This is from a conversation in response to an earlier post made to Henry Rollins. I thought the points made were important, so I wanted to share them here. I have only edited out the more personal details:
My friend: Kat, your comments are extremely thoughtful, and I agree with many of them. I teach women’s studies courses, and they are not male-bashing in any way; teaching about the history of the constructs of gender and race are formed helps all students to realize that men are just as capable of being nurturing as women, and that women are just as capable of being strong as men. I think the basis of any course, whether it be on gender studies or sex education needs to focus on respect–respect for people as human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity, kindness, and compassion, and not as toys, meal tickets, or status symbols. I think that a course or two on relationships–platonic and romantic friendships–would be extremely beneficial, especially, again, if they focused on respect for others, and what makes a loving friendship or romantic relationship work effectively. “Don’t rape” would work much more effectively if kids and adults were taught “Do respect” first.
Something else that I think needs to be addressed openly in the High School, with all students and parents, is the disgusting “tradition” of Freshmeat Before Homecoming, an unofficial contest among certain senior boys to have sex with as many freshman girls as possible before Homecoming. The boys involved will “groom” certain freshman girls, telling them they’re pretty, look like they’re older, etc., and invite them to parties where they are often–in many instances unknowingly–given drugs (also alcohol) and raped. My oldest daughter and the other girls in her year, were informed of this during the Lock-In night for incoming freshman girls, so they learn how to spot and avoid such boys and warn younger girls later on. But there is no equivalent program for boys, no lock-in or meeting where they are told about this obscene practice and taught why it isn’t manly or cool. There is no information being given to parents so that they can help prevent their sons from participating and their daughters from being unwitting victims. When I first heard of this “tradition” from my daughter, I was, frankly, a bit dubious, and so I asked a friend of mine who is a social worker in town, and she told me it was true–and she had worked with certain faculty and staff in the HS on this problem and counseled several 14 year old girls who had no clue what these parties were really about and who were raped–one got pregnant.
My position on sex education may be different than yours. I’ve read a lot of studies that show that sex education programs that include discussions about safe, responsible sex as well as about abstinence are more effective in promoting abstinence and preventing pregnancy than abstinence-only programs. Apparently, many students who’ve been through the abstinence only programs are initially willing to commit to abstinence at first but change their minds fairly quickly–and some students aren’t willing at all–and then when they do have sex, they are unprotected against STDs and pregnancy. They also tend to have lots of misinformation about sex and pregnancy. Students who take sex education programs that include safe, responsible sex as well as abstinence are, paradoxically, less likely to have sex, and if they do, are more likely to use protection. In an ideal world, parents would discuss these issues with their children and the schools wouldn’t need to address, but unfortunately, not all parents do address these issues and some parents either turn a blind eye or encourage their kids to “score,” and school is the one of the only places these kids can learn about more responsible behavior.
Kathryn McCormick for School Board: Ok – sorry this has taken so long, but I’ll try and get it all answered now . First, I am so glad you brought the topics up. I wanted to discuss most of them but wasn’t sure I should take it any further at the time. (I didn’t know about one of them, but would have included it if I had!) I rewrote that statement about women’s studies at least 4 times trying to make it clear, and I knew I was still failing. I know you teach women’s studies, and I have all the faith that yours is not one of those that are guilty of “male bashing” – I know you better that that! BUT – I do think it’s a valid concern on two counts – 1 – many people) will expect that in those classes; therefore, they will be hypersensitive, especially at the high school (or lower) level. So design of those courses and the approach to the subject would have to be handled with great care. And 2 – I have heard complaints of that happening in some classes. I think it’s an easy thing to fall into, and a passionate teacher must take care not to be misunderstood (just as one does with any touchy subject). You are a sensitive and concerned teacher, who is cognizant and respectful of the opinions of others – if they were all like that I would feel much more comfortable……and I think others would as well. Unfortunately, sometimes the reputation can color the reception; the only way to make it work is to do it carefully and with transparency into what is being taught – especially at these lower levels.
Skipping to the topic of sex ed (I’ll come back to the other in a minute), believe it or not, I actually support sex ed, although maybe not to the extent that you do. I agree they need to learn the biology of it and the dangers of sexual activity. Now – when it comes to contraception, that’s a tough one. If it could be taught from a purely academic angle, much like alcohol use should be, I could accept that. The problem is when the morality gets taught in the classroom. You start getting into questions of abortion (the pill, the morning after pill, etc.), the definition of marriage (being open to life), freedom of choices, maturity of young people, safety, etc. If a program just said, “this is what this is, and this is what it does,” I would back it, but the parents have to give full consent, and have responsibility for the moral questions – and whether or not they want to teach them.
Now moving back to the “freshmeat before homecoming” – what can I say beside
I absolutely agree – this MUST be brought out, and I will definitely support you in this. I would be like to discuss it more with you, get the backup information, bring to the board, and seriously look at ways to get it out there into the public view. This is disgusting – it’s the kind of thing that shows up on my crime shows, but NOT in my real life!! I will look into it more, but please send me information – whether I make it onto the board or not. My sonis heading that way, and my daughter will be there someday, but earlier I said all those girls in between need our help and support, and that the boys need what I said earlier – to learn respect, concern, awareness, and a value for basic humanity, but I was wrong. The boys also need our support, and the girls need to learn respect as well!