Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheating and Speaking

I've already drafted and subsequently deleted two posts (ok, rants) about plagiarism because I'm trying to be professional out here on my Limb. So, no specifics and no screaming. I'll just have to settle for expressing my fervent wish that students would understand the importance of an earned education and the power of their own words.

Speaking of the importance of true expression and recent events that confound the mind and boil the blood... Thanks to the controversy  begun last week by Wesley Scroggins, I'm finally getting around to reading Speak, which has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. (At least it's in very good company on one of my many to-read shelves; I really need to speed up my reading or slow down my purchasing.)

I do understand Scroggins' concerns about inappropriate material -- even though she was trying to encourage my adult reading level, my fifth or sixth grade teacher probably shouldn't have recommended a series that included very descriptive step-by-step sex scenes (but maybe she just forgot; they were very long books) and I'm not sure how our high school french teacher got away with showing us films like Manon of the Spring (ironically, Manon's full frontal nudity was wasted on most of the class, which as far as I can recall included only one straight male).

But Scroggins seems horribly misguided, failing to understand (1) the purpose of the sexual content in Speak, (2) the destructive and ultimately counter-productive nature of book banning, and (3) the incredible irony of his situation. He is trying to suppress a book about what happens when the voices of rape victims are suppressed, and he's doing so just in time for Banned Books Week. It's incredible in the worst possible way.

Words have power -- this Scroggins seems to realize. But what he fails to recognize, and what we all need to remember, is that their greatest power is in connecting, healing, and changing lives... and it's often impossible to change without first being challenged.

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