Sex and/or Violence

An odd title for a back to school post, but this is the world our kids are living in. Coming back to school on an 80 degree day reminded me of our school dress code, which in my opinion is unnecessarily restrictive to girls. The part of the dress code that gets the most push-back is the rule on shorts. They are supposed to be no more than three inches above the knee. Everyone get out your ruler and see if what you’re wearing right now passes. Nope? Well, be glad you’re not in middle school.

“What’s wrong with legs?” one of my male students asked as we were reading over the dress code portion of our school reg. book. “Why not arms?” It’s a valid point. What is so offensive about our legs? What I didn’t say, because I’d like to keep my job, is that your legs are closer to your penis/vagina than your arms are. And apparently there is something very WRONG and INAPPROPRIATE (you really can’t be in any public school setting without hearing that word thrown around every 2 minutes) about the fact that humans use their penises and vaginas to feel good -sometimes alone, sometimes with each other.

I have a lot of teacher friends, and I try not to judge what other people do in their classrooms. But it came to my attention that a teacher was reading the Hunger Games with her 5th grade classroom. “It’s what they wanted,” she told me. That may be so. But this is a book – a very entertaining book which I enjoyed -in which children fight each other to the death. Violence and death are in so many children’s books from middle grade to YA and sometimes younger.  And somehow this is acceptable to us. It’s true, death is a part of life -but not necessarily fighting to the death in an arena.

A couple years ago I was rebuked for lending my copy of Looking for Alaska to a student because it contained teenage drinking and… wait for it….oral sex! So basically, it’s filthy and disgusting for our children to learn about how people use their bodies to make each other feel good, but it’s perfectly okay for them to read about using their bodies to torture and kill each other. (I now lend my “pg-13” books out with parental consent required.)

Sometimes being a teacher is an exhausting job before you even get to teach anything. I tell my students all the time that I don’t make the rules, nor do I agree with all of them. But this one is starting to make me very sad. I find the veiling or hiding of women’s bodies to be shaming for both women and men.  I think we can and should do better, for our middle schoolers, and ourselves.