Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Touch Me. ***WARNING*** This post contains graphic language.

I read a post recently on my brother's page regarding a controversial issue. Not shocking because my brother loves and encourages debate. He often plays the devil's advocate. What surprised me, however, is that people shared very diverse views in a respectful manner. No one insulted, attacked, or to my knowledge defriended anyone. It was remarkable.

Although I strive to be open to differing views and opinions, some really get to me, and I've hit the block button more than once after a remark cut too deeply.

I'll probably do it again too because I remain a work in progress. But, I've actually engaged in a few political conversations recently and didn't even feel my blood pressure rising. That's growth...or perhaps apathy, but I am going with the former.

I have seen more people defriend and get defriended over the course of this election, and it really is sad. A long-time friend of mine wrote a great blog about her personal experience with it. I listened to a TedTalk (which I highly recommend; it's about 10 minutes and totally worth it) about not being so tied to our beliefs that if we learned they were wrong we would go down with that ship rather than letting revelatory information enlighten and lift us to new heights.

When we attended church, lots of people gave us recommendations for businesses and so forth based solely on this fact: They're Christians. I have known lots of Christians. Some good. Some not so good. It always baffled me. Christians are followers of Christ; right? So if Christ hung out with thieves, murderers, prostitutes--people who were way different than Him--then why do His followers want to surround themselves with other like (or closed-) minded people? And how can you ever learn anything new if all you do is reinforce the same beliefs?

A key component to making this world a better place is empathy. Another is the ability to listen to differing points of view without feeling defensive. We don't need to agree, respect or even tolerate another's point of view--especially if it's ignorant and hate-fueled--but what if we could share and hear opposing views without feeling angry and wanting to prove our own point? Then, what if we could leap off that springboard and actually try to understand another person's experience in the world?

All of this nonsense about "locker room talk" really makes me wish men could truly understand what women experience. How it feels to have people ogle you, make unsolicited comments about what they want to do to you, and call you names. How it feels to have a person "accidentally" brush up against your body or put their disgusting hands on you. How vulnerable you feel when someone grabs your ass or genitals in a public place and threatens you if you reject them. Men can say that they've had similar experiences. Here's the difference: If a man rejects a woman, he probably doesn't fear that she is going to rape him.

I've lost count of how many times I responded unfavorably to a whistle or inappropriate comment or God forbid someone touching me only to hear, "Fuck you, bitch." Sometimes in front of my kids. Once my toddler son asked why a man whistled at me at a light. As, I tried to explain it to him, the man yelled, "CUNT!" because I didn't respond favorably to his unsolicited attention. "Mommy, what's a cunt?" It's not just me. Every woman I know can tell similar stories. Including my daughter.

To blow that off as locker room talk is to encourage rape culture.

I grew up with five brothers; I'm well-versed in locker room talk. It's not okay. It's not an excuse. It's disgusting. I've heard women say, "Oh that's just boys being boys." I find that deplorable. I even know women who take this sort of behavior as a compliment. I don't even have words for that.

In the meantime, I'm going to try--just try--to be the change by staying open-minded and loving all of you despite our differing opinions. I hope that you'll respect mine as well. Who knows, maybe we'll even learn something from each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Last week, a teacher walked into my 10-year-old daughter’s math class, handed her math teacher a stack of envelopes and told the kids, “If you get a letter, that means you have to come see me for extra practice.” Lily got a letter. When I took the letter from her folder, she burst into tears.

“Why are you crying, sweetheart? What’s wrong?” I asked. She said, “I’m dumb.”

The letter indicated that she was eligible for Title 1 math--which, I'll be perfectly honest, I had no idea what that even meant and had to google it. I assured her she wasn't dumb, even if she did need extra help in math and then started typing...cause that's what I do.

Even before this letter arrived, I had already had it with middle school in just a few short weeks.

It started with "gifted" children. 

Evidently parents use this identification to feel superior. Then their kids use it to feel superior. I guess it is widely known these kids get special treatment because they will get the test scores needed to label our school system “excellent with distinction.” I should know this; my older kids went all the way through Lakeview's "gifted" program, which is/was in fact excellent with distinction. But I didn't.

At Lakeview Middle School, we put said fourth graders inside the building, and the average or below average or whatever you want to call the other kids are relegated to trailers outside. 

I've been told by several students, "Oh yeah, everyone knows the smart kids are inside and the dumb kids are outside."

Are you fucking kidding me?

A few weeks ago, I read about a 13-year-old girl who took her own life rather than return to a school where she had been bullied. 

Schools install systems to prevent our kids from being killed by intruders--my dear friend actually invented one. 

They institute zero-tolerance policies against bullying. 

Then the exact people who are supposed to protect our children walk in and hand out letters that say, “YOU. NEED. HELP.” Or "You. Are. Dumb," as it said to my child. 

So, I emailed the teacher. I emailed the principal. And, I just wrote an email to the superintendent.  

No one contacted me to tell me Lily was "struggling" in math. She brought home A's and B's last year and scored "accelerated" on the spring standardized tests. Lily said she asked one question in class, and she herself did not feel she was "struggling." If a child needs extra help, I would think the parents would be the first point of contact. 

We have declined this extra help. Lily has confirmed that her dad, the electrical engineer, is really good at helping her with her math homework even via facetime.

All that aside? She still doesn't want to go to school. And really...middle school is hard enough without this added nonsense.

I waited for awhile to post this because I've been soooooo angry, but nothing is changing, and no one is responding, and my kid still doesn't want to go to school. So please, parents, teachers, friends, I implore you to share your opinions with me. Do other kids feel like this? I know a few who do. How can I encourage this kid who's told every day in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that she is less-than? Why is it okay to do this? And what can we do to change it?