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The book, “642 Things to Write About” has writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing such as:

Write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom.

Describe a time when you wanted to orgasm but couldn’t.

Write an X-rated Disney scenario.

Write a scene that begins: ‘It was the first time I killed a man.’

You are a serial killer. What TV shows are on your DVR list? Why?

Apparently the book was part of a college level writing course that was being taught at the high school.

I dunno if giving students a workbook which has sexual content qualifies as "child pornography", but those do seem rather inappropriate. Unless you want your kid to start their porn writing career off early and right. Or to imagine themselves as a serial killer.

https://www.cleveland.com/akron/2021/09/hudson-mayor-craig-shubert-parents-call-for-resignation-of-hudson-school-board-teachers-after-students-receive-book-of-inappropriate-writing-prompts.html

ETA: If this is the incorrect circle, please let me know. I wasn't sure where this fit in.

The book, “642 Things to Write About” has writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing such as: Write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom. Describe a time when you wanted to orgasm but couldn’t. Write an X-rated Disney scenario. Write a scene that begins: ‘It was the first time I killed a man.’ You are a serial killer. What TV shows are on your DVR list? Why? Apparently the book was part of a college level writing course that was being taught at the high school. I dunno if giving students a workbook which has sexual content qualifies as "child pornography", but those do seem rather inappropriate. Unless you want your kid to start their porn writing career off early and right. Or to imagine themselves as a serial killer. https://www.cleveland.com/akron/2021/09/hudson-mayor-craig-shubert-parents-call-for-resignation-of-hudson-school-board-teachers-after-students-receive-book-of-inappropriate-writing-prompts.html ETA: If this is the incorrect circle, please let me know. I wasn't sure where this fit in.

53 comments

I have an MFA in creative writing. At no point during my education were prompts like this offered.

Like so much in the US this seems like a zillion percent an overreaction to something which is also kind of gross to start with. I absolutely agree there's no reason to freak out. But I also have no idea why you'd include X-rated prompts in a high school textbook, or even really why you'd have prompts about serial killers and perverted disney characters when there are literally infinite things to write about in this world without going there. Just, ew. But also, once it's discovered, rip out that page and move on, and choose a better writing exercise book next time.

Wow, the second time my hometown is in the news this year! I'm not surprised that it remains a hotbed of performative right-wing opportunists.

The inflammatory prompts in the book - which compose perhaps a dozen entries in a list of over 600 prompts - were not being assigned to high school students, nor were students permitted to write about them in class. This is as ridiculous as the year that the parents protested author Chris Crutcher's visit to the high school because one of his short story collections had a description of male genitalia. That story wasn't assigned reading, mind you, it simply existed in the same printed collection of stories as one assigned reading.

And yet, when a group of middle school parents dressed their kids up in actual blackface and afro wigs for a football game against the only majority-black school in our athletic conference, making the front page of the local paper, nobody said a word, the story was buried ASAP, and the editor of the paper was fired.

The cop demanding continuous video surveillance of classrooms and equating it to police bodycams is especially absurd. The reactionary putsch against school boards continue. Last month they were screeching about masks.

Thanks for the clarifications. It's very hard to tell what's really going on these days, with the way things are "reported" in the "news". Heavy with drama, light on details.

[–] jauntymusic 1 points Edited

I have an advantage in this situation because the superintendent of schools is a relative (hoping I don't dox myself by saying this), so details were unusually accessible to me.

I disagree that the reportage here is incorrect - they are reporting the facts that are available at the moment, which unfortunately is limited to the fact that a handful of parents are outraged. The school board will issue a statement when the investigation is concluded - as any responsible governing board ought to - rather than leaping to appease the masses with virtue-signalling public statements or just outright fire the teacher (which they cannot do anyway, thanks to the teacher union). Revealing the truth via collecting evidence takes more time than jumping to conclusions, so the dramatic responses of a handful of parents are occupying the spotlight right now. There will surely be at least one follow-up story on this with a great deal of clarifying information, but will anyone care anymore by the time it is published?

The entire situation stinks like a Western version of the Samuel Paty situation: parents whipping themselves into a frenzy over material that their own children were never even exposed to.

By the same logic the outraged parents use, the school should ban the teaching of The House on Mango Street for its depictions of domestic violence and rape. Which, by the way, I was assigned to read in 9th grade English at this very same school. Well, not the stories that included rape, but I could (and did) read beyond what I was assigned. Should the teacher have instead instructed students to remove the offending pages from the book before doing the readings? That would be absurd.

