Sunday, July 31, 2011

Censorship in Schools

Censorship in schools—now that is an emotionally charged issue. I am a teacher as well as a writer and I do not advocate censorship. I’m a proponent of common sense, the not so common kind, it seems.
In my twenty years or so of classroom teaching, I have seen the odd lynching and it’s a phenomenon that every teacher usually does the utmost to avoid. Whether or not any given resource is appropriate classroom material is irrelevant.
I don’t think that all materials should end up in the classroom, but those that do, ought to be justifiable. Several things need to be considered when choosing a resource. How does the material relate to the curriculum? Is this the best resource for the lesson? What is the nature of my clientele? A teacher can’t ignore the fact that every student in the class is someone else’s #1 concern.
A seasoned and intelligent teacher will not ignore these issues. The appropriate information should go home explaining the nature of the project and maybe even a sample of what students will be exposed to. A portion of that letter should explain how the lesson cannot be taught without the use of the selection. Finally, parents should sign at the bottom denoting their approval.
Parents who are adamantly opposed might be reasoned with or be given other options, but unless the opposition is a screwball looking for a fight, confrontation should be able to be avoided.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why do I Write what I do?

Yesterday I was thinking about this thing called writing. I don’t think it’s a term that adequately defines what it is that I’m doing. Everyone who has gone to school and learned to scrawl his name is a writer. I ask myself, what is it that makes me a writer and another person not a writer?
I think that we should be called expressers or creationists or idea makers. I can’t think of a good word right now, but there must be an eloquent phrase that describes what it is we do.
What we create has very little to do with the market place. I create because I like to. I enjoy it. It’s taken a long time for me to come to terms with criticism and I think I’ve made the journey. I know that the value of my writing cannot be reflected by market trends or any other kind of popularity contest. If I’ve expressed myself well, then it’s up to other individuals to respond to it. Maybe they'll buy it, maybe they won't.
I do hope that one day I’m able to sell enough to make a living, but that doesn’t really matter. My writing is how I express myself. Any idea that I might claim to be unique or have a smidgeon of truth, can only be called such if it comes from within me as an interpretation of my knowledge and experience. It can’t come from a chart or graph or someone who claims to know what will sell.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Some years ago I ran onto an old book at my grandmother’s house. I believe it was called Answers to Questions (printed in 1926). There was an entire section on etiquette. There were questions such as:
Does a woman precede or follow her escort down a receiving line?
When stepping by people already seated in a theatre, should a man face the occupants of the seats or the stage?
When a couple leaves a street car, should the woman go first?
Should a young lady ask her escort to come in when he brings her home from the theatre or from a party?
How long should a formal call be?
These were only a few of the questions and when I first read through the book, my thought was that they were the oddest things to worry about. But then I pondered it awhile and I realized two things. The first was that, most of the answers were simple logic—for anyone concerned about others. The man in the theatre should avoid knocking knees with those already sitting. When leaving the street car, the man should get off first so that he can help the lady down.
In 1924, there seemed to be a concern about the rule, but not so much about the why of the rule. That was interesting to me as well. But when I thought about it, it seemed that in many cases the answers were not necessarily straight forward. Should food be passed to the right or left? I realized that one important advantage to observing protocol is that reduces the chances that any person is inadvertently embarrassed. Again, something very important to someone concerned about the wellbeing of others.
I think that what we have lost over the years is actual caring for our fellow man. We may claim it. We may send $24 to an orphan in Africa or help out at the homeless shelter now and again, but what do we do to protect the feelings of others every day? These are concerns worth revisiting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Combat Criticism

One haunting question that writers have is, how do I withstand and rise above criticism. Criticism comes in all kinds of forms. It can come from a family member who doesn’t think you’ve got what it takes. It can come from a reader who is offended by or doesn’t like your subject matter. It can come in the guise of a critic who challenges your writing style. It can even come from an editor or agent who questions your skill.
Developing a thick skin is not the solution. One cannot become impervious to negative feedback. The real coping skill comes from understanding criticism and embracing it.
Family members do not always have it in them to recognize you as a writer until you’ve already become successful, or persevered. You are the only one can know whether you are a wannabe writer or not.
Getting past the armchair critic takes only a keen ear. These critics don’t have the writing skill necessary to offer any depth to their ideas. They usually hate your writing or love it. Neither of these positions is helpful to the writer if there is no solid reasoning to back it. The hater is easier to deal with because we naturally want to ignore groundless negative criticism, as it should be. But we should also ignore the armchair critic who praises without substance. As nice as it is to hear an ‘at-a-boy’, what use is it if it carries no substance?
Good criticism contains an element of reason. Since writing is all about reason, writers should be able to listen to criticism and judge the value of it. If a writer validates a particular point of view, then heeding that perspective can only strengthen a project and therefore improve a writer’s skill.
Listen with your own critical ear and act accordingly.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I've Returned

I’ve been gone a long time and I’ve probably lost every reader I’ve ever had. It’d be great if you’d prove me wrong and join my blog. In the meantime, I’ll work at writing new and interesting articles. I hope you enjoy, comment and then ultimately—stay.