An Open Letter to Republican Garry Smith
Dear Republican Garry Smith,
I am writing this to you as a constituent and a proud South Carolinian. I have lived in this beautiful state my entire life, and my family tree dates back to this region since before the United States was even established. And as a South Carolinian, I am tired of being embarrassed. I am tired of our country seeing South Carolina and its citizens as a joke after countless scandals. We are better than this – even if you are not.
The latest proposal to cut $52,000 from the College and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate as punishment for assigning books to all incoming freshmen that discuss homosexuality is the latest embarrassment. Garry Smith, when college officials refused to create another option for students to read, you said that in order to make a point it is important to impact the colleges’ wallets. Have you ever thought how that will impact the state’s wallet? I’m not an economics major, but even I understand that cutting such a large amount of funds will not benefit anyone.
Today we discussed the potential effects of your proposal in class. As the professor explained that staff members could lose their job if this goes into effect, the classroom fell into an eerie silence. This proposal can only hurt South Carolina.
And at what cost, Mr. Smith? When we debated this issue on Twitter, you said, “because critical thinking allows for both sides to be freely debated, not pushing a social agenda of a few.” But neither USC Upstate nor the College is pushing a social agenda. These institutions just gave the books to incoming freshmen. Fun Home is not even about a social agenda. Alison Bechdel wrote Fun Home as a way to show her personal experience growing up with a closeted gay father and her own struggles with her identity as a lesbian. Why is an author expressing her life experiences so upsetting to you? Oh, that’s right, it has to do with the “pornographic” content on pages 214 to 215.
I think your personal definition of pornography is skewed. According to dictionary.com, pornography is “writing, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement.” Out of over 200 pages, the two brief pages that disturb you in Fun Home cannot be considered pornography because the scene was designed to show the authors’ personal experiences, not to sexually arouse unsuspecting freshmen.
A social agenda is not being pushed. Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer pushed more of an agenda by promoting a vegetarian lifestyle than Fun Home does. Yet somehow the legislature did not feel a need to step in to punish us last year.
So who’s pushing the social agenda, Mr. Smith? I doubt it’s the universities that gave students reading material with which they can choose to agree or disagree. A vital aspect of attending college is questioning personal beliefs. College is a time to grow. College is a time to read books you agree with. College is a time to read books you disagree with. College is a time to learn who you are. Punishing our public schools for giving students a resource with which they may or may not agree defeats the entire purpose of education.
This is a power play against public schools and an abuse of power. You are a bully, Mr. Smith. You are overstepping your boundaries by attempting to censor our curriculum in ways that you see fit.
During our Twitter debate, you told me that “you are all in” for bettering our state and public education. If you really are “all in” then you should back out of your proposal to punish public schools. What you are doing is going to hurt us all as a state. You may be able to live with that, but I won’t stand for it.
Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed are purely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of CisternYard Media.