CT's South Windsor High School Suspends Teacher For Assigning This Sexually Explicit Allen Ginsberg Poem
When South Windsor High School suspended a teacher for reading an Allen Ginsberg poem to his students, claiming it was "highly inappropriate" for its sexually explicit content, the staff probably wasn't expecting to make national news, but that's exactly what happened. According to NBC Connecticut, English teacher David Olio asked students to read Ginsberg's "Please Master" in class, after which students and parents took to social media to express their discomfort with the assignment. By Monday morning, Olio, who has taught literature at South Windsor since 1996, received a suspension from the school while the South Windsor Board of Education "investigate[s] the concerns that have been brought to our attention," assistant superintendent Colin J. McNamara wrote in Olio's suspension letter.According to Cosmopolitan, officials wrote an email to parents stating that they "do not tolerate the use of inappropriate materials in classroom settings." Olio, who graduated from Trinity College, is not facing any criminal charges; instead, he is on paid administrative leave, meaning that he is prohibited from setting foot on school grounds or contacting students while he's under investigation. However, this hasn't stopped people from taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure with Olio's suspension, claiming that it promotes censorship.
Although, as always, there's at least one homophobe who has to make an appearance.
If you're unfamiliar with Ginsberg's body of work, chances are you're wondering what makes one teacher's suspension so divisive. The answer lies in the subject matter of "Please Master," which depicts sex between two men. Ginsberg, an acclaimed Beat poet who was the recipient of many awards in his life time, including the Robert Frost Medal, Lifetime Literary Achievement Award, and National Book Award for Poetry, is known for his Walt Whitman-esque poetry and sexually explicit content. In fact, his seminal work Howl and Other Poems was so shocking for the time that the San Francisco Police Department arrested the publisher upon its publication in the 1950s, according to the Poetry Foundation.
In light of all this, it probably won't come as a surprise that "Please Master" is a very explicit description of sex between men. Here it is in full, via the World's Poetry Archive.
It's explicit, but not necessarily moreso than The Color Purple or, well, most of e.e. cumming's work, both of which are still taught in most high schools last time I checked. It's also much less disturbing than the ultra-violent opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, which was shown to 10th grade history students every year in my high school, or Lord of the Flies, which traumatized my 11-year-old self for life.
<img alt="" src="http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9g391XS2F1rvc1g2.gif" class="article-body-image"/>However, it's up to the South Windsor Board of Education to decide what is and isn't appropriate for students, and currently the investigation is ongoing. According to NBC Connecticut, Olio is unavailable for comment, but we'll see whether the outrage on Twitter has any effect on the verdict.Image: whatiwishicould/Tumblr