Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lincoln Courier's opinion - it comes full 'circle'

Recently, “The Tenth Circle” – a book introduced to sophomore students at Lincoln Community High School – has caused quite a stir among parents, teachers and kids.

The issue revolves around sexually explicit material and foul language contained within the book.

Some things never change throughout history.

The idea of banning books was around before William Shakespeare and other great authors wrote them.

Some of those Shakespeare pieces taught in high school, surprisingly, contain quite a bit of sexual content and innuendo. The language is different, but the message and issues remain the same.

By looking into past literary content, another message has been consistent throughout the years: Teens dealing with sexual issues, peer pressure and pregnancy.

This idea isn’t new to this generation, or even the generation of our grandparents. As long as teenagers have hormones, it will continue to be an area of discussion.

Undoubtedly, many of the situations contained in this book have been spoken about among students in high school. Even if your children and their friends aren’t the ones speaking about it, they are overhearing these type of discussins in the classrooms, the locker rooms and the hallways.

Because of this, they will begin – at some point – to naturally develop thoughts and questions about these issues.

Banning a particular book isn’t going to take this subject away from these students. Sexual content isn’t just presented to teens in rated-R movies and pornographic novels. Most of this content can be seen on regular television or movies rated PG-13.

Denying that they have likely been exposed to much of the content found in “The Tenth Circle” may be a little na├»ve.

Another question has been asked: Is LCHS an appropriate venue to talk about these issues?

Yes. An even more important venue, though, would be the students’ homes.

Parents should be the first line of defense in guarding against ill thought out decisions by students. Guarding against what they see and hear isn’t impossible, but most of the time, it’s a losing battle.

Those hormonal thoughts are – through the grace of Mother Nature – already beginning to loom inside the minds of young high school students. Whether they act on these thoughts depends on having nurturing adults around them, who feel comfortable about discussing these topics with the students.

What should be monitored more than the content of a book is the teacher presenting this content. If the content is presented in an appropriate manner, and dealt with in an arena where adults are present and the students feel safe, it can only be considered healthy.

We highly doubt the subject matter was solely introduced through the book in question, the question is: Should we outlaw the content to prevent further exposure, or use the book to encourage students to speak about something already affecting their lives or the lives of their peers?

We feel if students are exposed to it, which they likely have been in other arenas, talking about it under an educator’s guidance is an appropriate step.

Providing an alternative reading, though, is also an important step. Some students determined they didn’t want to read “The Tenth Circle” because of its content. Teachers allowed these students to read the much more difficult “Dante’s Inferno” instead.

Unfortunately, because of an oversight, LCHS did not provide an alternative reading until students and parents were already upset about the content of “The Tenth Circle.” This is an error that can hopefully be avoided in the future.

Parents also asked educators to warn them in the future when students would be assigned readings with questionable content. This way, students can read the alternative text from the get-go.

We understand that some students may not be on that comfort level to talk about such matters, so providing another piece of literature gives them the opportunity to postpone speaking about the issue until they feel comfortable, or taking up the discussion in a venue where they feel more comfortable.

Talking about a subject presented through a piece of literature in English class is just as appropriate, if not more appropriate, than talking about it after reading the content from a textbook in Health class.

Literature can provide a good vehicle for a subject that addresses students on their level – a human level.

We support both the discussion of the book and providing an alternative to those students who don’t want to read the book. We cringe at the idea, however, of denying a piece of education to the group of students who are most in need of it.

=Editorial 9.24.08

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Proud to be an American

I'm proud today, not proud of myself or my family, but proud of my teenagers. I know their parents also claim them, but I will as well. My teenagers are more mature than I was 16 years ago, and yet people told me I was 15 going on 30. Teenagers have just dealt with more in our world than I had to deal with. But they get it. They know they were raised with the values and morals they were raised with. They know right from wrong. A book, any book, is not going to persuade them to do the wrong thing. It will, however, persuade them to think, to feel, to wonder, to ask questions, to educate themselves. Education is not the enemy; fear is.
I learned that fear is the enemy when I lived in New York City during 9-11. That was a very fearful time - fearful for physical safety, for people we knew, people we didn't, people that saved others, people that tried, for people who know people who didn't make it, for people who knew people who did. Never did I not get on the subway when a threat was made, did I cower in a corner when the alerts went up to Orange, and even Red. Fear is the enemy and it wouldn't take me. I had my faith, hope and trust, and I still do.
We have faith in many aspects of our lives. Faith that they will choose right by what they've learned; faith that we are doing the right things; faith in our God. We have hope. Hope that they will take all things considered when they make a choice. Hope that what we've given them is enough. Hope that they choose correctly. Trust.
Growing up is difficult, but letting go is harder.
A bird will never fly tethered to a limb.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Under siege

