans Teen Survival Guide and A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns - and his rabid approach is merciless. After a request, school staff must remove any book within 30 days; if they don't, they'll be terminated and blocked from being hired anywhere for two years; they can seek damages of $10,000 for every day the book stays on the shelves; the fine must be paid by staff themselves, and if they get funds from a friendly advocacy group they can't teach for five years. Though none of this sounds very Christian - "For I will forgive their wickedness" - Standridge boasts he was "raised with strong Christian values," and to prove it he's also proposed a bill to punish teachers who espouse anything that diverges from the “closely held” religious beliefs of students, usually akin to the “closely held” beliefs of their parents. Under a sinister, over-arching "Students' Religious Beliefs Protection Act," parents can file complaints against any allegedly blasphemous teachers; presumably, God takes over from there.

God, race, sex, history, pantsuits. Running out of culture war proxies to demonize, wingnuts are now turning their fury, bizarrely, to furries - an oft-misunderstood subculture of young people, often disproportionately LGBT or neuro-diverse, who dress as anthropomorphized animals, from cat ears or dog tails in school to full "fursuit" costumes at conventions. While their tight community often serves as a safe space, says Furscience academic Sharon Roberts, "It's limited fantasy, not a departure from reality." Still, furry panic has spread from Kentucky to Idaho, with "concerned parents" warning "furries could be in your child's classroom hissing and licking themselves." (One skeptic: "Sounds like high school.") In Michigan, a distraught mother, citing a "somewhat nefarious agenda being pushed through our schools," told a school board she was "stunned" to hear that one school bathroom had a litter box "for kids that identify as cats." After the state's GOP co-chair amplified the claim - “Parent heroes will TAKE BACK our schools!" - the superintendent had to debunk it; his weary, scathing message began, "It is unconscionable (that) I am sending this communication,” and ended, "Educationally yours." But new rumors flew, like furries were being excused from homework because they couldn't grip a pencil/use a keyboard with their paws. Nope, said officials, and besides paws don't exempt students from homework. In Texas, a GOP candidate and anti-vax activist claimed cafeteria tables were being lowered so furries could eat with their hands or straight from a bowl. The school: Our tables don't lower, and "this is not happening." Probably because, one online wit noted, "It's batshit insane." A fellow-traveler: "Or cat shit insane, as it were."


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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