Wesley Scroggins, a business school professor at Missouri State University, wrote an editorial for Gannett’s News-Leader condemning the teaching of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five in Republic, MO curriculum. He said that the Vonnegut novel (considered one of the best novels of the twentieth century and widely taught in schools across the English-speaking world) contained too much cussing for children. He also condemned Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer, a book about a girl who experiments with sex during summer holidays because it contained sex.
In response, the Republic school board has banned Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer, removing them from both its classrooms and school libraries. Scroggins is disappointed that they didn’t ban another book, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.
Scroggins’s research specializes in international business and entrepreneurship (he teaches dull intro to management classes, apparently without much flair), and given those specialties, you’d think that he’d realize that, in most of the world, the material in all three of the books he’s picked on wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. It’s also bizarre to see someone who worships entrepreneurship simultaneously embrace a color-inside-the-lines, nothing-objectionable-allowed approach to education: Scroggins apparently wants to raise a generation of local children who never meet a challenging idea or experience an uncomfortable discussion. As an actual entrepreneur (and not just someone who researches entrepreneurship), I’m here to tell you that this is not how you teach people the imagination and creativity necessary to the process.
As for the Republic school board, there is no sufficient shaming for education administrators who lack the courage to stand up for children’s intellectual freedom. My only consolation is to remember that school boards that ban books are always and forever remembered as thugs and fools.
Writing on her blog, Ockler was adamant that “not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex gets pregnant, gets someone pregnant, or contracts an STD. Not every teen who has sex does so while in a serious relationship. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on.”
The “crazy train”, she added, “has finally derailed” following the Missouri ban. “Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more. I get that my book isn’t appropriate for all teens, and that some parents are opposed to the content. That’s fine. Read it and decide for your own family. I wish more parents would do that — get involved in their kids’ reading and discuss the issues the books portray. But don’t make that decision for everyone else’s family by limiting a book’s availability and burying the issue under guise of a ‘curriculum discussion’.”
Scroggins, meanwhile, told the News Leader that while it was “unfortunate [the board] chose to keep the other book [Speak] … I congratulate them for doing what’s right and removing the two books”.