In a the media frenzy of book banning, important stakeholders in this conversation were forgotten. Who were the teachers actually involved in this ban? For months prior to Wesley Scroggins' blog posts, a parent in the city of Republic, the issue of taking 20 Boy Summer and Slaughterhouse Five was discussed. In Scroggins' blog post, he mentioned three books, the two previous, and Speak. But, Speak was never "banned" at this school, merely mentioned in Scroggins post. A teacher in this district immediately stepped forward and said that they would not stop teaching Speak. Actually, this is a minor detail compared to the true story.
While #speakloudly, a hashtag begun by Paul Hankins, has now become a web page and a rallying cry for young adult readers and authors, no one seems to have cared to ask the teachers of this school how they are feeling. While Twitter sometimes feels like a backchannel for talk about potentially subversive, or maybe only "hot" topics, the true conversation about what it's like to be a teacher in a school that is asked to take books off the shelf, occurred on Facebook.
It's funny to me that articles about the banning of these books include comments from Paul Hankins, Sara Ochler, and Laurie Halse Anderson, but has anyone talked to the teachers of this school? How did that happen? So, to me, this whole firestorm of #speakloudly feels a bit dirty to me. It reminds me of #educationnation and NBC talking about school reform. What do they really know and who do they handpick to discuss teaching with? NOT the people who seem to be impacted.
Book banning is an opportunity to begin conversations about books. It's an opportunity to invite the community to read and discuss books. Ultimately, parents want to protect their children. We each have different things that we want to protect them from. I'm not sure Wesley Scroggins is THE "bad" guy in this situation. He contacted the school and wrote an editorial describing his feelings about the books. He does have the right to do that whether we agree or not. The result of his editorial is that a group of teachers in that district an opportunity to talk about why these books were important. Another result--he might as well have written a check to those authors.
I can't help but wonder why this book banning in Republic held more interest for YA authors and readers than the book banning--the actual banning--of Sherman Alexie's book in Stockton, Missouri. Well, whatever the reason, I'm still disappointed that censorship in one school became appropriated with parties who did not understand the whole story behind the school and didn't feel it necessary to include the actual teachers in the school in the conversation. They sidestepped them. The result? Money for a beautiful webpage called "Speak Loudly." Moving up 2,000 spots on the Amazon seller list. Frankly, shouldn't some of those who have co-opted this issue for their own profit write a thank you note to Mr. Scroggins and to the teachers of Republic. I think they can do better than send 20 books. Why not tell the New York Times and Huffington Post who they should really talk to?
These authors and supporters of YA lit do believe in protecting our right to read, but let's not overlook the profit to be made from being a part of this conversation.