[Criminalizing Writing]

How can we ask our students to read great literature and then criminalize them when they respond, on occasion, with the angry bitterness of Hamlet?

Clearly, we’re not dealing with the proverbial “isolated incidents” here. FEAR ITSELF is loose in America and it needs to be addressed, strongly, powerfully, by all of us who teach composition and encourage written expression. —John Lovas[Criminalizing Writing] (Jocalo’s Blog)

An important set of observations…

When in grad school, I used to have recurring dreams that I was reading and re-reading a page of some academic book. I guess my dreaming mind doesn’t have a buffer large enough to store a whole page of text — each time I re-read it, my dreaming mind re-wrote it, reflecting my developing understanding of whatever I thought the author was trying to say.

I’m having that experience now, after more about 10 days of blogging during the kids’ naps, with no time in the office to sort through and organize my thoughts. I thought I had an appointment in the office last Monday, so I didn’t bring my PDA charger home over the weekend, and the battery has been dead for over a week now. I even resorted to pulling out a reporter’s notebook and jotting down lists and ideas the old-fashioned way, while my daughter was briefly engaged with The Wiggles or tearing the stuffing out of one of her dolls.

Anyway, knowing that a little darling may wake up at any moment, let me try to address this topic…

In high school, I worked off some stress during the last semester of my senior year by writing a serial short story in which various members of the drama club got “offed” in spectacular ways. I don’t remember whether I did it before or after, but I also tried my hand at a comic strip.

Young Americans are growing up in a society that encourages them to express themselves. Thankfully we’ve ditched the Victorian tendency to think of children to be perfect little china dolls, but we’re still not culturally equipped to deal with what happens when children express darkness and angst. Fairytales (in their pre-Disneyfied, somewhat gory, and often morally ambiguous states) served an important cultural function: they attracted the darker energies of children, in the context of bedtime stories where adults were fimly and lovingly in control.

That’s no longer the case — kids are developing huge social networks under the noses of their parents. I don’t think this is, in itself, a bad thing, but it’s certainly incumbent upon the parents to take as much interest in kids online activities as any other activity. For a growing segment of society, the distinction between online culture and offline culture is blurring.

The story of the teen who used a chatroom to arrange his own (attempted) murder would be an incredible case study, but the ethics of publishing all those private communications would be too complex for me to want to think about.

Well, I’m hearing toddler thumpings from next door, so my musings are going offline for now.

BTW, John, I do think you should write titles for your blog entries — but the content is, as always, great.