December 18, 2012
A prologue: My thoughts and heart remain with those who lost loved ones in Newtown last Friday. I am so, so heartbroken that we as a society did not do better by those children and their caretakers.
I suppose I should further preface this post by stating unequivocally that my thoughts here are solely my own opinions, and do not reflect the viewpoints of any of my employers. Furthermore, I do not pretend to speak for other teachers at any level. These musings simply reflect where I stand on this issue at the moment.
This post contains musings on past mass shootings and the potential for similar events in the future. If you would rather go look at GIFs featuring adorable dogs and children, I completely understand.
August 28, 2009
If you listen to NPR’s Morning Edition or read Shakesville faithfully, then you’ve already heard the news that Reading Rainbow is going off the air after a 26-year run. It’s not happening because LeVar Burton wants to retire (though who knows; maybe he does) or because every child in the US is so excited about reading that it’s no longer necessary. Here’s why it’s happening: Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2009
[This began as a comment on Vanessa’s post over on Feministing, but it started to get long-winded enough that I figured I might as well post it on my own blog.]
I think I can see the CYA/”plausible deniability” tactic inherent in the district saying Taylor wasn’t forced to resign “because of homosexuality” — I’ll bet their rationale would/will be that Taylor was forced to resign because of insubordination. According to the USA Today article*, “Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member” about the principal’s actions.
Now, mind you, I’m not saying that makes it okay, I’m just saying that’s probably their excuse.
This hits particularly close to home for me given that I showed The Laramie Project to my 100-level (college) English comp students one semester a few years ago. I did get one complaint that I was forcing my politics on the class, but for the most part my students seemed pretty receptive — as did Taylor’s students, from what little is discussed in the USA Today article. It gives me hope that as the younger generations get old enough to vote and get more involved with running for office and whatnot, we’ll be able to progress on the LGBTQ-rights front.
(It also makes me grateful that as a general rule, in theory, one doesn’t have to deal with parents when teaching at the college level. There’s little doubt in my mind that the principal in question had his change of heart because a parent complained, or at least because he feared a parental complaint.)
*On a fairly tangential note, I don’t know what to make of the article’s title, which refers to The Laramie Project as a “gay-themed film.” It’s about a man who was brutally murdered because he was gay, and how the community responded to his death. So, I guess “gay-themed” is accurate because the subject matter includes what it’s like to be gay, but it seems overly simplistic, and I think it also speaks to the ghettoization of LGBTQ art, film, and literature (and this is often true of ethnic art, film, and literature as well), because I would argue that the dominant culture has more to learn from this film than your average LGBTQ person does. But that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, I suppose.
January 16, 2009
The Family Security Matters consortium has released its Third Annual List of America’s Most Dangerous College Courses, and naturally Michael Bérubé was all over it. (Er, in the sense that he wrote about it on his blog, not that he appeared on the actual list.) Go here to check out his coverage, and read the whole post, because he includes his “remarks to Anne Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni at our National Communication Association debate on ‘diversity in higher education’ last November,” which are well worth reading. A passage I was particularly struck by:
I currently serve on a task force that is trying to make Penn State more accessible, in class and out, for students with disabilities. (A subject you don’t often hear mentioned in these debates.) But the rationale for the formation of this task force, which is charged basically with getting people to obey a federal law, is that it will enhance diversity at Penn State. I’ll take that rationale if I have to, but given my druthers, I would prefer to talk about doing justice to students with disabilities, just as I would prefer to talk about doing justice to women and minorities who were barred from institutions of higher learning for centuries.
After reading Bérubé’s post I clicked over to the FSM list (the first time Bérubé referred to the Family Security Matters consortium as FSM in his post, I did a confused double-take, because for a moment I took the acronym as referring to the Flying Spaghetti Monster), hoping for a wingnuttery-inspired larf. Not really any luck on that point, I’m afraid; Bérubé already covered the best stuff. However, I was intrigued by this “dangerous” course: Read the rest of this entry »
October 23, 2007
On my way home yesterday I heard Marc Acito, author of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater and the upcoming Attack of the Theater People, discuss on All Things Considered the most recent Harry Potter scandal: J.K. Rowling’s revelation this past weekend of the fact that Dumbledore is gay. You can listen to his commentary here, and there’s a transcript (transcribed by yours truly, so I take full responsibility for any mistakes or glitches) below the fold. I very much appreciated Acito’s take on the situation — he summarizes a number of the reactions people have had to the news (mine: “Huh. That makes sense. Cool.”), then connects it to his own experience as a teacher and a homosexual. I think he’s right: “In a world where sexual orientation is still headline news, too many real gay people lead fictitious lives.” Mustang Bobby of Shakesville puts perhaps a finer point on it: “It also makes it clear that a gay man such as a teacher can be a mentor and a friend without any of the lurid overtones of pedophilia that is never far from the fevered imaginings of the Christian conservatives and their perpetual adolescent fixation with sex.”
That idea connects to a post of Melissa’s from yesterday, the So-Called Public School Plague, which discusses an Associated Press report on sexual predators in public schools. She takes the AP to task — and rightly so — for playing fast and loose with the numbers. But in the context of LGBTQ teachers having to keep their sexuality or gender identity quiet in the classroom, I couldn’t help but notice another aspect of the article. It refers to a handful of incidents:
- One male teacher stands accused of, among other things, fondling a fifth-grader’s breast and forcing the hand of another girl onto the zipper of his pants.
