I read a book when I was in college that completely changed my perspective on things. I read it again the next year to remind myself what good writing was and to remember that I have a voice. I have read it numerous times since and always tell my kids they need to read it (especially my girls). That book was Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. The writing was amazing but the subject is what made me want to be a writer. It made me realize that things happen everyday that society chooses to ignore and then get mad when someone writes a book about them, or talks about it on the news... or (GOD FORBID) talks about them in church!!!!
Over the past few weeks in the bloggosphere the name Wesley Scroggins has become a fixture. Why you ask? Because he has taken it upon himself to have Speak and other books removed from the school shelves and has completely twisted the words of the book into a vile thing. I don't think, however, he knew what he was in for when he did so.
Here's what Wesley Scroggins said: As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.
Here's what Amazon says about SPEAK: Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning, highly acclaimed, and controversial novel about a teenager who chooses not to speak rather than to give voice to what really happened to her.
The challenger also says this: This [allowing these books in the school system] 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!
As Myra McEntire says...
I'm not going to make a judgment call on this guy's faith. I'm not supposed to. It's not my business. That's biblical.
I am a Christian and have been since I was 9. I have no shame in letting other know this. Do I mess up... all the time! Am I perfect... ummm, NO! But I do believe that there are some serious issues here that deal with faith and the fact that he is using the Christian name in his agenda. Expose our children to immorality?! Was it not Christ who went to those who were immoral and picked them up, saved them from being stoned and loved them. I believe that it is my job as a teacher and parent to have these conversations with my children and let them know what is right and wrong (not that I think there is anything wrong with the book... I will get back to that in a minute).
God calls me as a parent to lead my children and teach them right and wrong. I CANNOT keep them in a bubble and hope nothing gets to them. Life is not all flowers and sweetly singing birds. It is tough. It has rotten moments that we would rather forget. It is full of mistakes. But those mistakes are where we have to learn tough lessons. I am called to lead my children in the ways of the Lord, right? Again, he (Christ) went to the prostitute when the CHURCH LEADERS were going to stone her for being immoral (which always ticks me off because the man was there too and they were going to do nothing to him... takes two to tango people!) and said, "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7). So we all know what happened next, they all dropped their stones and walked off. In teaching... we call those teachable moments. As a parent, I have to use things like literature or movies as teachable moments.
I have to use books like Speak to show my children (taught and birthed) that they can come to me when something happens as horrendous as RAPE (because that is what happened, Mr. Scoggins... she didn't enjoy it as you have implied).
Rape is a sin... it is immoral! It is not, however, the sin of the victim. It is because people like Mr. Scoggins twist the contents of a book into his/her way that society has the view that they do today- that it isn't okay to speak up because that is where the sin lies. What will happen if people like Mr. Scoggins get their way? I can tell you... the victims will shut up! They won't speak and they will suffer tremendously because they don't want to face the scrutiny that they will face when they do speak up.
Who gives him the right to speak for me? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am very opinionated and don't back down from much. This is definitely one of those times where I will not back down. I cannot imagine putting my name on something that is so full of blatant lies and hatred toward another human being which is what Mr. Scoggins has done. I can only hope that those of us (teachers, parents, students, bloggers, and anyone else) will not let people like Mr. Scoggins think for us. Yes, there are some books out there that are for more mature audiences. I am not debating that. There is a reason I have some books on my shelf that aren't in my school's library... 6th graders don't necessarily need to read them yet, but when they get to 8th grade they have the advantage of having more mature literature to choose from.
Open conversations need to be had with our children about issues and we need to take AMAZING books like Speak and use them as jumping off places for those conversations. I hope that people like Mr. Scoggins are not the only voices heard at school board meetings, teacher meetings, and other places where decisions about what goes onto the shelves are made. Those of us who love these books that are being challenged or have been banned need to step up and let our opinions be heard as well.
"If numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them."
- George Orwell