There are countless “worse” things in the world.
I have been through what I deem to be hell on Earth – losing my sister to a car accident, spending 30 days in the ICU under lights that don’t turn off or even down, sleeping on uncomfortable chairs which aren’t meant to be slept on, the entire time wondering, hoping, praying for her to live, to take her home and help her recover, to not have to go on living without her. Watching my mother grieve, and then grieving all over again when I gave birth and realized instantly what pain it could be to lose a child. I know what hell is. This isn’t it, but it isn’t heaven either. Heaven may in fact be a library.
Heaven is where she is now, and even Gracie knows that. She was looking at my favorite New York City picture last night – with me, Julie & Kristi in front of the Twin Towers with our hair blowing all over us in the wind on top of the Empire State Building. Now the Towers and Kristi are gone, but Gracie says, “That you, Mama?” “Yep, that’s me.” “That’s Aunt Julie,” she added. “Who that, Mama?” as she points to Kristi. “That’s your Aunt Kristi.” “Where is she, Mama? Oh, right, she’s in heaven.”
Heaven and Hell. Good versus Evil. Kids understand it. It’s scary for parents to know that kids understand it. I feel like I’m assumed to be evil – probably even called evil or thought evil in the minds of parents of the students I’m with every day. I will pray that there is a peaceful meeting and solution to end the criticism and doubt, to comfort those who need it. Unfortunately, we could have a major battle on our hands here – but it’s not like I haven’t been through worse before. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. You wouldn’t believe how strong I am now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Barbie's kingdom comes

So Grace is addicted to any and every Barbie movie we can find. Her most recent choice has been Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper, which plot follows two Barbies, one born in a castle, one poor. Thus the title. Anyway, of course, the princess is kidnapped so the pauper goes to pretend she's the princess while the princess is found. The princess escapes captivity but has to convince everyone who she is. I left at this point (about 50 minutes in) to make dinner, leaving Grace to watch the rest on her own.
Within 5 minutes, she came to me in the kitchen, hands on hips, and informed me, "This is my kingdom."
I laughed. "Oh, no, little girl," I said. "You may be the princess, but mommy's the queen. This is MY kingdom."
What else will Barbie teach my little one? :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Preschool doesn't teach them phrases, does it?

So the first day of Vacation Bible School this summer, Grace came home calling Ryan a "jerk" and saying everything was "Stupid" including my dad. Thanks VBS. We had the talk and her namecalling didn't last.
I know that phrases catch on, and so far, this has been my favorite one:
Last night while getting down from a chair, Grace got her foot stuck behind her, so I helped her get down, and she said, "Thank ya, my darlin'." Three times, she said it. I think we'll hope that one sticks rather than the other ones!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another one bites the dust...

So today was day 12 at the preschool. We marked day 2 of not crying when mommy left and day 1 of going pee pee on the potty. AND she went twice. So exciting. She got the Ken doll that has been sitting on top of the bathroom shelf since Martin Luther King day...after I wiped the dust off, of course.

School starts...but there is loss

I love to teach, and I love what I teach - English. You can teach a lot of subjects hidden within the "literature" aspect - manners, respect, responsibility, consequences, choices, etc.
But this year is very different. I'm used to being the one who leaves, who starts new adventures and doesn't look back at the wake I've created. I know that leaving hurts, but being left behind hurts more. Now I know that more than ever.
I'm, by all means, so pleased that my still friends but former colleagues have some adventures in their lives to forgive me my pity party for one. It's lonely here. I'm trying not to dwell on it, but as I sit in my brand-new classroom...I am alone.
I chose this classroom because not only would it be brand-new and clean and sparkly and bigger, but it would also not be next door to someone who is no longer here. Ed has become a principal, and we still have weekly calls, but it's not the same as being able to dish on the latest reality shows during passing periods and on McCain's VP choice during lunch. Chelsea is much farther away, and I'm so proud of her and angry at her at the same time. How dare she leave me! Then I'm selfish and she's being extremely unselfish - doing her missionary work across the globe. I just miss them very much and will it to be back how it was. I think the replacements are great, but it is a hard adjustment, to say the least.
Two years better go by quickly and then we'll be back to normal, right? 23 months and counting...