Skippyjon Jones, about a Siamese cat who thought he was a Chihuahua, was a huge hit when it came out in 2003, recalls James V. Shuls. His first-grade students loved it. They loved to shout the book's refrain: “Yip, yippee, yippito! My name is Skippy Skippito!”
By 2018, Skippyjon Jones was the eighth-most-challenged book in the nation, according to the American Library Association, due to its stereotyped portrayal of Hispanics. Critics demanded its removal from classrooms.
Book banning is an equal opportunity activity, writes Shuls, who is research director at Missouri's Show-Me Institute. Everyone "believes objectionable or problematic materials should not be given to unsuspecting youth in our public school classrooms. We just define what is objectionable or problematic in different ways."
A librarian asked a meeting of 50 educators what they thought about banning books. They were against it! Then she mentioned Skippyjon, the culture-appropriating cat.
The people who'd just been groaning their disapproval of "book bans" said, “Well . . . that book is problematic.” Nobody is "banning" books, Shuls writes. They're "seeking to censor what is being presented to children" in public schools.
As long as parents can't choose a tax-funded school that aligns with their values (and their idea of what's a quality education), there will be conflict, he writes. But "the very people opposed to 'banning books' are often the very people who stand in the way of proposals for educational freedom."