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Released on Oct 9, 2023
Monday Morning Message 10.9.23 Let Freedom Read

We mourn the many lives lost in Israel this past weekend and send thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.


“…..libraries should be open to all — except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”
— President John F. Kennedy

“Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book...”― President Dwight D. Eisenhower 

“Today, some of the books that shaped my life and the lives of so many others — are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. And librarians are on the front lines, fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone.”
— President Barack Obama

My mother, Elaine “Boots” Fisher, was a voracious reader. When she died, my family established a special collection in her name of Newbery and Caldecott Medal and Honor children’s books at the Shaker Heights Public Library. She read a hardcover book every two weeks and instilled a love of reading in me and my siblings. My mother taught me the value of reading, and my father, a lawyer who revered the Constitution, taught me the value of freedom of expression.

This past Saturday was Freedom to Read Day, a day that celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights dangerous attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. 

From July 2021 to June 2022, there were over 2,500 book bans of over 1,600 titles across 32 states. These efforts to deny Americans access to a diversity of stories and perspectives that help them understand and navigate the world around them, are a canary in the coal mine for the future of democracy.

In 1933, university students across Germany burned over 25,000 books. The works of Jewish authors like Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud went up in flames alongside blacklisted American authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Helen Keller, while students gave the Nazi salute.

In 1953, Ray Bradbury wrote a novel about a world in which firemen did not extinguish fires. They started them, to burn books and the houses of those who kept them. He called it “Fahrenheit 451,” for the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. Bradbury was sending us a warning about what could happen when a society decides that the ideas in books are too dangerous. 

What do To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Charlotte’s Web have in common? Groups have tried to ban these and many other books from classrooms and public and school libraries simply because they disagreed with the content.

Parents have the right to guide their children’s reading, but no one should dictate what books other parents’ children are allowed to read. It’s a slippery slope to government censorship and freedom of expression.

Organizations like Freedom to Learn Advocates, Unite Against Book Bans, and their allies are fighting censorship to ensure books are celebrated and protected rather than banned. 

At CSU|LAW, we are committed to fostering a respectful environment in which there can be vigorous debate about the issues that shape our future. We seek to be a place where we facilitate free expression and foster a culture where we welcome and celebrate diverse viewpoints. We do not ask our students to moderate or dilute their views to please others, but we do ask them to respect others’ differing views and their right to express them.

Let Freedom Read.

Have a great day and a great week.

The views and opinions expressed in my Monday Morning Message are solely my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the law school or the university. 

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

Subscribe to Monday Morning Message and CSU|LAW Newsletter

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My best,

Lee

Lee Fisher

Dean, Cleveland State University College of Law

Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

1801 Euclid Avenue, LB 138 |Cleveland, Ohio 44115 -2214
216-386-8688 | lee.fishernull@csuohio.nulledu

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