20/20 Hindsight

I’ve been maintaining radio silence on the whole Virginia Tech tragedy, and there hasn’t been too much else to talk about. The tragedy is still fresh in everyone’s mind and I haven’t had anything to say about it that wasn’t painfully obvious. But Salon has an article up about how teachers of creative writing deal with disturbing and violent images in student work. Many out there hold the teachers who read Cho Seung-Hui’s work and didn’t see this coming responsible. It turns out that more than a few of his instructors had been concerned, more from his demeanor and behavior than from his actual writing. I read his plays that have been flying through the ether since they came to light. While not good by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t see them as the stark cries for help that many do. Richard Beefheart in particular is certainly no more violent than, say Hamlet. Fiction is fiction, and as a long-standing veteran of creative writing classes I can say that I have seen some seriously twisted stuff come from the meekest and most sane of students. I’ve personally been in student workshops on stories with rape, torture via piano wire, and people having their eyes gouged out with crucifixes. None of them were particularly pleasant, and they were of varying levels of quality but not one of those students ever hurt a soul, much less went on a two-gun kill spree. It is the exception far more than it is the norm. I think, and the Salon writer seems to agree, that Cho Seung-Hui’s behavior was far more telling and it was that that drove his instructors to try to get him help. People can read, watch, and yes, write violent things without being violent.
This article also caught my eye because they mentioned several Bay Area schools. Of the ones they brought up, I work at one and attend another. Small world.

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