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Opinion letter to the editor: Defending a Westport teacher for doing his job



To the editors:

Since this case of potential censorship is being aired in public, the public has something to say.

At 83, Margaret Atwood is still one of North America’s most creative writers. “Happy Endings,” from the author of the “Handmaid’s Tale,” has been used in countless creative writing workshops almost from the moment Atwood wrote it (1983) as an illustration of how components of plot (sex, love, betrayal, murder, etc.) are secondary to the writer’s treatment of them, and of character.

This newest candidate for censorship is more a candidate for classroom or workshop discussion than an actual story. There ought to be no confusion about the purpose of a teacher’s choosing “Happy Endings” to illustrate certain truths about writing. It proposes 6 different scenarios and Atwood begins with a wry, “If you want a happy ending, try A.”

All this apparently eluded one of Matthew Shivers’s students and her parents, who seem to want life to be nothing more than the Disney-esque Option A.

I do hope they are not motivated by the usual religious and nationalist groups who want to ban books or who show up at school committee meetings shouting about sex, bathrooms, and Black History. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

It is incredibly difficult to teach 20-30 unique souls in a classroom. Having tried it myself, I have nothing but admiration for the teacher who gives everything to connect with students with honesty and integrity, and who treats life’s realities with respect.

I don’t buy the argument that these precious, pure and innocent little vessels are too young to discuss life’s realities. Shivers’ students are high schoolers. They are on the cusp of adulthood. Most of them will be going off to college, the military, or entering the trades. They will soon enter adult lives that may be graced by unremarkable, unassailable good fortune (option A) or ones with the darker, tragic complications in some of “Happy Ending’s” other options.

And even if these students do not personally experience misfortune or life’s vicissitudes, isn’t the heart of writing – and drama, which Shivers also mentors – to love your characters, even the villains, and to show some degree of empathy for all the creatures you’ve committed to paper?

This poor guy has not overstepped in any way, and it would be a great injustice for the Westport Schools to punish him for simply doing his job – of teaching kids what writing is all about.

David Ehrens
Dartmouth, MA



  1. Steve Hagan

    September 1, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    Mr. Ehrens,
    It’s unfortunate that rather than rely on your argument in defense of the intellectual exploration of a particular literary work -a seemingly well thought out defense at that- instead you found it necessary to launch disparaging comments at the parents exercising their rights in questioning their student child’s curriculum. A soft and implicit attack though it might have been, it was still an attack -an unnecessary one- on their character. One might possibly infer from these comments that you may be the sort of “activist” “…who show up at school committee meetings shouting…” -literally shouting and chanting- in an attempt to drown out the grievances being expressed by concerned parents in regard to some very questionable trends in educational curriculum that to many are seen, or better still, recognized as grooming techniques. Are your comments alone sufficient enough for someone to draw that conclusion…? Who’s to say? Now, on the surface this doesn’t seem like an inappropriate setting for a responsible and intellectual discussion on literature considering that it apparently took place in a high school classroom. That doesn’t change the fact however that parents have rights and that a school board/committee meeting is the appropriate forum to exercise them.
    Steve Hagan

  2. Dr. David

    September 2, 2023 at 11:42 am

    The Book itself is poorly written garbage; a nonsensical meandering of disjointed thought put to paper by a sociopath female author.

    The teacher knew exactly what he was doing, he was testing the limits … that’s how the demonic LEFT operates; like a wolf in your backyard always watching you (and your kids) and sizing you up, always sniffing for an opportunity to pounce … and in this instance to groom young minds into a confusion regarding a moral (rational) basis for governing sexuality no matter how seemingly ‘soft’ the material. Like water wearing down a rock over time …. they know the constant grooming will capture young minds, and more important, souls.

    David Ehrens is a person of the LEFT and that’s why he can’t resist attacking parents who attend school board meetings trying to keep the Wolf at bay. Ehrens and his ilk do not like being exposed for what they are … they seek to deceive by cultivating a veneer of tolerance and peacefulness when in reality they are driven by a very dark force that will turn on you and your family like a Beast.

