An Open Letter to Dr. Wesley Scroggins

(This is a response to the article that can be found here.)

Dear Dr. Scroggins,

You recently shared a letter on a Missouri news site regarding the reading material of your local school district. And I have one very simple question for you…

Why on earth do you care?

The books that you targeted in your article are books that have been in school libraries and on reading lists for years. High schoolers are much more mature than you give them credit for. They can handle profanity, they can handle the concept of sex, and they can handle reading about the difficult issues. In fact, it’s good for them to read about the difficult issues.

I’ve never read Slaughterhouse Five, but I have read Speak. I honestly wonder if you actually did. Speak is about so much more than you reduce it to in your article. You essentially reduced this beautiful book to a story about a dysfunctional family, an inaccurate view of high school, and rape. First of all, in regards to the family and high school opinions in the story–the whole novel is set as a diary. Tell me, what teenage girl doesn’t see her parents as dysfunctional at one time or another? What high schooler doesn’t see the people around them as losers or very stereotypical?

In regards to the rape, though–the scene itself is hardly prominent enough in the text to be of concern. The story isn’t about the rape. It isn’t centered on the rape. It’s about a scared, lonely high school freshman girl who had a horrific moment during her summer vacation and she copes with it by staying silent. She chooses not speaking over speaking up.

Right now…I’m speaking up against you.

Censorship is wrong. Keeping adolescents from this kind of material shows that you do not have faith in their ability to handle and/or appreciate it. It shows your own insecurities, your own need for control, and your own attempt to silence someone else.

People don’t like to be silenced.

Teenagers don’t like to be told what they can’t do.

I know this because I’m a writer–and I refuse to be silenced. I know this because I went through those teenage years–and I never appreciated being told not to do something, particularly if it involved something I should be able to do freely (like reading a book).

Have a little faith in America’s youth, sir. They’re stronger than you believe them to be. They can grasp difficult concepts, they can appreciate difficult themes, and they like knowing they’re not alone in the world. Somewhere in your school district, there could be a girl who is a rape victim. She could be unsure of how she should cope or what she should feel. If you keep her from Speak, she may never know.

Do you want to have that blame on your shoulders?

Think before you set accusations. And please, Dr. Scroggins…read the book in its entirety before you burn it at the stake.

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