Looking further, I don’t think anyone should be charged criminally. The book shouldn’t have been selected with those prompts in it, but I’m pretty damn sure whoever selected it didn’t read every single prompt and the vast majority were probably fine, so it was an oversight, those prompts just weren’t caught.

Remove the book and move on. Send a nasty note to the publisher who SHOULD have caught those if they were peddling the book for academic use.

The “college level” defense is falling on deaf ears to me.

The prompts above seem below standard for a university level book. They’re what I would expect from a bunch of junior high school boys on Reddit giving writing prompts.

Many of the prompts seem fairly heavy for a high school class. There's more in the linked article, including

You are a brand-new suicide-hotline counselor. Describe how you feel during the course of your first call.

Drink a beer. Write about the taste.

The first time you had sex

I don't know what fraction of the books 600+ prompts are inappropriate for classroom use, or how the teachers were using the prompts, but it does look like this was an oversight, and that if had looked more closely, a different book would have been chosen, such as the "young writers" version mentioned by another commenter here. But the reactions of its opponents are even more ridiculous.

“It has come to my attention that your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom. I’ve spoken to a judge this evening and she’s already confirmed that. So I’m going to give you a simple choice: either choose to resign from this board of education or you will be charged,” Hudson Mayor Craig Shubert said during the school board meeting on Monday.

That's bonkers. There is no way anyone could be charged, unless teachers were explicitly assigning and reading writing samples produced using inappropriate prompts. Trying to threaten the school board with unjustified threats of criminal charges is insane. This is the mayor! If I lived there, I would start calling for him to resign. The school board didn't do anything nearly as unethical.

“I demand that there be cameras in classrooms as a matter of public record that we can pull and view what is being taught to our kids and what is being said to our kids,” Dirker said at the meeting.

This is a similar overbearing demand. If you want to justify allowing parents to surveil high school classrooms at will, you should provide more evidence than a book with an unspecified percentage of inappropriate prompts!

I think it's notable that no one at the hearing talked about any of their children becoming distressed or hurt. The only thing they say is that one of their daughters confirmed that she was using the book. The kids were all fine. These prompts are inappropriate for a teacher to assign but they're the sort of thing that many of them could come up with on their own. This news story is a bunch of hot air.

I liked the suicide hotline one! We actually explored a very similar idea when I was at school, and I think it was good as an exercise in empathy. I also thought the 'write a letter from a drug addict' was a good one. I thought it was really creepy that they were acting like it was harmful for teens to so much as attempt to empathise. Those ones were examples that would actually benefit from being discussed in the class; imo it's the safest way they can learn about these things.

Fair enough. I selected the prompts that I would have had the most objections to as a student (for reasons I'll leave vague), but reasonable people can differ. None of the opponents quoted in the article seem reasonable.

None of the opponents quoted in the article seem reasonable.

Yep! I went through the list of prompts in the article and there was a handful that I thought were unsuitable, a few I liked or were at least fine as-is, and then a few that would be fine if they were tweaked (my fave prompt was the sermon prompt, and if they just changed 'sex scandal' to 'scandal' it'd be suitable for all ages). I'm sure people would have different opinions on which were fine and which were best left unused, but my main takeaway was that the people quoted in the article were on another planet.

Yeah it really shouldn't be that easy for the entire school board (elected by the community) to be ousted.

I wouldn't want to write about any of that shit, least of all an X-rated Disney scenario, what the actual fuck? Who even came up with that?

[–] LOriginedumonde 26 points Edited

I realize this writing prompt book is supposedly for a college level writing course but

Write about a sex scene that you wouldn’t show your mom

Seems awfully juvenile for a college aged student and awfully groomy for a high school student. Who the fuck wrote this book?

It's a two-parter; the next prompt is "rewrite it so it is suitable" so it's getting writers to analyse the difference in style for different contexts. You could also take it in a comedy direction; if I got that prompt I'd be tempted to write something rhat just got female anatomy completely wrong and sounded like it was written by a clueless guy. I don't think it's weird for an older audience in context, anyway.

[–] Free_Metis RadFemMcGonagall 10 points

I agree. There are so many complex, interesting, and important topics to write about. These are... not that.

[–] Free_Metis RadFemMcGonagall 6 points

Looking at the first link, Amazon lists the "reading age" as 18+

So, it seems to me, this book should not have been given to the 16 year old high school students. If they wanted to use the same author/publisher, they should have used the younger version that you linked.

