Is Orson Scott Card Bad For Teens?

The controversy over Orson Scott Card receiving an ALA award for young adult literature has reached the Feminist SF blog, which argues that you can't separate Card's work from his homophobic views. And also, his opinions have demonstrably shaped his work. Do Card's anti-gay essays make him an unfit guide to teenagers growing into self-awareness? Or should we celebrate his work and ignore his gay-baiting? [FeministSF, via SFAwardsWatch]



@battey137 (and others): I'm kind of sorry not to have weighed in again sooner on all this. I've been marking exams today, and been totally off the web.

So — some scattered points. I should first point out that I'm a Canadian (by choice: born in Scotland) and that I teach in Canada (though I did spend a distressing year once at a Catholic School in Milwaukee. So when you talk about the "mainstream" of American thought, please do understand that isn't the same mainstream I'm teaching in. Nor are the projects of our nations necessarily the same.

However, some of the things you've accused me of are actually quite true. Here you have it. I'm going to admit to a lot of the things you think liberals are guilty of, and I'm doing it in a true spirit of openness. Yes, I think homophobes are by and large unsophisticated dunces. Yes, I think that my ideas (inclusionary, anti-homophobic, anti-racist, humanistic) are better. Yes, I believe that at least part of my job as a teacher is a subversive one. I want to change and influence my community. I believe that teaching is more than just parroting the curriculum that is handed down by a centralized authority.

My heroes are the subversive teachers. Socrates. Plato. Barbara Henry. Paolo Freire. Neil Postman. Many more. The teachers in South Africa who inspired and often led their students on anti-Apartheid rallies. The teachers at my own school who put up stickers saying that their classrooms are queer-positive places. The teachers who supported suffrage for women. These teachers didn't simply regurgitate the views of their communities. They challenged them.

You don't seem to see the teacher's role as one of challenging but rather of inculcating young people in the views of their immediate community. Because I don't necessarily agree, does that mean I'm indoctrinating? I don't think so. I teach through debate, example, critical thinking. After loving OSC's stories for many years, I have made the professional decision that he just isn't good enough for my classroom any more. There are better choices out there. So far, I haven't heard any complaints.

Not that I haven't had to deal with other kinds of complaints. Over the years, I've spoken to parents concerned about the use of many books in my classroom. The Catcher in the Rye and The Color Purple come to mind. In every case so far, I've managed to talk the parent around to letting their child read the book.

So there it is. I think that teachers should sometimes challenge their communities. I think that homophobia will ultimately be ranked with all of the other old hatreds of the past. As I said before, that is one of my disappointments in Card. He sees so many of the other old hatreds so clearly, but misses that his own has so much in common with them.

Oh, and either you or others in this debate (can you believe I'm too lazy to scroll up the page and check?) mentioned both CS Lewis and Philip Pullman. Personally, I think Pullman is by far the better writer, and his views are much closer to mine, but both authors have been well represented in my classroom in the past few months.

Thanks for all this. It's a fun discussion.