Friday Night Lights author talks brief Iowa ban, ChatGPT

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - In the midst of this football season’s kick off, one Iowa school district was focused on the Permian Panthers’ 1988 season.

That year was featured in the iconic book Friday Night Lights.

The book was temporarily banned in an Iowa school district last week after staff used ChatGPT to flag explicit content.

In their attempt to comply with a new state law, Iowa’s Mason City Community School District called on ChatGPT to flag books that depict sexual actions, according to the Houston Chronicle.

ChatGPT is the chatbot that has drawn awe and criticism for its ability to answer questions quickly in a human-like nature. When asked, the AI app said Friday Night Lights contained depictions of sexual actions.

Author Buzz Bissinger says that’s false and when the district banned the book, backlash from Bissinger and others ensued.

It was back on the district’s library shelf on Tuesday morning, per the chronicle.

“I think because they felt pressure, they reread the book, the superintendent did, and decided, yes, there is no explicit description of sex and it should be back on the shelves,” Bissinger said.

Brad Shook says ChatGPT is trained by all kinds of information on the internet. Not all of that information is true.

ChatGPT can help with the leg work of filtering through information, but it can’t replace human judgment, said Shook, the vice president of Information Technology Services at UTPB.

“It’s like searching the internet. The internet’s just a tool. A search engine is just a tool to find the information,” Shook said. “AI is just another tool and you can’t put something in and take it for gospel. You still have to do your research.”

Bissinger’s book is just one of hundreds of books caught in the rise in book banning across America. Bissinger says it demonstrates a threat to the First Amendment in the U.S. education system.

Texas had the most book bans in the U.S. based on data collected between July 2021 and March 2022, according to a report by Pen America.

“The banning of any book should be taken with the utmost seriousness and what bothered me about Iowa and Mason City was they didn’t even read the book,” Bissinger said.

For those who did read it, the book explored the spirit of football in Odessa, but also criticized the pressure the sport put on students and pointed out local racism, which Bissinger said earned it mixed reviews.

“I think it’s a fascinating place, but it’s also flawed,” Bissinger said of Odessa. “And there was a lot of the book that was very glowing. It wasn’t all negative. I love the kids. I love the spirit of Odessa. So I hope that people are no longer hanging me in effigy.”