The Ontario Catholic School Board’s decision to burn books deemed politically incorrect, a move prompted by Canada’s activist answer to fauxboriginal Bruce Pascoe, became a hot issue in this month’s Canadian election. Although the book burning began in 2019 and has just come to light it represents yet another powerful warning about the dangers of totalitarian cancel-culture and mind control.
What occurred in Canada is just one example of how widespread and virulent cancel-culture has become. Targets include Tintin and Asterix, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Noddy, Thomas the Tank Engine and six children’s books written by Dr Seuss. All are considered guilty of either sexism, racism or cultural appropriation. Adult books are also targeted including Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird for having using the ‘N’ word, Moby Dick for killing whales and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for privileging the love between a boy and girl (condemned as promoting heteronormativity).
Couched in terms of impartiality and balance, critics argue such books are offensive and discriminatory. The reality is cancelling children’s stories like Snow White — out of favour because the Prince fails to get informed consent before kissing the sleeping maiden– is as dangerous as it is absurd. Stories and books written years ago are unfairly judged and cancelled because of today’s censorious, politically correct view about what is acceptable. Like the moralistic puritans of old, cultural-left activists refuse to allow or entertain anything that fails to conform to their strict, inflexible ideology.
Stopping students reading literature now deemed politically incorrect in the belief they will be corrupted and converted automatically into racist, sexist and homophobic bigots also ignores that the overwhelming majority of young people are smart enough and independently minded not to be conditioned.
Sanitising the past by cancelling stories and books also unfairly distorts the ability of today’s students to get a detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what happened in the past and how society has evolved over time.
An open and free society where people’s rights and liberties are guaranteed and protected is based of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Central to this freedom is the ability to read a wide variety of stories and books – including those now judged politically incorrect.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is an education specialist, author and commentator