Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Right. You're Wrong. Shut-Up. #SOL15

During spring break last year, Chris and I discovered the quirky, offbeat YA author, Andrew Smith. His book, Grasshopper Jungle, kept us company on our vacation, and when I heard it was named as one of the 2015 Printz Honor Book, I was thrilled. I have since read a few of his other books, and I find his writing to be bizarre and wondrous.

Yesterday, while perusing my Twitter feed I noticed several of my Nerdy Book Club friends posting comments about a controversial storm brewing on social media. Attempting to understand what had upset everyone, I visited Terri Lesesne's blog to get the back story, and then I read the Vice interview and subsequent article. My initial reactions included confusion, disappointment, and discomfort. Had his response to a simple interview question really warranted such vitriol and nastiness? 

This morning when I awoke, I saw a post on a closed FB group I belong to called Teachers Write. Kate Messner, one of my favorite MG authors and the first writer my class ever Skyped with, wrote a powerful response on the issue. She eloquently described the difference between criticism, snarky criticism, and verbal abuse. As she relayed details about unbelievably offensive comments left behind on her TED-Ed YouTube channel, I found myself rethinking my stance on the issue of sexism, gender bias, and feminism. Donalyn Miller also chimed into the conversation, and I appreciated her thoughts and reflections about basic civility and respect being offered to everyone involved. We must begin to adopt a "Different, Not Less" mentality if we ever hope to have an open, honest discussion. 

All of this highly charged discourse, got me to thinking about Dr. BrenĂ© Brown 's research on shame and vulnerability. Years ago, she started a movement called Free Range Social Media, and after a brief Google search this morning, I'm wondering why her work has been removed. The part about "No Cruelty" captured my interest the most, and I think all Americans would benefit from a crash course in how to disagree respectfully.

Ultimately, I think we may be having the wrong conversation. As she explains in her famous TED talk, many of the folks in this discussion are discharging their pain and discomfort through blame and finger pointing. Learning to listen and avoiding certainty will be the challenge of our existence. Until we can be honest about hard topics like these, malicious, narrow-minded, and cruel comments will continue. I look forward to a day when civil discourse can be achieved. 


  1. This conversation around Andrew Smith has really blown up, hasn't it?! Kate Messner's response was so eloquent and articulate. "Blame = a way to discharge pain and discomfort." Interesting! I'm so sad that the Internet is a place where people put out such hateful comments, but I'm not surprised. I hope we have a way to get back to positive discourse.

    1. BTW - I registered for NErDcamp 2015! Will you be there?! I hated to miss it last year!

    2. Holly, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on the Andrew Smith controversy. Our world is complex and social issues like these hit a nerve. I haven't registered for NerdCamp yet, but I'm hoping to attend. It was so nice to see a familiar face in my comments section.