Civil Disobedience Against Book Bans?

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  • Nancy Pelosi, Thank You, and Go Home!
  • We Can’t Let China Edit Our Films
  • A.I.-Generated College Essays
  • One Way to Ease Anxiety

Credit…Federico Tramonte

To the Editor:

Re “This Summer, I Became the Book-Banning Monster of Iowa,” by Bridgette Exman (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 3):

The writer is clearly no monster, and we appreciate how hurtful it must have been for her to be harshly criticized for removing books from school libraries. But as banned authors, we sympathize more deeply with Iowa’s children, who deserve better from school officials than their dutiful execution (however reluctant) of laws that violate fundamental human rights.

Those rights, including freedom of speech, depend on the actions of courageous citizens willing to take risks to defend them. Countless Americans — teachers, librarians and superintendents among them — are working bravely and creatively to resist the regressive tide of book banning today, and we owe them our deepest thanks.

Sharing in The Times that her actions pained her does little for Ms. Exman’s students or the authors whose books she removed, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker among them. Of course, it is human to protect one’s livelihood by following orders even when they violate one’s principles and the rights of others.

But it is not good enough. Children and authors, and the freedoms they rely on, need heroes.

Peter Parnell
Justin Richardson
New York
The writers are the authors of “And Tango Makes Three” and recently filed suit in Florida over the banning and restriction of their book in school libraries.

To the Editor:

I feel for Bridgette Exman, whose commitment to her students is hamstrung by an unfair and unnecessary law. My late mother was an elementary school librarian for many years. From time to time a parent would come to her complaining about a book’s presence in the school library. Her response was always the same: She gave the parent a copy of the book and asked them to read it and let her know what they found objectionable. Not one of them ever came back.

If parents in the school districts that are now being forced to ban books would do the same, it’s likely that many of them would find that the books being culled from school and public library shelves are works that they would like their children to read. They would be exercising their parental rights in an informed way, rather than relying on overly broad and punitive legislation.

And those who don’t have the time to read the books themselves might realize that they can rely on the judgment of the teachers and librarians who are trained in determining age-appropriate reading.

Judith Lowitz Adler
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

To the Editor:

I thank Bridgette Exman for her courageous article about her summer removing books from her Iowa school district’s libraries, a duty she clearly thought was misguided. How wonderful it would be if all the teachers and administrators in Iowa, Florida and other misguided states would exercise their rights to civil disobedience and leave the books where they are.

The laws in these states may have been legally adopted, but they are unjust, unwise and undemocratic. I am not a wealthy man and never gamble, but I would wager $10,000 that one would find one of these banned books in at least one of the homes of the Republican legislators who voted for these bills.

Roy Goldman
Atlantic Beach, Fla.

Nancy Pelosi, Thank You, and Go Home!

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Pelosi, Defying Speculation in Party, Plans to Run for Re-election in 2024” (news article, Sept. 9):

In her role as speaker of the House and as a representative from California, Nancy Pelosi has done a brilliant job. Thank you, Ms. Pelosi! Now go home!

At 83, Ms. Pelosi has certainly earned the right to retire, and her constituents are entitled to a fresh new face in Washington. Why can’t politicians in the nation’s capital understand that it’s time for a new generation of leaders?

If you are a public official who can remember when Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” was the No. 1 hit on the pop charts, please leave gracefully and go home.

Barbara Barran

We Can’t Let China Edit Our Films

Credit…Eva Redamonti

To the Editor:

Re “Will Tensions With China Make Movies Less Fun?,” by Kaj Larsen (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 5), arguing against a rule that would punish movie studios that let China edit their content:

Far from targeting free speech,my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act protects it. My SCREEN Act defends American films from Chinese Communist Party censorship by barring film studios that submit to C.C.P. censorship from accessing Department of Defense assistance.

Like Mr. Larsen, I am a combat veteran who values seeing our military featured on movie screens — something that’s difficult for movie studios to do without cooperation from the Department of Defense. Yet, I would like to preserve our right to make patriotic movies. Studios that refuse C.C.P. edits will have no trouble accessing federal assistance under my amendment.

If we allow the C.C.P. to censor our films, we are letting a tyrannical regime win. Forcing taxpayers to subsidize C.C.P. censorship is not an option.

Mark Green
Clarksville, Tenn.
The writer is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A.I.-Generated College Essays

Susan Barber, a high school English teacher, said using A.I. chatbots could make students’ college essays too generic.Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Personal Essay or Chatbot? Colleges Wrestle With A.I.” (Business, Sept. 2):

I have been working with high school students as a college essay coach for 27 years. Last year, I suspect I saw my first ChatGPT-generated essay.

The student came to me the day before the University of California applications were due. He wanted to discuss ideas at a time when I was dealing with a dozen kids waiting for last-minute edits. I told him to go away as there was no way he could possibly produce the four required essays in less than 24 hours. But he did.

When I saw him a few weeks later he showed me his essays. They were really good: insightful, interesting, well written. I had never heard of ChatGPT, but in December, while listening to a podcast on the recently released program, it occurred to me that maybe that’s how the essays were produced.

Is it bad to use the help? Is it any worse than using an essay reader like me? I don’t know. What is lost is the arduous process of learning to write, which is what seniors go through as they submit essay after essay — a high-pressure writing course. But is that the best use of their learning time, or even the best approach for the colleges to find out just who these kids are?

So many questions. I love high school seniors, and as I embark on my 28th essay-writing season, I look forward to finding answers.

Janet Huseby
Berkeley, Calif.

One Way to Ease Anxiety

Billie Eilish’s song “What Was I Made For?” has become the anthem of anxious and depressed young women.Credit…Mason Poole

To the Editor:

In “Anxiety in the Age of Barbie” (column, Sept. 3), Maureen Dowd discusses the well-earned angst that young college women experience today, driven by issues of consequence to their generation like climate change. Who wouldn’t be scared by these realities?

They might feel better if they acted on their feelings — en masse, at the ballot box.

To those young women: Get mad. Get even. Get registered. Going away to college? Get an absentee ballot. Use it. Throw the bums out at the ballot box. That’s where the power is.

I bet you’ll feel a lot better.

Oralee Wachter
New York

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