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20 September 2010 @ 12:07 pm
SpeakLoudly for Speak  
Dear Dr. Scroggins:

The likelihood that you will pay attention to all of us who support the inclusion of books such as SPEAK, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, and TWENTY BOY SUMMER in libraries and classrooms is slim if your diatribe against the public schools is to be believed as accurately reflective of your opinions. I am growing so weary of ducking potshots from people who are outside of the classroom, people who do not spend day after day working with students in public school classrooms. While you have every right to teach your own children (do you have children I wonder?) about literature and science, and history, you most certainly do not have the right to teach my children (and I do have children in public schools) what you find to be true, false, or pornographic.

I would never walk into your management classroom at the university and present my beliefs as doctrine. I respect your academic area of expertise. However, I ask that in return you respect my area of expertise. I have spent all of my teaching career (35 years) studying literature for children and young adults. I read voraciously in the field; I work with preservice and inservice teachers and librarians. I would like to think that I have some small measure of expertise. So here are some things you need to know, things that have obviously escaped you in your attempt to me a master of all things educational.

1. Books do not simply appear magically in the library, classroom, and curriculum. They are selected. Policies and criteria are applied. Curricular needs, needs of students, and other elements are part of the selection process. Educators spend time and their own money searching for the best possible materials to use in their instruction. Librarians have advanced degrees with coursework that informs them about how to select books and other materials.

2. We go into this field because we love kids. We do not seek to impose our agenda on them or indoctrinate them. We are Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist. We are male and female. We come from all different types of backgrounds and experiences. We have different ideologies. But we all come to the classroom because we can passionately about kids. You seem to care more about your own belief system than about the kids in the classrooms who are hungry for books that speak to them honestly about the world in which they live.

3. We are always happy to talk to someone with concerns. However, you appear to be against any form of give and take conversation. We might, for instance, be able to suggest other books for your own children (do you have children, I wonder again?) in lieu of books you personally find objectionable for them. Conversation ceases, though, when you demand that we restrict what other kids can read. I wonder what books you would find acceptable? The Bible? Tales of incest, rape, murder: it's all there, too. So, what can we offer our kids?

I have to admit that when I see people who would limit access to books (and, therefore, thought), I am reminded of societies which burned books. Would you have joined the Nazis, I wonder, when they rounded up people who were different? Would you have stood by McCarthy and branded people as Communists since they did not adhere to your own perceptions of what makes a "true" American? I wonder.

As a parent, I resent your insertion into the curriculum of children other than your own. I permit my own kids to read widely and freely and use this as an opportunity for discussion of issues and situations. My kids have read SPEAK. I think it makes them safer out there in the world of dating and drinking and all of the other things that can lurk and cause them harm.

As a teacher, i resent someone who does not walk in my shoes telling me what and how to teach. Being a taxpayer does not make you an expert in all things educational. And your taxes did not buy SPEAK, mine did.

As a Christian, I resent your narrow interpretation of what to believe and reject in science class.

As a professor, I resent the black eye you are giving my profession.

Well, I need to do some work with my students online. I am proud to state that they are reading MANY banned books for my class: SPEAK, THE CHOCOLATE WAR, ATHLETIC SHORTS, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN, TYRELL, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL, among others. You see, I want them to be prepared to defend books not seek to remove them.
barbarabakerbarbarabaker on September 20th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
Did you send this letter to him? Did he answer? I think that people like him are so blinded by their own rigid beliefs that there's no way to reach them. They couldn't hear, even if they wanted to. It's so frustrating, because the ignorance of this person and others like him can do so much damage, and he doesn't even realize it. He could never admit he might be wrong. Oh, it just makes me sputter with frustration.
professornanaprofessornana on September 20th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
I am not sending it to him as I know what hius response would be having tried to deal with these folks in the past. I might try sending it as a letter to the editor, though.
barbarabakerbarbarabaker on September 20th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
Please do. He wouldn't listen, but others who are sitting on the fence might read it and be influenced. The more people who get involved in the conversation the better.
Jody Feldmanjodyfeldman on September 20th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
patty1943patty1943 on September 20th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
You go, Goddess!
I wrote the newspaper and posted a comment on their page. He is not only wrong about books, he is wrong about the constitution and many other things.
I think he is running for future office, where he would fit in as a purveyor of half truths and distortions.
Love everything you say!
addicted2reading.wordpress.com on September 20th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Speaking Loudly
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you for writing this! I am also a teacher and avid young adult literature reader. We really do spend mountains of time thinking about our students and what's best for them. Students need these books, banned books and all, to understand the world around them. Thank you for everything you do. Fellow teachers and students appreciate you!
(Anonymous) on September 20th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
Excellent! *sound of loud applause*
Lisa Yeelisayee on September 21st, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
Well said. Very well said.
suzmetsuzmet on September 21st, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
Brava! Teri
You have more than earned your title of goddess with this post. Today, I pulled as many banned books as I could find on my shelves and created a display. How ironic that Banned Books Week starts Friday!
(Anonymous) on September 21st, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you!
I am giving you a standing ovation for this. My favorite part of your letter: "You seem to care more about your own belief system than about the kids in the classrooms who are hungry for books that speak to them honestly about the world in which they live." True. So very true. Thank you for writing this.

-Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
David Lubardavidlubar on September 21st, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
Can't wait to see you in person so I can give you a hug for your eloquence. (Might even buy you some nachos.)
(Anonymous) on September 21st, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Well said. Thank you. Please send this to the newspaper. I would add to those sending letters, but I haven't read the book. I just oppose censorship AND the idea that rape is sex.

Jane Myers Perrine