The Hills We Make Kids Climb

Amanda Gorman has a proven ability to inspire children—especially Black girls and boys—to read more and dream bigger. Why are DeSantis and Moms for Liberty attacking her?

The Hills We Make Kids Climb

The same week Ron DeSantis used authoritarian-lover Elon Musk's Twitter Spaces as the launchpad for his "anti-woke" Presidential campaign, we found out just how anti-woke DeSantis wants the "Free State of Florida" to be.

Amid an outcry that followed news of a white supremacist Florida mom attempting to have Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb (a bestselling book featuring the poem she read at Biden's 2021 inauguration) banned entirely from a Florida elementary school, DeSantis again repeated the lie that book banning in Florida is a "hoax" and doubled down on the insidious lie promoted by the school district, along with Moms for Liberty and others that the book had just been "moved to another shelf."

NOTE: Even the "moved to another shelf" lie—as dishonest as it turned out to be— would have put an unfair burden on elementary school children, requiring them to seek out the book in an "older kids" area of the library they would not normally use or feel comfortable in.

The full reality was, of course, far different

Just to recap, the original complaint:

Was made by a "Moms for Liberty"- and Proud Boys-affiliated mom named Daily Salinas who was soon discovered to have shared antisemitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” conspiracy content on social media.
Identified the author as "Oprah Winfrey."
Stated that the book "is not educational and have indirectly hate messages."

As the story broke, Daniella Pierre, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, told NPR on Wednesday: "The (complaint) form, based on what has been provided and shared with us, does not even appear to be completely filled out or express a complete thought."

Maya Wiley told MSNBC's Nicole Wallace that the attack on Amanda Gorman's historic work serves as "an incredible illustration that this isn't a culture war and this isn't about age appropriate books. This is an ideological attempt at indoctrination masked as protecting our kids against indoctrination."

The idea that one parent with a clear political agenda is allowed to attack the freedom to read of all the children in a classroom or school district should, of course, alarm any true defenders of "freedom" and "liberty" in America.

But DeSantis and M4L don't care about details like that or, for that matter, truth.

Finding themselves (once again) on the wrong side of a national outcry, the vicious political operatives at Moms for Liberty, along with their army of deep-pocketed right-wing allies and brainwashed "anti-porn" trolls, flooded social media with the claim that the book was still available to any student who want it, it was just now in the "middle grades" part of the school's library.

No coherent argument was made by anyone that Amanda Gorman's poem was, based on its content, unsuitable for kids to read.

No one claimed The Hill We Climb was "pornography" but, as per usual, the Moms for Liberty trolls swarmed social media to claim that anyone who wanted kids to read the book was a pedophile or a groomer.

Meanwhile, supposedly grown-up conservatives getting paid by the supposedly serious Heritage Foundation even found themselves lusting at the idea that a librarian would one day get caught sneaking copies of Hustler into a school library.

(Spoiler: That doesn't happen. If it ever does, I can tell you now it will be a Moms for Liberty "false flag" operation.)

But let me repeat this point for those who still spend their days on social media and nights at school board meetings falsely shouting that teachers and librarians are "groomers" and "pedophiles":

Paid conservative activists are openly admitting that making the case against "pornography" in schools would be a lot easier if there was actual pornography in schools.

These new admissions offer further proof, if needed, that the famed Heritage "think tank" is actually a goldfish bowl.

Meanwhile, as PEN America has stated repeatedly, none of the books targeted by aggressive extremists and ambitious politicians as "pornographic" meet either the legal or colloquial definition of the word.

Thankfully, the truth was finally revealed

As Maham Javaid and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff reported in The Washington Post, the story being pushed by DeSantis and Moms for Liberty was false.

In fact, The Hill We Climb is not accessible to all elementary school kids at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes—even though the school district claimed it was.  

The school's—and the Governor's—contention that any child brave enough to venture into the "older kids" (i.e. not "age appropriate") section of the library would have trouble reading it was just not true. That barrier, while unacceptable by itself, was not even close to the reality of the situation.

As WaPo reported:

To read the book, an elementary school student would now have to request it from a media specialist and prove that they read at the fifth-grade level, which is the book’s reading level, according to the book’s readability rating.
Otherwise, the students’ access to the book is restricted.

Think about that for a second.

To ban a book in Florida, you don't have to read it. You don't have to know who wrote it. You don't even have to state your objection as "a complete thought."

But if you're an elementary school child in "The Free State of Florida," you now not only have to file a request. You also have to pass a test. To read a poem.

Again, let's pause.

Were you ever asked to pass a test to earn the right to read a book?

It's not only ridiculous, offensive and Un-American. It's also a powerful deterrent. What kid wants to take an extra test if there's even a chance they might fail?

I can only imagine how many kids will think that's too many hills to climb just to read a poem.

Imagine if Ron DeSantis tried to force gun buyers to jump over hurdles like that.

"All these hurdles for a young reader just to access a poem"

One of the best ways to help kids get better at reading is, of course, to encourage them to read—and let them read books they want to read and might inspire them.

Letting kids read slightly above their current grade level is also a great way to help them learn new words and experience new ways to express thoughts, use language and construct sentences. And poetry is especially good for that.

The idea that kids need to pass a reading test before being allowed to pick up a book—any book—is contradictory to DeSantis' alleged goal of bettering reading scores. It's also an attack on the First Amendment principles underscoring the freedom to read of all students.

Imposing a test-based system reveals, too, that the goals of Moms for Liberty and Ron DeSantis aren't about "age appropriateness" at all.

These anti-American extremists are laser-focused on diminishing access to certain ideas and content written for those segments of the US population that Christian Nationalists and white supremacists seek to dominate.

Every time these thugs move the goalposts like this it only helps expose their true intentions more clearly.

In this case, they attacked a best-selling and historically important work by a young Black woman, a now-globally recognized figure who is not just a poet but also a role model with a proven ability to inspire children—perhaps most especially young Black girls and boys—to read more and dream bigger.

As Gorman herself tweeted on May 27:

They won't call it a ban. Yet not only has my book been moved, but now elementary schoolers must request a copy from a specialist at its new site AND then also PROVE their reading level before seeing a copy. All these hurdles for a young reader just to access a poem in history written for them. @MDCPS , history is not ours to hoard from children. History has always been theirs to make. And the more they're empowered to know our yesterdays, the more prepared they will be to lead us into tomorrow.

The Amanda Gorman controversy—and the politicized response to it—only highlights the racism behind much of what is going on.

The lies told by book banners

Even as Ron DeSantis was being mocked for his "Failure to Launch" at a Musk-endorsed campaign kick-off that took less time to explode than a Tesla or SpaceX rocket, DeSantis was forced to watch all three of his Big Lies about book bans blow up in his face.

  1. Book bans are a "hoax" - FALSE
  2. It's just about "pornography" - FALSE
  3. It's about "age appropriateness" - FALSE

The reality of what DeSantis and Moms for Liberty are doing is now clear to everyone: With a combination of lies, misinformation and intimidation, they want to create an America where it's easier for a white supremacist to ban a book than it is for a Black child to read a poem.

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