I woke up this morning and found Twitter all a buzz about a recent article published in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO. Apparently, Dr. Wesley Scroggins, a professor of business at Missouri State University, wrote a very heated opinion piece about the books used in the Republic education system. The three books that are mentioned are Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. He calls the books "filthy" and proceeds to vehement bashing. As a result of this article, Slaughterhouse Five has been removed from the curriculum, and Twenty Boy Summer is currently under review.
For those of you who don't know, I live in Springfield, MO. I go to college at Missouri State University, and the town of Republic is about twenty-five minutes away from my apartment. I was completely shocked, saddened, and ashamed to find out that a professor from MY university was the one causing all of these problems. I know that what Dr. Scroggins wrote in the News-Leader isn't my fault, and I wholeheartedly disagree with it, but I feel a bit embarrassed that this man published such a piece. He is a professor from Missouri State University, and therefore, he serves as a representative of the college. The way he represented our university gives people the image of a small-minded, ignorant community, and frankly, it completely offends me.
Book banning in itself is an insult to freedom of speech--something that is at the very heart of our beliefs as Americans. While I understand that certain topics might not be appropriate for a particular age range (ex: you don't want to throw a Harlequin Romance at a five year-old), the three books in question, especially Twenty Boy Summer and Speak, are widely read by the young adult audience. These books aren't being forced upon eight and nine year-olds; they're being read by high school teenagers.
The fact of the matter is this: high school serves as a sort of gateway that ushers teenagers into the adult world. The education they receive at this age is extremely important. It is impractical and unrealistic to expect these teenagers to grow up and spend the rest of their lives ignorant of controversial topics and ideas. As such, it is best to expose them to these things in an educational environment, where they can be guided through the process by their teachers and parents. Is there a better way to do this then through reading books that are intended for their age? These books allow teenagers to learn about these difficult issues through characters they can relate to--ones that are the same age as them and go through similar experiences.
Personally, I think this aids teenagers in actually learning what they need to learn. Seeing these issues encountered by kids their own age makes them real and effective in a way that can't be obtained from simple lectures from their adult teachers.
To Dr. Scroggins: congratulations. You are the sole person in three years who has managed to make me ashamed of my place of study. You go on and on about the hazards of infecting children's minds with this "filth," but you've just deprived them of a way to learn about these real life issues in a safe, educational environment. I hope you're proud of yourself.
I encourage those of you who are as outraged by this article as I am to take action in the following ways:
-E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or leave your e-mail address below). I'm getting a group together to plan a project concerning this article and Banned Books Week.
I've also added a Mr. Linky form below. Feel free to link up your own posts about this article, book banning, and the like!