Archive for the ‘Schools/Youth’ Category

I saw “New Moon” last night, and I was surprised to discover that the movie was even worse than my expectations.  Bella seems to have no convictions and just falls for the guy who pays her the most attention. Meanwhile Edward seems to be using her for his own edification.  Sure, the movie centers around a female protagonist, but she is far from a good role model for teenage girls. Kate Harding at Salon explains why much better than I can, so I’ll leave you with a few quotes:

The marketing campaign for the movie pits “Team Edward” (the vampire) against “Team Jacob” (the werewolf), but as Carmen D. Siering wrote in Ms., “few young readers ask, ‘Why not Team Bella?'” That’s because the whole point of Bella’s existence is earning the suffocating love of supernatural hotties; even if you think her obsessive devotion to Edward might waver in the face of were-love, you know you’re never going to see her throw them both over to stand on her own two feet. (In fact, given that her only noteworthy quirk is clumsiness, she can’t even be trusted to do that literally without male supervision.)

 I can appreciate the desire for an alternative to vicious social power games. But then, that reminds me of another favorite from twenty years ago, “Heathers,” which skewered mean girl culture (and certainly hit on the extremes of adolescent emotion) with brains, black humor, and a heroine who’s not sorry to see her manipulative, homicidal boyfriend blow up at the end. Maybe after worried parents have finished going through Simmons’ suggestions for discussing “Twilight,” they should try arranging a screening of that. The female protagonist swears, drinks, has sex and kills people, sure, but I’d still pick her as a better role model for teenaged girls than Bella Swan any day.

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Will Phillips is a 10-year-old 5th grader in West Fork, Arkansas who refuses to stand up and say the pledge of allegiance at school (Arkansas Times article here). His reason? LGBT people do not have the same rights as other people, and as he says “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.” Let me just reiterate two important points: (a) he’s 10 and (b) he lives in Arkansas. This brilliant 10-year-old wants to be a lawyer when he grows up, and to him freedom of speech means “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.” His parents, who also sound like amazing people, are totally supportive of Will and are not trying to stifle him or prevent him from speaking out at all. Unfortunately for all of his bravery, Will is facing homophobic teasing from his classmates and threats from homophobics everywhere.

I think we can all learn a big lesson from Will. At 10, this little boy has more courage than many (or most) adults in this country. He has the courage to act against the beliefs of his teachers, classmates, and many in his community, because he truly believes that we, as Americans, are not living up to the meaning of the pledge of allegiance. Will deserves our full support, and he has something to teach all of us. If we all started acting like this on a regular basis, people will start to notice and change may just start to happen even faster. I hope Obama learns a lesson from Will as well – that if one little boy can stand up (or sit down as the case may be) against so much evil in this world, then the President of the United States can certainly push back against the conservatives who are trying to keep him from making policies that support the rights of women and the LGBT community in this country. Furthermore, Will is also sending a message of hope to all of the LGBT youth in this country who may be afraid to speak our or reveal their dissatisfaction with their lack of rights.

I am in awe of this little boy, and I hope that we all can start following in his example by questioning authority and refusing to participate in certain “patriotic” acts just because we are told we have to.

Watch Will (and see for yourself how brilliant and fabulous he is) on CNN:

Read Kate Kendell’s post about him here.

You can become a fan of him on facebook here.

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I just can’t help myself. I know this has been said many times by writers much more eloquent than I, but I must reiterate: Roman Polanski DRUGGED and RAPED a 13 -year-old girl. I’m watching this documentary about him, which conveniently excerpts pieces of the trial transcripts and tries to make it seem like the girl was some sexually experienced, drugged out, alcoholic. I don’t care what she had or had not experienced, SHE WAS 13!!!! I don’t care about cultural differences, I don’t care how good his films are, I don’t care how much tragedy he had experienced in his life, and I don’t care how long it has been – he should not be able to evade punishment by fleeing the country and be exonerated for raping a 13 year old. It infuriates me that because he is a celebrity there are actually people who are defending him.

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My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.


What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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gossip-girl20In not-so-shocking news, the senior girls at a high school in Millburn, NJ apparently, for years, have created a “slut-list,” where they list the names of “pretty and popular incoming freshman with crass descriptions on loose-leaf paper.” These girls are then subjected to what the NY Times is calling “hazing.” I tend to agree more with the writers over at The Frisky who say it sounds much more like bullying than mere hazing. The pattern of mean-ness among high school girls is not so surprising anymore after the barrage of books about this phenomenon and the movie “Mean Girls.” What’s shocking to me is that the principal at the high school has apparently known about this tradition for years and the school is only addressing it in a big way now. It’s time that we start paying more attention to teenage girls and giving them the support they need to cooperate rather than compete with each other. I must admit that I love the movie “Mean Girls” and shows like “Gossip Girl,” but we should be teaching young girls that these movies and TV shows are entertainment and satire, not models of behavior that they should be emulating or striving for.

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This is not entirely new, but the new clothing line that Harvard University has lent its name to just makes me want to vomit. The clothing line will be called “Harvard Yard,” and it will feature extraordinarily preppy men’s clothes in the range of $200-$500. harvardyard01robertmitra

As the creative director of the clothing company said: “We want to combine the power of Harvard with the power of a plaid shirt.” Seriously? I think all the plaid wearing hipsters in Brooklyn may have to reassess their clothing choices, lest they be confused with Harvard preppies.

 I mean, I understand that Harvard lost some of its endowment money, but isn’t it still the richest university in the country? And, I mean, if they supposedly have all these “geniuses” running the institution,  couldn’t they have thought of a way to make money that doesn’t involve cementing the image of Harvard as a place for rich, preppy kids? And couln’t they add women’s clothes to this line as well? Last I checked Harvard was co-ed.

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Corporal Punishment in schools is legal in 21 states! That means that in 21 states it is okay to hit students who have misbehaved.

Check out this policy from an Oklahoma School District:


Corporal punishment is administered to students according to the following policy:

1. Corporal punishment is a form of discipline when the infraction by the student is considered serious or is a repeated infraction of school rules.

2. Corporal punishment will be administered by a certified staff member in an office or designated area and in the presence of another certified person. Punishment must be appliedto the buttocks only. The witness should be informed of the infraction in the presence of the student.

According to this publication by Human Rights Watch, corporal punishment is disproportionately applied to students of color.

This fact both shocks and disgusts me. How am I living in a country that still tolerates this behavior, and why isn’t this a bigger issue?

Also check out this post on Feministe, for a mother’s perspective on the issue.


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