UPDATE: Thanks everyone for your ongoing support and awesomeness, especially on the #SpeakLoudly Twitter thread! Keep reading and keep speaking loudly against book banning!
Most of you know I’m getting pretty riled up about this whole censorship thing. There was the Ellen Hopkins un-invite from the Humble Texas book event. The Stockton, MO banning of Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN. Then the news that TWENTY BOY SUMMER was being challenged in a Missouri school library because one parent thought the title was “promiscuous.”
One parent’s challenge of TBS isn’t a big deal, really. But it speaks to the larger issues of censorship that I talked about last week, and that’s why I was so upset.
But then I got an update on the “minor” TBS situation, and it’s actually much worse than I thought.
Dr. Wesley Scroggins, a fundamentalist Christian and parent in Republic, MO, has issued a 29-page missive to the Republic school board calling for the removal of TBS, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, and most shocking of all — Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK — a book about the date rape of a teen girl which Scroggins calls “soft pornography.” Not surprisingly, he’s also fighting to kill the sex ed curriculum, removing any pamphlets that discuss HIV or condoms and disallowing teachers to talk about reproduction and sex, stating that “…children at the middle school are being introduced to concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex.” Note that in Republic, kids (or their parents) can opt out of the sex ed curriculum, which is abstinence-based, but that’s not good enough for Scroggins. Apparently he doesn’t want anyone unmarried and under the age of 25 to know about “female parts.”
You all know how I feel about the head in the sand mentality, right? Because I’m sure us girls never even knew we had vaginas (yes, Dr. Scroggins, it’s called a vagina) until we took sex ed and learned “how to use a condom and have sex.”
Sex and girl parts aside, he’s also got a problem with the school’s teaching of the Constitution and lots of history and science books that teach anything other than the strictest Christian interpretation of those subjects.
In his whackadoo-from-the-zoo article, “Filthy books demeaning to Republic education,” he says this about TWENTY BOY SUMMER:
This book glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong. In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex. I confronted the school board with these issues at the June school board meeting. As far as I know, nothing has been done to address these issues to date. This is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality? Parents, it is time you get involved!
I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending my book other than to say what those who’ve read it already know — despite its lighthearted title, TBS is not about parties and sex. It’s about two girls struggling in the aftermath of a major tragedy, with grieving parents and unfamiliar situations and secrets that threaten to kill their friendship. It’s a scary world for them, and my job as a writer is to tell their story honestly, without judgment. And I know I’ve done my job because I hear from teens who’ve experienced devastating loss, and they tell me how much the book meant to them or how they could relate to the characters more than they can relate to their own friends somtimes. One email like that is all I needed to know that I did what I set out to do.
But here’s the thing that really gets me about Scoggins’ comments: When he says, “Parents, it is time you get involved,” he’s not really asking parents to get involved in what might actually be a good discussion and healthy debate. Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids, and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families. Scroggins is just calling people out, bating them with accusations of being immoral or “unchristian,” looking for a few good upstanding parents to join his lynch mob.
(And another kick in the ass? According to comments on the article [still trying to find out the source and confirm -- anyone know?], his own children are home schooled. If that’s true, this guy is just stirring up shit for other people’s kids, all under the banner of his version of Jesus.)
So we’re back to the whole issue of what censorship teaches our kids, and it’s not something I’m willing to stand for.
If you’re riled up about this to, here’s how you can get involved:
- Retweet this post by clicking the retweet button to the right
- Blog about your thoughts and reaction
- Join the #SpeakLoudly thread on Twitter
- Voice your opinion on Scroggins’ original article here
- Write a letter to the editor of Springfield’s News-Leader
- Write to the administrators in the Republic school district
You can also check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s response to the nonsense here: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography
And don’t forget to enter to win a Wesley Scroggins Filthy Books Prize Pack now through Friday, September 24!
Thanks everyone for your support!