Lance, Lies, and the Library


I posted this question on my Twitter  page and on my Facebook account:

We have a bunch of Lance Armstrong books in our school library that portray him as a champion and hero. Do we pull them off the shelves?

I have had some interesting replies and comments, most of which were to pull the books off the shelves.  But, a few people made these comments:

“I don’t think so. It’s part of history and shouldn’t be hidden. It could bring great discussions. What can we all learn from it?”

“If they relate to cycling yes, if it’s about his life with cancer then they need to be assessed if the message is a lie.”

“Maybe they just need to move from biography to fiction?”  (That was my nephew; I think he was kidding, right?)

And this one really made me think because it came from a very close friend and educator whom I highly respect:

“If a history book were outdated what would you do with it? If a map were outdated because borders change or names of countries change, what would you do? I am against the banning of books, and you don’t want to be accused of that (especially in your school community), so I think you have to approach it in a different way. What your nephew wrote, while probably meant to be funny, has some merit. Do you keep the old maps and history books as part of some record of how history has changed, but put them in a different part of the library? Just food for thought……”

… And here was my response to him:

“These are books based on lies. I would not purchase these books now for our library, but I will purchase books telling the truth about Armstrong’s life when they are published. Your point about my school community is an interesting one. I don’t think either of us can definitively say what the parents would think about this topic. Some would agree; other would disagree. Maybe I should just ask the parents what they want their kids reading instead of making assumptions. This would make for an interesting blog post to the parents, or a Twitter question once my school Twitter page is live. The analogy about maps does not fit here. Maps change because of politics and boundaries. Old maps were correct until a war or politics changed the boundaries. We do keep old maps for comparison sake. We also keep old history books with the assumption that what is written in them is true (knowing full well that truth in history is subjective relative to who is telling the history). But, if an author of a history book came clean and stated that his book was based on false info, it should be pulled from the history shelves.”

So what do YOU think?  Should school and public libraries remove biographies and other books that portray Lance Armstrong as a hero and a champion when he has admitted that he cheated and he has been stripped of all his titles?  Is this really a case of banning books from the library? What about asking parents about this?

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2 thoughts on “Lance, Lies, and the Library

  1. I’ve always thought that the remedy for bad speech is more speech. Maybe the short term answer is to put a short article or a paragraph or two in the front binding, explaining his recent admissions. Then you’re not censoring, but you’re also making sure the reader has access to relevant information on the books. The long term answer is that very few kids are going to read these books in the future, now that they’ll no longer hear about him as an inspirational public figure. Three years from now, these books will likely be library discards at an annual book sale.

  2. James, I appreciate your thoughts. You are right – in a few years this will be a non-story, and there will be another, more interesting story to take its place.
    Thanks for the comment.
    Dave

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