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.

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