Monday, September 20, 2010

I Hate Mean People

Wow, what a controversy to break out right before Banned Book Week! A guy named Wesley Scroggins here wrote a rambling, borderline incoherent letter to his local paper in Springfield, MO complaining about the books at his children's public school including Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (which is not required reading but just happens to be in the school library). The first and last book he describes as being "soft pornography" because they talk about sex (Speak is actually about rape), and in Slaughterhouse Five he objects to "the f word," nakedness, acknowledgement of sex, and the treatment of religion. He also wrote a 29-page polemic to the school board which is here. In it he objects to teaching about the separation of church and state, the showing of the movie "The Breakfast Club" at school, and any teaching of sexual education and evolution.

Regardless of whether or not I agree with his obvious religious beliefs, a lot of his statements simply aren't true and his supporting appendices actually prove this. He claims the history textbook says that separation of church and state is a part of the Constitution which would be a problem if it were true, but in his accompanying documents (p.9) it's very clear that the discussion of the separation of church and state is included in a section headed "Other Establishment Clause Cases" as it is about rulings by the Supreme Court. This is just one example but the bulk of his arguments are simply wrong. And Dr. Scroggins, here's some news for you: teenagers have sex. And they don't need instructions to figure out how. They usually do need some instructions on how to prevent pregnancy, disease, and what is unacceptable behavior (rape) that should be reported to the authorities. Not giving them information will never prevent sex. It will only prevent knowledge.

Slaughterhouse Five has since been removed and Twenty Boy Summer is being reviewed according to the superintendent. So in Republic, MO, censorship is winning. I've never wanted to read Slaughterhouse Five before, despite it being a classic and the author being one of my sister L's favorites, but now I want to read it, just to support this now-banned book. I also am adding Speak and Twenty Boy Summer to my To Be Read list.

I have read some blog posts today that have taken my breath away with their honesty and openness. I so admire people who are able to speak the truth even if painful, and who want to spread knowledge and understanding. Check out this one and here and here. Knowledge is power! Read on, everyone. Especially you teens! Don't let ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry limit you.
To read more posts about this controversy, or to link your own post, go here.


tediousandbrief said...

I love your blog! I've read a lot of posts about this on blogs recently and this makes me want to read all three of these books more. Somewhere I have a copy of the Vonnegut that I was supposed to read for a class in college, but we didn't get around to it.

You may be the first post I've seen to ad links to his letter and his 29-page diatribe (which looks like good reading in a train-wreck kind of way!)

Regarding separation of church and state, it's been a while since I studied Constitutional Law, but the Supreme Court gets the final word on what the Constitution means, so they're ruling on an issue of the Establishment Clause would hold a lot of weight and can redefine what something means. Hence why you have to both look at the actual words of the Constitution and what the Court says about it to figure out what it means. I got a bit confused by what you were saying there; however, just from looking at it, his argument is kinda...off the wall.

I never would have heard of this (or actually Speak) had it not been for his letter and the outrage that it's produced. I do, however, wonder if all of this attention isn't just giving him and his, non-mainstream, unorthodox views, more credibility since they're being taken so seriously by bloggers.

Carin Siegfried said...

Hi tedious and brief,
We agree on the church and state. This guy is saying that since it's not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it doesn't exist, AND he was claiming the textbook says it's explicitly stated which would be wrong, if that's what it said, but it doesn't.

I agree about giving him attention. I did worry about that too, but the more I read about it, I think this is a good discussion aside from this jerk in particular about the dangers of small-mindedness and censorship, and in what I like to think of as Banned Book Month (okay, there's really only a week but it should be a month) it was extra-pertinent. I hope he doesn't take all the debate as validation, but I don't think ignoring it is the best alternative, so I chose to address it.

Yes, you should check out the whole 29-pager as it's very train-wrecky!

tediousandbrief said...

I'll be taking his manifesto to the gym with me tonight! It should make for a wonderful break. I love reading nonsensical ultra-right-wing/libertarian (small "l") train-wrecky thought from time to time.

From watching the some similar arguments from a similar political perspective, I fear he may take it as a validation, sadly. At least, however, it does get these books more attention then they would otherwise. I'm even now thinking of reading them, and I usually do not at all read YA lit.

I didn't know Banned Book Week was coming up! :D And, yes, it should really be a month long, not just a week!

Jennifer Perry said...

I was always too shy to be much of a rebel, but say a book should be banned or a business not visited because someone is offended - and I am the next customer!

Jennifer "Madame" Perry
of Madame Perry's Salon @ blogspot.

Kate said...

Amen! Can you hear me clapping?

I'm in total agreement - teenagers ARE having sex... let's stop pretending it isn't happening and start helping them make smart choices.

The Book Chick said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I got knocked up at the age of 17 after limited sex ed was offered...I wish that someone had drilled it in my head that condoms are not optional!!!!

Jen said...

I swear, I need to stop reading about this guy because my blood pressure keeps rising. It's always frustrating when someone gets all bunched up like this and starts ranting on about something they haven't read, or don't understand. To me, it's simple. If you don't like it, don't read it. But don't try to make it so no one can read it. That makes me want to buy extra copies of Speak and hand them out to people left and right. Apparently, this guy seems to think that if we all just pretend things like rape don't exist, that somehow, it wouldn't happen. Ugly things exist in the world. Ignoring them gives them power; talking about them gives US power.

Library Cat said...

Thank you so much for reminding me to read more on this topic. Honestly, I am always amazed at adults who do not remember how often teenagers really do have sex and the fact that they really do need adults to remind them to have sex safely! And removing books that openly discuss topics surrounding sex is an absolutely assinine response to the issue.

Carin Siegfried said...

I'm glad so many people are so incensed by this topic! I'm going to have more posts on Banned Books this week and next (next week is actually Banned Books Week.)

@Library Cat and Jonita, yes books were a VITAL source of information on sex for me as a teen. Helped me to make decisions better informed, and while a lot of people say teens should always talk to their parents about sex, it's not always the best option.

@Jo, you said it so well! I love your last line: "Ignoring them gives them power; talking about them gives US power." I knew a girl who was date raped, another who was abused, both in 9th grade when I was 13, and I didn't know what to do in either situation. In the second, I did go talk to a teacher thanks to what I'd learned from books. In the first, I just listened and tried to be supportive. But if I'd been unprepared for those conversations, I don't know how supportive I'd have been able to be.