    • HuntersPsychiatrist

      September 2, 2023 at 6:48 pm

      Bravo Dr. David.

    • Lorrie P

      September 4, 2023 at 1:32 pm

      Dr. David! Thank you! It’s a breath of fresh air to read intelligent insight as to the Author who is absolutely a sociopath as well as to the only rational reason that any teacher would choose such a story. For Mr. Ehrens to justify this teachers clear intention by indicating that tenth graders should be exposed to this by a public educator is alarming at best. To vilify the parent who questions the teachers motivation is even more alarming.

    • Chris

      September 7, 2023 at 8:21 am

      You sir are a dumbass, and probably don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand how stupid you sound and probably never will.

    • Nadine S Harris

      September 7, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      Nonsense. You don’t want your kids to educated. You want them boiled in syrup until done and set under the Xmas tree. This is inappropriate controlling behavior.

  3. Tommy

    September 5, 2023 at 10:26 am

    Look at all the brainwashed lunatics in the comments. In 10th grade, kids know that sex, drugs, death, suicide, etc all exist. Some 10th graders have actual real life interactions with these topics. They are hard to discuss, and using literature that references them is a good way to introduce these topics. It is normal for high schoolers to learn about these things and has been for decades.

    Where do you draw the line? Should we stop allowing children to read To Kill A Mockingbird due to it talking about race, discrimination, and rape? If we did our children and our society will be weaker for it. Without knowing about these topics, children are more likely to be taken advantage of due to their ignorance, not the other way around. Why do you think areas in the US that have very restricted teaching on something like Sex Ed, have much higher rates of teen pregnancy? Its because the kids arent taught about the topic, are completely ignorant because their parents want to limit their knowledge of a sensitive topic, and then their life is negatively impacted due to their ignorance.

    A teachers job is to teach and prepare children for the world and the future, especially in topics that are difficult to discuss. Making this about identity politics, culture wars, the “demonic left”, etc just shows you dont truly care about the children at all, and simply want to raise a weak and stupid generation that falls in line with what you happen to believe. Luckily for them, even most 10th graders can see through your facade.

    • HuntersLaptopPorn

      September 7, 2023 at 6:22 pm

      The classroom is not the place to play sexual theatre. I don’t talk about sex at work. Do any of you? What a bunch of sexual deviants many of you are. Must not be satisfied at home, probably not married. Conservatives have better sex than leftists and are 99% of the time better looking.

  4. Lorrie

    September 5, 2023 at 7:44 pm

    Tommy, please re-read what you have posted. This educator is paid on our tax dollars or did you not realize that? He doesn’t have any business or right reading this garbage to his students unless it’s been approved on a curriculum basis period!! It’s much too controversial and the taken message from this read aloud is disturbing to state the least. This teacher wasn’t hired for this purpose. Who the hell is he? Where is his integrity?? Completely unprofessional !! These are not his children!! So why would he put himself in this position??????? Why???? Obviously you are blinded by the BS too. You need to educate yourself as well. Don’t be fooled by a fool!!!

  5. Lorrie

    September 5, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    And as your comment Mr. Tommy relating to the tenth grade students seeing right through this facade, I wouldn’t be too quick to draw that conclusion. You don’t have any idea what the students really think. You can only assume by what many of those students haven’t stated! Publicly! Again, don’t be a fool!

  6. Nadine S Harris

    September 7, 2023 at 2:30 pm

    Boy this well-thought out defense of a good teacher being targeted by fringe elements sure has drawn out some lamentable wackos. Ugh.

    • HuntersPsychiatrist

      September 7, 2023 at 6:28 pm

      Glad you had to think so hard to defend a pervert. This nonsense is pushed forward and soon you’ll be defending the undefendable. Liberally brainwashed teachers are a threat to our children.

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