New York Times: Disturbing Writing Doesn't Imply a Disturbed Writer

Submitted by Paul S. Statt

Deciding When Student Writing Crosses the Line
The New York Times, May 2

" In the wake of the Virginia Tech killings, creative writing teachers across the country have been wondering what they would have done if the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, had been writing troubling stories in their classrooms. Perhaps no other teaching position offers as intimate a perch into the hearts and minds of students — and poses as many difficulties. These teachers ask students to write stories that reflect the wider culture or their own interior life, and the picture is not always pretty.Teachers at colleges as different as Amherst, Marquette and the University of California at San Diego say students often depict scenes of violence or concoct narratives in which people hurt themselves. The students may be paying homage to favorite movies or mimicking the world around them. After all, these are children who grew up with Columbine, and many echo what Elizabeth Minkel, a senior in Alexander Chee’s writing class at Amherst, said: “I spent all of high school feeling someone could come into my class with a gun at any time.""