In unsuccessfully attempting to defend her Wall Street Journal article “Darkness Too Visible”, Meghan Gurdon comes off as whiny; someone who feels she’s been treated like a human piñata. The poor dear feels she has been attacked relentlessly and she wants everyone to know she needs a hug. She spends an entire paragraph decrying how she’s been called every reprehensible name in the book (and goes so far as to list them) and feels that if many had their druthers she’d be burned in effigy. At the very least she demoans the fact she’s become a human pincushion.
Gurdon brought upon herself such wrath with overgeneralizations regarding YA literature. Her original article made it appear that all contemporary YA literature was too dark, too graphic and dangerous. Now she is trying to dig herself out from the pit she created and it only gets worse. “By focusing on the dark currents in the genre, I was of course no more damning all young-adult literature than a person writing about reality TV is damning all television,” she starts out; an analogy that just doesn’t fly.
She then goes from the frying pan to the fire when she attacks school drug- and tobacco-prevention programs. “For years, federal researchers could not understand why drug- and tobacco-prevention programs seemed to be associated with greater drug and tobacco use. It turned out that children, while grasping the idea that drugs were bad, also absorbed the meta-message that adults expected teens to take drugs.”
This gross generalization is not backed up by any facts. There could be any number of reasons drug and tobacco use increased at the time prevention programs began having nothing at all to do with the programs. It is the height of hubris for Gurdon to attack highly successful programs like DARE which, according to its website “gives kids the life skills they need to avoid involvement with drugs, gangs, and violence.” Is she calling for the abolishment of DARE and other such programs? Should sex education courses in school, likewise, be discontinued because the taboo subject of “sex” is discussed? Should schools not tackle cyberbullying or homophobia because, according to Gurdon, bullying and attacks on gay students might increase? If Gurdon is going suggest any of the above she had an obligation to back up her attacks on beneficial programs with facts not suppositions.
There’s no need to repeat the many arguments others, as well myself (“You’ve Got to Take the Dark with the Light”), have made against Gurdon’s call for censorship of “dark” YA titles. But in reviling those who attacked her Gurdon seems to have hurled herself into an abyss. She is not only attacking YA literature but also school programs like DARE, which has been implemented in 75% of our nation’s school districts and more than 43 countries around the world. If DARE encouraged teens to take drugs, as Gurdon suggests, why would the program be so widespread 28 years after its founding?
I disagree with Gurdon’s attack on YA literature, but I don’t begrudge her right to express her views. It’s called free speech. On the other hand it’s more than reckless for her to lump “dark” YA literature with anti-drug programs that have proven to be successful. The poor lady really does need a hug . . . or maybe a time out.