Most of us learned the opening words of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Under a full and honest education, our children would also learn that, like many of his neighbors, Jefferson owned 600 enslaved people during his lifetime, and fathered mulatto children.

Suppressing uncomfortable information narrows the world to make-believe and denies a child the opportunity to know that their imperfections and concerns are shared by others in various forms. It creates a poor mental style that makes it more challenging to navigate this complex world.

Dozens of bills introduced by conservative lawmakers in 37 states censor books and restrict teaching on race and racism. Under the guise of protecting our children from uncomfortable facts, these legislators are proposing legislation that harms children’s psychological growth and mental health.

Restricting what our children read and hear is a form of overprotectiveness, ironic that it primarily comes from politicians who profess to keep the government out of our lives. In a quest for short-term political gain, they’ve adopted an approach that is harmful.

Much of our mental health comes from beliefs and attitudes acquired in childhood. It is easy to understand that happy and carefree parents are more likely to have similar children. Parents who are fearful and anxious are likely to have similarly minded children. The correlation is far from perfect, but parental lifestyle and attitudes influence the thought patterns and mental health of their children. The same is true for the educational philosophies we adopt.

Legislators who wish to curtail our children’s educational experience follow the pattern of the overprotective parent. In the process, they create a world that is not only narrow but fragile. It fosters a world of black and white thinking instead of the real world of grays. In a 2016 survey, “52 percent of the books challenged or banned in the previous 10 years featured so-called ‘diverse content’ — that is, they explore issues such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental illness and disability.” These books introduced the complexity of reality and an opportunity to explore, analyze and problem solve.

Look no further in understanding the harm of black and white thinking than our current political divide. We increasingly do not hear a diversity of thought but confine ourselves to confirmation bias in what we listen to and watch, thus becoming even more distrustful of our opponents. As the level of distrust increases, so do stress and anxiety.

It is ironic that under the guise of protection, right-leaning leaders have resorted to censorship, a pillar of authoritarian rulers or ideologies that propagate a singular message.

We should be wary when politicians deviate from science and objective truth-seeking. Teachers are professionals with years of training on their subject matter. Yes, parents have rights. But it is corrosive when a minority of the loudest, who generally do not have this training, can put these professionals under their supervision. Some politicians may gain votes from the fears of the short-sighted parents, but the children affected will be the less for it. Keeping discussion out of the classroom and favoring a narrow political perspective that Americans are without flaws limits children’s thinking and emotional competence.

Confining our children to a restricted band of politically biased information is dishonest, short-sighted and harmful. Life is not a fairy tale.