From fictions like Fahrenheit 451 to real world events during World War II and the Middle Ages, the destruction of books often appears as a cornerstone of dystopian societies. Unfortunately, it’s looking like we can add Michigan’s educational system to this frightening list.

Last week, school workers revealed that a dumpster in Highland Park was filled with books meant for children to read and learn from, taken out of the high school and thrown away on orders from an Emergency Manager. 

Some in tears, community volunteers recovered what was left of the school’s library: less than 1,000 volumes of a library that once contained 10,000 books and audio-visual materials. 

In a city where children are struggling to learn to read in schools ill-equipped to teach, it's horrifying to think that educational and cultural materials have been ripped out of the hands of citizens by an all-powerful authority who announced "We are not in the business of libraries."

Historically, the destruction of books has been an attempt to censor or silence an aspect of a culture. The Highland Park Senior High School library contained a large and historic collection of black history books, many of which are now lost forever.

The “immune” Emergency Manager appointed by Governor Snyder seems to be ignoring this troubling parallel, especially telling in a state where many residents perceive that, in practice, emergency management has been reserved for people of color.

Before anyone had heard about the book destruction, we already knew that the great majority of Highland Park students cannot read at grade level and that teaching aides had been ordered to falsify records. We've filed a lawsuit in an effort to guarantee that Highland Park students, and all students in our state, receive a quality education and chance at a bright future.

With the dire statistics and worrying reports coming out of the city, it is obvious that Highland Park schools cannot afford to lose a single book. It is outrageous that the EM discarded opportunities for students to learn about their history and culture and to become informed and capable citizens.

Michigan public schools are facing hard times, but it is imperative that the best interests of our children, which includes a lifetime of learning and reading, stays the main priority.
 

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