Tag Archives: Mark Davis

Mark Davis Blew This One – You Don’t Ban Books

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Mark Davis is one of the most popular columnists and radio hosts.  He regularly contributes to the Dallas Morning News, and you can hear his program on WBAP 820 AM / 98.7 FM each weekday from 8:30-11:00 a.m.  He is provocative, insightful, and usually correct.  But not this time – he blew it.

In his column, “In Defense of Banning Books,” (Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2011, p. 4P), Davis argues that school trustees have the right and obligation to restrict access to texts in order to reflect a locality’s point of view.   In the column, he posits that “among those freedoms is the right of local school boards to say no to certain books….when an occasional book – even a ‘classic’ – gets booted, it’s not evidence of repressive forces denying access to various works.  It’s local school trustees acting properly within the marketplace to accept to rejct books they deem unworthy.”

I have long believed in the strength and propriety of localities to govern their own decisions.  I have always thought that states, counties, and towns know better about their own needs, and what works for their own localities, then do higher-level authorities, such as the federal government. 

But not this time.  Restricting access to knowledge, informed opinion, and creative works is not the right of any locality.  No one, especially a student, should be denied the opportunity to view, learn, and judge content.  Just because you live in one place instead of another does not justify such a denial.

We have seen this before in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  Years ago, Mike Shapiro was the president and general manager of WFAA-TV (Channel 8).  He hosted a popular show every Sunday afternoon entitled “Let Me Speak to the Manager.”  In this show, he answered questions from viewers in a very candid fashion.  During his tenure at the station, he was an unabashed proponent of protecting viewers from his own perspective.  If ABC was showing a Sunday Night Movie that he believed was objectionable, he would delay its airing from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m., when most children are asleep.  In some cases, he cancelled the airing of a movie, and for others, right before its showing, he would appear on the air to announce that the movie viewers were about to see had not been edited enough, and that parents should be cautious about their children watching it.  He did not believe that the Zapruder film from the Kennedy Assassination should ever be aired, and he did not allow documentaries containing it to be shown in this market.  Therefore, just because you lived in Dallas-Fort Worth, you were not able to see what others in different localities could watch.

Mike Shannon, in his web site on DFW Television History, notes:  “Under GM Mike Shapiro, WFAA felt a responsibility to pre-empt any network programming that didn’t fit their opinion of moral standards.  Racy and risque movies were commonly pulled from the schedule, and, in one instance where Channel 8 let one slip by, an apology announcement by the station was made afterwards, with the assurance that the program would never air on WFAA again.  Even “American Bandstand” was pre-empted by Channel 8 for many years starting around 1970; the official reason was for the station to air pertinent public service programming instead, but rumors long abounded that the station buckled to religious groups who wanted ‘evil’ rock and roll off local television.

This is hard to justify.  Why is it that because you live in one area you cannot have access to works, of whatever type,  that people who live elsewhere can?   Allowing access does not mean that someone is justifying, rationalizing, or condoning the work itself.  But, the point here is to allow let individuals decide what they want to think or believe.  They cannot get to that level if higher-level authorities deny access.

Maybe a book is offensive to local school board members.  That is fine, because each person is entitled to his or her own opinion.  But, give everyone – including students, a chance to decide for themselves.  Just because you live in one locality does not justify withholding access to that book.  If you can’t get it, you can’t form an opinion about it. 

What do you think?  Is Mark Davis right?  Let’s talk about it soon!