by Jason Griggs, Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence
In seventh grade, a teacher sent me to the principal’s office for quietly reading a “satanic book” in class. The office speed-dialed my mother to come down to the school to sort out the threat to my soul. This was not the first time she had been called to a school to discuss my brazen willingness to quietly read books in class, so she was familiar with the routine; however, this time marked the first time the book itself, not the act of quietly reading, served as the main offense. The corruption of my soul and my classmates’ souls proved too great a threat for the teacher and the school.
The principal and teacher on one side of the table, my mother and I on the other, demonic text in-between. Tense salutations. Thinly veiled notes of disapproval about my mother’s parenting skills. Transparent condemnation of my lifestyle choices from those on the other side of the table.
“Was Jason being disruptive?”
“No, Mrs. Griggs, and his grades are great, but the book is satanic… devil… hell… What about the other children?”
Blah, blah, blah.
The voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher.
“Ugh, I didn’t bring the book from home.”
“Well, the principal, your mother, and I would like to know just where on earth did you find such a book?”
“I checked it out of the school library this morning.”
The time: 1986-1987 school year
The place: a public middle school in Alabama
The book: Inferno by Dante Alighieri