- “DNA evidence in a civil case determined that [a male principal] impregnated a 14-year-old student.”
- Another male teacher’s “bosses warned him not to meet with female students behind closed doors. . . . Police later found pornography and condoms in his office and alleged that he was about to have sex with a female student.”
- A female teacher “conceived a child with a 16-year-old former student.”
- Another male teacher victimized a young girl, and wasn’t taken to task for it until it happened with a second young girl.
- A male teacher in Pennsylvania developed a romantic and sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl.
Notice a pattern? The majority of abuse cited is male-on-female or female-on-male. Now, I’ve said before (and I’m sure I’ll say it again) that pedophilia is an entity entirely separate from normal (if you will), healthy adult sexuality. However, religious fundamentalists continue using the “homosexuality = pedophilia” talking point as if I hadn’t said anything at all (which rather makes me want to take my well-thought-out arguments and go home, except they’re out there trying to influence public policy, so I have to keep trying), so I thought this was worth pointing out. Conclusion: A GAY TEACHER IS NO MORE LIKELY TO ABUSE A CHILD THAN A STRAIGHT TEACHER IS. Thank you, and goodnight. Read the rest of this entry »
October 3, 2007
(Post title adapted from this post by Michael Bérubé.)
So, on the one hand we have an administrator halting the performance of a play that could easily pique students’ interest in Shakespeare. On the other, though, we have Phyllis Schlafly complaining that “Shakespeare has disappeared from required courses in English departments at more than three-fourths of the top 25 U.S. universities” (see Evil Bender for an analysis of Schlafly’s problematic composition skills, of which her citing statistics without evidence is merely one example).
My guess as to why English departments are likely to offer courses that “deconstruct” (according to Schlafly — I wouldn’t necessarily use that word) Shakespeare and other Medieval or Renaissance writers is that most English majors have already read Shakespeare. They got the basics in high school, and are now ready to delve deeper, examining sexuality across the comedies, say (and anyone who thinks sex and sexuality aren’t an issue in Shakespeare’s plays is fooling themselves). Personally, I read Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, Hamlet in 10th, Macbeth in 11th, and King Lear in 12th. (And then I read King Lear in Proseminar in Literature my freshman year of college. And then I read King Lear in Brit Lit I my sophomore year. It’s a wonderful play, but man, was I ready to get away from it for a while.) Also, I was sound tech for our drama department’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing. If anything can be taken from my experience, it’s that English majors have plenty of experience with the classics. What, then, is so wrong with both students and professors wanting to expand the canon to include more women, more writers of color, more outsiders, more queers?
Oh, wait. I forgot who I was talking about.
June 12, 2007
I don’t know how many of my lovely readers have been following this story, in which “a 40-year-old substitute teacher from Connecticut [was] facing up to 40 years in prison for exposing her seventh grade class to a cascade of pornographic imagery” that was most likely the result of spyware. Either way, I was happy to learn last week that the conviction has been overturned (emphasis added):
[Substitute teacher Julie] Amero was convicted in January on four counts of risk of injury to a minor, but computer security experts and bloggers across the political spectrum rallied to Amero’s defense when evidence later emerged that her computer had been infected with spyware that caused pop-up ads to take over the screen.
Superior Court Judge Hillary Strackbein granted Amero’s motion for a retrial Wednesday after determining that a Norwich police detective who was called as an expert prosecution witness had given “erroneous” testimony about the computer.
A date for her new trial has not been set, but prosecutors did not oppose the ruling, meaning Amero is unlikely to face any further prosecution, NBC affiliate WVIT-TV of Hartford reported.
Huzzah. I needed a bit of good news.
May 14, 2007
All I can say is, What the hell were they thinking?
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.
“We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation,” he said.
During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on locked door.
After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said.
“I was like, ‘Oh My God,’ ” she said. “At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out.”
Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation “involved poor judgment.”
That’s gotta be the understatement of the year. Parents are–understandably–pissed. I appreciate the need for emergency preparedness, particularly when children are involved, but traumatizing those children doesn’t seem to me to be the best way of going about that.
[h/t Crooks and Liars]
March 7, 2007
Evil Bender’s post about Phil Kline’s hopes to get “obscenity” banned from public schools in Kansas had me heading back over to our friends the Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools to see what they had to say about it (short answer: nothing). While there I came across a link to another group: Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. (That title makes me twitch, but I’ll let it go for now…) What this site consists of, by and large, is excerpts from those “bad books” teachers are forcing on their students. This page has on it both The Bluest Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale (books beginning with “The” are alphabetized under T)–powerful books that depict women in horrible situations. Excerpts are pulled out of the books and presented to someone surfing the site in a bulleted list, without any sense of context, and while there are occasional comments (The Handmaid’s Tale is “set in future where psychotic theocracy controls every aspect of everyone’s life”), there is essentially no analysis. Read the rest of this entry »
February 7, 2007
This week’s Carnival of Education, The Over-Scheduled Carnival Kid, is up. It’s chock full of good stuff, so check it out!