The mass killing in Virginia this week is another stop on a too-long trail of violence in the last few decades. We always need to stop, mourn, and reflect after tragedies like this. I remember after Columbine video games and kids who dressed in black fell under a new kind of scrutiny. This time around it seems to be creative writing.
I would never advocate for not raising alarm if a particular student was writing troubling stories. But extreme reactions to what have turned out to be just stories, have happened in the past. The fired writing teacher and expelled student at an art school in San Francisco back in 2004 come to mind.
Now, I wonder how much the general population’s (mis)understanding of the writing process — and the creative process in general — will influence unnecessary red flags in light of the Virginia shooter’s creative writing. This story in a regional newspaper only underlines that question for me: “Great Falls schools watch for ‘red flags’ in creative writing“.
The Virginia Tech student is an extreme case, one where his behavior included stalking and extremely anti-social behavior. But imagine what damage can happen to socially marginalized students — who pose no danger to themselves or others — when they feel like they will no longer be able to express themselves in the so-called safe environment of the writing workshop.
I’m thinking out loud and online. I don’t have answers or specific ideas about what this whole thing means to creative writing in schools. I just know in tragic events of this scale, people have a tendency to react strongly, if not overreact. Maybe nothing adverse will arise. But I’ll be watching to see how this develops in the national arena.
Maud Newton has a few related links: Nikki Giovanni recalls Virgina Tech shooter