I'm confused. Are these kids being advised to write things, based on these prompts, which the teachers then read? Or is this a book for their own private use? Most of these are scenarios which teens with functioning imaginations could come up with for themselves easily enough, so I don't get the fuss if the only people seeing the writing were the teens themselves.

Are you serious? You think that making your likely underage students write pornography and torture/murder fantasies is something appropriate?

The fact that they can come up with that stuff on their own doesn' t mean that they should be encouraged, nor that it should be part of a school activity.

"The first time I killed a man" could go in so many different, creative directions that aren't a torture or murder fantasy.

"You're a serial killer. What TV shows are on your DVR list & why?" has potential to be a really great prompt as well. It's a way to imagine someone else's mindset, why they might relate to specific things, etc.

You jumping straight to claiming these are torture and murder fantasy prompts says more about how you think tbh.

"The first time I killed a man, I was trying to prolong his life. The tumour in his spine was painful and fast-growing, but he would have lived for several more months if I had never attempted the surgery. But he wanted to keep walking, and I wanted to do everything I could to help."

"The first time I killed a man, it felt weird. I found myself asking all these questions that I never asked when killing off my female characters-- would anyone actually miss him, or had he been an abusive asshole behind closed doors? Did the rest of my cast even know the guy?"

"The first time I killed a man, I still saw it as "killing a man". I spent weeks wondering about how he felt hearing my verdict, how his family would react, whether it was possible I'd made a mistake. For a time, it was all I could think about. But things change. At this point, I've sent so many men to the chair, I spend more time agonising over whether I've picked the right readymeal at the supermarket. I doubt they care either way. Dead is dead."

"The first time I killed a man, everyone tried to tell me I hadn't killed him. But I didn't pick up the phone. If I'd picked up, he'd still be alive."

"The first time I killed a man, it turned out to be a bad idea. It seemed like a tempting deal, and a kind one; give him eternal undeath in exchange for the chance to drink as much blood as I wanted. But I really should have thought it through from a feminist perspective. Even aside from his new thirst for blood, the man in question was irritating. And now he'll be around forever. I thought I was being kind to him, but I didn't spare a thought for all the women he'd be hassling for the next two hundred years. I've since learned more about feminist praxis for vampires, and I try to abide by the longstanding rules like "if you must turn men, pick ones with attractive personalities and good hair", but apparently this is a common problem. It's hard to tailor an awareness-raising campaign so it can actually reach new vampires before they turn some more incels. Our best bet is to share the idea with as many humans as possible in the hopes they think of it if and when they are turned-- which is why you are reading this!"

"The first time I killed a man, I was a serial killer lololol i used a shuriken with a lazer on it and it was badass. my lazer shuriken can take out 6 million people an hour and twice as many if I charge it."

It' s literally impossible to write a prompt about how you would murder someone without it being a murder fantasy. You are describing the way you would use to kill someone.

But you' re right, I am a horrible person because I think that imagining to kill someone, whether torture is involved or not, is not the healthiest thing ever.

I am glad you opened my eyes.

[–] ouvalemonde madfem 3 points

"You're a serial killer. What TV shows are on your DVR list & why?"

Oh my God I love that idea so much.

It's a book with 600+ writing prompts, there are about 5 they find problematic, and afaict the teens are not being made to use any of them. It's normal for teens to read books with sex scenes and serial killers; there's nothing in there that's going to be new to them. So you'd just say "this book is desgined for a course for adults, don't write things for this class using the adult prompts". If an adult were reading the scenes they were writing based off some of those prompts, I'd agree that's inappropriate.

Reading and writing are two different things. One action is passive, the other is active.

I also don' t understand what difference it makes if adults read that stuff or not: the problem is them writing that stuff to begin with.

As for the book: a school board is supposed to propose appropriate stuff according to the age of the participants. They could have chosen another book or list of prompts if they were just encouraging kinds to write, instead they chose one that included this stuff.

So you'd just say "this book is desgined for a course for adults, don't write things for this class using the adult prompts"

Did they do that?

I believe so, yes. It's a kind of exercise book.

The articles on this aren't many (so far) and there's not a lot of details.

What the fuck is going on in Ohio lately

Well, at least there's push back against inspiring kids to think & write about serial killing and porn scenarios in a creative writing class at that high school.

The book was called "child pornography" and then people demanded that cameras be put in all the classrooms. This is not the kind of pushback anyone should be happy about.

It's hyperbolic, disingenuous, and controlling in the same ways that TRAs are, yet some of the people on here who complain about TRAs doing it are fine with different groups doing it. Amazing.