Friday, January 29, 2010

Challenge Day Challenged

Less than a week ago in West Bend, Wisconsin, the local school board was planning to have a "Challenge Day" for the high schools. The website states that the program is 6 1/2 hours long, designed for 100 students in grades 7-12, and the program has existed since 1987 and has been used all over the U.S. and Canada. The FAQ states that in a Challenge Day Program: "Challenge Day Leaders work to create trust and connection in the morning by helping participants step out of their comfort zones through music and games. Participants begin to recognize stereotypes and labels that exist among them, and are then willing to be vulnerable enough with one another to connect as human beings. Leaders also discuss the healthy expression of emotions, and the negative effects of keeping feelings inside. During the afternoon, participants dive into the issue of social oppression and examine the impact oppression has on their lives and the lives of people around them. By the end of the afternoon, participants have an opportunity to take a stand against oppression, make amends for hurts they have caused each other, and state their commitment to creating change on their campus and in their community. The day is both inspiring and awakening for students and adults."

It is my understanding that A) The event is funded by grant money, B) it is supervised by teachers, and C) it is voluntary, parents can choose whether or not to sign the permission form. Just like a school field trip. So no big deal, right?


Ginny Maziarka was rather alarmed by the inclusion of homophobia as one of the issues addressed (along with cliques, bullying, racism, and a lot more) in the program and said this on her blog:
"I would think that HOMOPHOBIA is a pretty SUBJECTIVE TERM for a program like this. Is our school district supporting the reinforcement that kids with a core belief system that opposes homosexuality go against it?"

No, it's supporting not treating LGBTQ kids like crap. Nobody said you had to like the gays, just treat them like, oh I don't know, human beings?

And if you truly have an issue with the program, simply don't sign the permission form. Your child or children go about their school day as normal. Like I said, it's exactly like a field trip. You don't have to do it if you don't want to.

But unfortunately there seems to be a group of people residing in West Bend who can't grasp the simple concept that just because something is available doesn't mean you have to do it or even like it, they make the entire town look bad.

The school board decided to cancel Challenge Day so the district can "effectively address community concerns." No doubt they cancelled it fearing a repeat of what happened at the library the previous year. It's a pretty spineless move, but I can't really blame them.

I really hope they DO bring Challenge Day back. As demonstrated by the extreme ignorance of certain West Bend citizens, I think this program could really do some good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Point of Values?

Why do we instill values in our children?

We instill values in them to teach them right from wrong. We instill values in them so they may follow our beliefs. We instill values so they know how to make choices. We instill values in them so they'll do the right thing.

Values are, at heart, deeply held beliefs, usually about right and wrong. They are personal, but often shared by groups(such as religious denominations). They can be about any variety of subjects.

The key word is personal. It's not that you shouldn't be free to share your values, you most definitely should. It's that you shouldn't try to force your values on others. You can have debates and discussions, but most people feel as strongly on an issue as you do. And as unshakable you are on that issue they are as well. And "that issue" can be anything, literally anything. You can agree to disagree, because often trying to bring them around to your point of view is about as productive as beating yourself over the head with a stick.

The point of teaching values to children is teaching them what you believe is right and wrong, which means teaching them to recognize what is right and what is wrong. And when they see something that they recognize as wrong they will have the ability to say "I disagree with that." and not participate.

This very much applies to book censorship. Censors often say that the book(s) in question are a threat to their "values" and will lead their children to do things that go against these values. Even when they've been taught these things their entire lives.

If you've taught something to your children(I'll go with "homosexuality is bad" since that is a common topic when it comes to books) their entire lives and a book they happened to pull off a library shelf(and if you've taught them as such, why would they be pulling LGBTQ books off the shelf in the first place?) threatens to damage or change their values, that would be the failure of the parent. If your child or children are so easily strung along by influence, then you have far bigger problems. Like not letting them read Superman comics and sleep in the top bunk. If they're teenagers, then they have access to many more things unsupervised than just books in a library.

As for the "What about children who don't have parents or guardians active in their lives?" argument, you have no legal right to act in loco parentis for them. We aren't talking about saving them from being hit by car, we're talking about books. Being hit by a car is obviously dangerous. Whether a book is dangerous or not is subject to opinion.