South Carolina editorial roundup: Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023


Post and Courier

Nov. 19

S.C. has bigger problems than controversial school library books

Critics think S.C. Education Superintendent Ellen Weaver's proposal to let the State Board of Education decide which books are prohibited in school libraries is a thinly disguised plan to override local officials and get rid of any controversial books that upset snowflake parents. And they might be right.

What they're not right about is the idea that the state shouldn't have the power to overrule decisions of local school boards. One of the biggest problems with education in South Carolina is that the state never has been sufficiently willing to overrule local school boards, which unlike cities or even counties are instruments created by the Legislature to do a job our state constitution assigns to the Legislature: educating children.

Critics also aren't right about the idea that rejecting a librarian's decision about what books a school makes available to students constitutes banning books. First, it's not possible for any school officials to ban any book; all they can do is prohibit its distribution in schools. And regardless of what you call it, the decision to reject a librarian's decision simply constitutes overriding an employee's decision - something that happens routinely in the public and private sectors; the idea that librarians should be exempt from this routine process is nonsensical.

Would state officials always make an appropriate decision about which books to remove from schools? Likely not - just as local school boards don't always make the right decisions. Although they're not elected like local officials, members of the state board are appointed by politicians and tend to hold political views similar to the legislators who appointed them. And the idea of transferring the final say about library books to the state board came from an official who has spent her career as a political operative.

Frankly, it's ridiculous that a lot of the library books under fire are under fire. While it might be inappropriate to require students to read books that tell them, for instance, that our nation was founded for the purpose of enslaving Black people, or that all white people are racists, there's nothing wrong with allowing children to select such books from the library. Indeed, it makes sense for students to be exposed to a variety of ideas - even ideas that we find disagreeable. It makes even more sense to provide books they find interesting, in order to improve their reading skills.

Likewise, though, some of the books under fire clearly do not belong anywhere in our schools. Most notable are books that are essentially how-to manuals for having sex - gay or straight should make no difference - unless they're part of a sex-ed class, and in many cases not even then. Nor should we allow books that critics couldn't describe on the evening news and we wouldn't allow to be described on our pages. Prohibiting material in our schools that meets most people's definition of obscene or pornographic is no more censorship than prohibiting Hustler magazine.

We are not so much concerned about what the proposal says, although there's room to tighten the language to make sure it doesn't prohibit, say, Shakespeare, or the Bible, and to make sure the reporting requirements don't create an undue burden for the schools. We are more concerned about who's saying it: the education superintendent instead of the Legislature.

Ms. Weaver seems to be trying to do by regulation at least part of what her allies in the Legislature have been unable to do by legislation. That might seem like an empty concern since regulations are subject to legislative approval, but there's a crucial difference: The Legislature has to pass bills, but regulations take effect unless the Legislature passes a resolution rejecting them. And passing anything - including a rejection - takes a lot more work than preventing it from passing. Think of it as reversing the burden of proof.

It makes some sense to have the same library standards statewide - although that's far from the most important area where we need the state to play a more active role. Intervening when local school boards can't or won't provide a decent education to their students - that is, ensuring that kids can read those books - is exponentially more important than guaranteeing that students can't sneak off to the library to read a book that other students' parents don't consider appropriate.

We'd prefer that our elected leaders spend more time on that and less on ... well, on just about everything else. But if they're going to make those library decisions at the state level, their focus needs to be on increasing the odds that neither extremists on the left nor extremists on the right are able to control the decisions.

Times and Democrat

Nov. 18

2 S.C. tribes need federal recognition

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Christmas holiday season is in full swing. To be remembered this time of year is another observance: Native American Heritage Month.

South Carolina officially recognizes locally the Santee Indian Organization and the Beaver Creek Indians, as well as the Pine Hill Indian Community Development Initiative. In addition to the Catawbas and the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of South Carolina, the others are:

- The PeeDee Indian Nation of Upper South Carolina

- The PAIA Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina

- The Sumter Tribe of Cheraw Indians

- The Waccamaw Indian People

- The Wassamasaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians

The Catawbas are the largest tribe in South Carolina and the only federally recognized tribe. For now.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina's 1st District wants two other tribes to have federal recognition.

In November 2021, Mace introduced a bill to extend federal recognition to the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe. The proposed legislation has not made it past the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, but efforts to move it forward continue.

The Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe was recorded as living in the Lowcountry as early as the 1500s. South Carolina granted the tribe recognition first in 1987.

Concentrated mostly in Dorchester and Colleton, members of the tribe still live in the Creel Town, St. Bartholomew's Parish and Four Holes communities.

When he became chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe, comprised of nearly 400 Native Americans in Dorchester and Colleton counties, the Rev. John G. Creel, M.D., said he would focus on gaining federal recognition.

Creel told Charleston's WCBD-TV that recognition would help mitigate potential impacts of development, which could cut into tribal land:

"Ridgeville is ground zero for development in the Lowcountry area, and a part of our community tribal grounds is right in the center of what is taking place. We do not want to be left out; therefore, we are working with some land developers and landowners as well as local county council members to improve our communities in a mutualistic way."

In August 2023, Mace introduced legislation to extend federal recognition also to the Wassamasaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians.

The bill has the backing of a host of Lowcountry mayors. They have written letters urging lawmakers to grant the tribe's petition for federal status.

Wassamasaw Chief Lisa Collins told The Berkeley Observer that gaining federal status will make it easier for the tribe to shape its future and preserve its ancestral lands and sacred traditions.

"With recognition comes access to vital resources, vitalizing our communities with health care, education and economic prospects," she said. "Preserving our cultural heritage is paramount, and recognition affirms our contributions to the nation's history, nurturing our traditions for generations to come."

"Collaboration becomes a driving force, uniting native communities and amplifying our collective voice. This recognition ignites economic development, fostering opportunities for growth, prosperity and shared progress within our territories and beyond," she continued.

"Educational horizons broaden, strengthening cultural education and knowledge sharing. Federal recognition is more than an acknowledgment; it is a catalyst for change, healing historical wounds and building bridges towards a brighter, self-determined future for our people."

The Wassamasaw Tribe is a community near present-day Carnes Crossroads between the major towns of Summerville, Moncks Corner and Goose Creek. The tribe descends from the original Etiwan, Edisto, Catawba, Cherokee and other settlement Indians.

The tribe currently consists of approximately 1,500 members.

Federal recognition is important for tribes living in a rapidly changing area. And it is important beyond just the government benefits.

Dianna "Little Badger" Chavis of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe makes the case that "recognition" of Native Americans is about more than a designation.

"Over the years, more of Native American history has been taken out of the history books. NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!!!! Children and adults need to know that we, American Indians, are still here. We want our presence to be known. We want to have a voice. We are just as important as any other ethnic group."