education

Gay Manimals

What do you think about teaching about sexuality, homo or hetero, in school? Here’s one guy’s opinion (Actually a fairly knowledgeable guy who has his own blog “Primate Diaries” on Science Blogs):

By now everyone has heard of the high school English honors teacher, Dan DeLong, who was suspended for offering students the Seed magazine article “The Gay Animal Kingdom” by Jonah Lehrer as an optional extra credit assignment.

According to the Alton, IL based Telegraph newspaper, DeLong has now been reinstated at Southwestern High School after several hundred students and parents attended a six-hour long disciplinary hearing:

At Monday night’s meeting, more than 200 people lined the stairs, sidewalk and office space at the district’s small unit office at 884 Piasa Road in the Macoupin County village of Piasa. Many of DeLong’s supporters had handmade posters and banners stating: “Mr. DeLong Inspires Us,” and chanting, “Broadening minds is not a crime.”

Unfortunately, what it looks like is that DeLong entered a plea deal with the Board of Education where he would admit that the article was “inappropriate” in exchange for going back to work. In a statement that DeLong read, on behalf of both himself and the School Board, this agreement was that:

[T]he Board of Education and administrator’s concern was never about sexual preference or homophobic condemnation. Rather, the issue of concern was the age appropriateness of the material. . . I agree with the board that the material in my class was not age appropriate for my sophomores and for that I apologize. I understand the board has decided that I shall receive a Notice of Remedial Warning.

This is wrong on several levels. First off, this is absolutely about homophobic condemnation. No one would have had any problems with a science article that described the evolution of heterosexual monogamy in voles or gibbons. Such an article would have naturalized a belief that many people hold as the only legitimate kind of relationship for our society today. However, by showing that same-sex pairs exist in the natural world (and that gender is a much more fluid concept than people may have realized) it challenges people’s assumptions about what “natural” actually is. Because they were threatened by this idea, the Board is confessing that ANY discussion that homosexuality could be natural is therefore inappropriate. It’s homophobia, pure and simple.

Secondly, does the Southwestern Board of Education even know what teenagers are exposed to these days? This is the generation that invented sexting and half of whom have had oral sex (according to the National Center for Health Statistics). Students today are fascinated by sexuality and are ardent consumers of information. They know full well that homosexuality exists and that there is currently a “debate” about whether or not all people should be granted human rights. Not only is the discussion of how humans define themselves useful in this regard, it should be required. Across the country we’re asking that people vote on the civil rights of people with other sexual orientations. Isn’t it a good idea to know something about the issues involved? Plus, Lehrer’s article was completely tame and had no explicit content (that is, unless the word “ejaculate” causes you to get the vapors). What this overreaction does is say far more about what makes some parents and school board officials uncomfortable than any need to “protect the children.”

The whole situation is a farce. If I was still teaching high school students (which I did for about two years) I would use this opportunity to make Lehrer’s article required reading and ask students to discuss whether or not they thought a teacher should be suspended for making it available. It would be a terrific lesson in civics. And if not this article, I would certainly make the issues of gay marriage, gay adoption, and gay service in the military part of any discussion on current affairs.

What’s ironic about the conservative outrage over gay rights is that the “homosexual agenda” is revealing itself to be an inherently conservative movement. Think about it. What other group is advocating for the right to get married, adopt children, and serve in the military? And conservatives have a problem with this? Perhaps a high school teacher somewhere should offer an article to students seeking to explain that strange phenomenon.

What do you guys think?

children · play · psychology

NY mom lets kid ride subway, gets socially whipped

I did not know about this until the article in Newsweek came out, but apparently a woman let her 4th grader ride the subway alone to go home early from a shopping trip. I say good for her. Kids today are too protected, coddled, and not trusted to be responsible human beings. She even created her own blog, Free Range Kids. I hope this trend continues, with books like A Nation of Wimps and most modern psychologists promoting independence in children rather than protecting, it’s time that America regained its independent, rugged streak and grew up a little bit!

technology

Documented and Democratized

This article in Newsweek really got me started thinking about this idea of the “Millenial” generation (post 1982, so I JUST missed the cut) as being over-documented, over-exposed, lack of privacy, democratization of information, lack of understanding of copyright and ownership laws, and how technologies like the Internet and cell phones have existed for as long as they’ve been aware enough to notice (although I still remember my mom being really excited about getting the Internet and me being disappointed because I couldn’t find any games).
I know everyone says “this” generation is new and like nothing they’ve seen before, but “this” generation really IS like nothing we’ve seen before. It’s like the first generation of colonists born in the American Colonies way back when. Sure their parents gave them this new land and brought them up in these new frontiers, but these kids were immersed in it from the moment they set foot outside, and all the while trying to adapt their parents’ cultures and customs to this new reality.
I am fascinated to see what this generation, who has no fear or apprehension of technology, who is used to reality TV and learning physical discipline like parkour off the internet, and texting people while hanging out with other people, will come up with on their own, how they adapt their grandparents belief systems to this new way of living. This generation is also a lot more international, and yet not necessarily internationally aware, than previous generations. What exactly will go down? Stay tuned!

learning

Modern Views on Parenting

Granted I’ve learned you can’t taking anything too seriously in grocery store magazines (just look at how TIME handled parkour), but Newsweek came out today with two editorials that are actually quite good at analyzing how men and women’s roles in parenting have evolved over the course of a generation or two and what expectations are compared to real life, and I found myself agreeing with both perspectives.

A mom’s perspective: When I read this my first thought was, “dear god, this is my future.”
A dad’s perspective: The third paragraph summarizes his whole point.

Of course this is all totally a modern Western view. So many other groups would think the parents are making too big a deal of their own situations, and from all scemas. Too much energy spent on the kids, not enough energy, etc. However, being a modern Western woman who plans on having kids someday, I am personally pleased that my culture is still talking and thinking about this and things are moving in this direction. Not just for my own sanity, but for the well being of my future children. I found the statistic in the dad’s article about dads in the 60’s only spending a couple hours a week with their kids really sad. Both dads and kids missed out on a lot of possible knowledge and skill sharing.

Anyway, interesting stuff.