Dear Bookburners, Bystanders, Faculty, and Students:
I am sitting in my study surrounded by 3000 books that I have purchased and read as an undergraduate, graduate student, and professor for the last 25 years. They have become my companions through my life. I am also looking at my Marine Corps boot camp recruit photo book. I had to sacrifice greatly in order to partake in the educational process of this country. It is a price I would pay again as long as I can read as much as time will allot me.
It was with great dismay that I learned that a group of students thought it would be a good idea to burn copies of a book just because they disagreed with the author. It was not a good idea. It was an immature and ignorant thing to do. The history of books is not one free of strife and happy endings, but apparently and tragically this history has been forgotten. Many people have died so we can enjoy the privilege to read as much as we like and what we like, even hated-filled, maliciously misinformed books. Slaves in this nation risked their own lives just to learn how to read, Protestants in Europe lost their lives because they wanted to read the Bible in their own language, and many other groups throughout the world risk their lives to read today as Georgia Southern University experiences this embarrassing moment.
The most bitterly ironic part of this whole fiasco is these students who feign outrage over their disagreement with an author, demonstrate the very existence of white privilege through their actions. They thought it was within their rights to burn books while so many others are denied access to books and educational opportunities. Some of them thought it was within their rights to follow the author to her hotel and harass her while people with less privilege would have been arrested for criminal trespass. They thought it was within their first amendment rights to burn books when so many are denied first amendment rights simply because they are poor, of an ethnic minority, a person of color, religious minority, or of a different sexual orientation.
It is my hope intellectuals and scholars of this institution of higher learning will find their voices and express their disappointment in such an anti-intellectual act. I hope the vast majority of students will condemn any book burning and as a sign of resistance pick a book up and read it intently and passionately. I hope administrators will also find the courage to speak out against such a senseless act. Silence will only defeat our purpose as educators and embolden ignorance.
With fondness of reading and a love of learning,
John A. Weaver, Ph.D.
Professor of Curriculum Studies