Sensitivity Training

Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in elementary, middle, and high schools, for specialists to try to teach children to be better humans. School is more than just learning your multiplication tables and parts of speech (and sometimes, unfortunately, it is much less than either of those). It’s a place where you can participate in arts and in cultural activities; where you can play team sports and have nearly unlimited access to pretty awesome libraries. It’s a glorified babysitting service as well, where parents get upset when they find out that teachers are permitted Professional Development days so that they can learn better and more effective ways of teaching. Even more than that, it is the primary source of socialisation for a lot of people.

So there are classes – about things like racism. Your kids will learn why we don’t say nigger, kike, chink, nip, spic, kraut, squaw/brave, towel head, mick, frog, paki, etc.. At least not to people’s faces. Actually, they won’t. They might learn that it’s mighty rude to call people names. Because it hurts our *feelings*.

They might learn that it’s naughty or wrong to think about or to mention any kind of religious belief. They might learn that people who express their religious beliefs are weird and untrustworthy. Your kids might even learn that even though religious beliefs may be *normal* and *expected*, someone mean won’t let us express our religious beliefs at school.

But there are entire teaching units about bullying. Your students will learn that bullying is dangerous. Because bullying? Leads to maladjusted kids in trenchcoats shooting people. In schools. I mean, when did *racism* ever cause mass shootings? WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!???

Would you like to know what nobody talks about at school? Sex. Gender. It is *still* the last taboo. I wonder why, in this modern age of the electrical toasting oven and the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine, why we cannot shave some of the time off of the fear-mongering from the THOU SHALT NOT BULLY section and allocate it to teaching children a) about sex and b) about gender and c) about the difference between those two things.

Not just because every time I hear someone say something about ‘the opposite sex’ or ‘what’s your baby’s sex?’ I cringe. Because to me, the opposite sex is “no sex at all”, and my baby’s sex is “none of my business, unless they choose to involve me in that part of their lives someday”. So remember: sex is sexual activity, the act of sexual intercourse, or to determine the GENDER of something. Gender, on the other hand, is determined by how many X and Y chromosomes you have.

But. I may have ranted about this before. Why can’t we start teaching our kids about their bodies in grade one? At the same time they’re learning about the digestive system in grade four, why not learn how their bladders and colons work? Because it’s dirty. You can’t talk about the different genders because it’s dirty and naughty and wrong.

Except that it’s not. The problem lies squarely with the grown-ups in this scenario. Teachers are scared of offending parents. Parents are afraid teachers will think the children are being abused if they know “too much”. Administrators don’t want anybody to know anything. So sure, it’s up to us as parents to teach our kids about sexual intercourse. But it’s also our jobs as parents to teach our kids how to cross the street, how to sing the alphabet, how to eat, how to use the toilet…we don’t have a problem with all of that, do we? So what’s the big deal with teaching our kids about their bodies and about sex.

Now, to take a left turn here, what *really* makes me angry is that while my kid learns to be sensitive to others’ skin colour, religion, heritage, family’s marital status, etc., it’s not a big enough deal when a boy calls another boy ‘gay’ in a derogatory sense. Or says “don’t be such a fag”. And worse than that, when that boy KNOWS what he’s talking about – when he’s trying to tell my boys that homosexuality is somehow wrong or dirty.

Where’s the spokesfag at my kids’ school talking about sexual-orientation-based hate crimes? Why isn’t there a flashy movie about what it means to go through school and work and the rest of your life as a gay man or woman? How come there aren’t entire displays of books in the school library about anti-homophobic actions? Where is the “wear a rainbow shirt for anti-homophobia day”? Why is it that there are *absolutely no resources* available to straight *or* gay kids in elementary school?

Kids are going to be bullied. It’s part of growing up and it’s part of being an adult. I know plenty of bullies over the age of 20. They don’t just go away because we had a frank discussion about bullying. But maybe if there was someone at school saying: “you know what? Some people are attracted to people of the same gender, and some people are attracted to people of the opposite gender, and some people are attracted to both genders, and that’s just the way it is”, I wouldn’t feel like tearing out my hair every time I hear about one of the middle school kids trying to make my own kids scared to death of fags.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

26 Comments

  1. Because even though you and I know that this isn’t the case, people still have this crazy idea that somehow being homosexual is a choice and therefore they don’t *have* to be homosexual and can stop being homosexual if they don’t want to be treated that way. A black person can’t change the colour of their skin. A mentally challenged person can’t change the way their brain processes information. A little person can’t *grow*. An amputee or a burn victim can’t change their injuries. It is all still about this illusion that people have of homosexuality being a lifestyle choice.

    AND it is all about religion. Although religion no longer has a place in schools, there is still a religious right that believes that homosexuality is wrong and a sin and if it is taught in schools that homosexuality is ok, then the school is offending the majority of the population.

    Really, I would actually prefer that education actually focus on educating my children and leave the moral/social education to me. I’m doing a better job than they are anyway.

    1. Well sure; it’s your JOB right? But *my* point is that if they’re going to spend two weeks and an entire teaching unit on bullying, then why not expand that to hate crime, period?

      I certainly don’t think it’s a school’s responsibility to teach our kids how to be good humans. But they’ve taken on that role, whether you like it or not. And you might find you don’t like the morality your kids’ school is preaching. When you teach ‘don’t bully’ and then turn your back when hateful speech is used on the playground, you’re being inconsistent.

      And I don’t know that I believe that the reason sexuality is not taught in school is because people think it’s a choice. I mean, I know some backwards people think it’s a choice, but I certainly don’t think the majority of people are that backwards and wrong.

      But it’s not about religion, not officially. Personally, I think religion should be taught in schools…NEEDS to be taught in schools. Kids deserve to know what’s going on in the world around them. I also don’t get why current events and politics aren’t taught (in lieu, perhaps, of the incorrect history my child learned last year), because these are all things that will help to shape a young mind. I know that’s not what you meant. I know you’re incensed that someone should mention Christmas or Easter in a public school. But that’s where I’m going – children deserve to learn about religion. How else can they make an informed choice about…

      …oh wait. That’s the root of my problem. Is the education system teaching our children to make informed decisions?

      1. But you CAN’T teach religion in schools unless you are consistent and teach about ALL religions and not in a way that makes you believe that religion is NECESSARY to life. I have no problem with an unbiased teaching to my children that there is this thing called religion and some people believe in their religions and that this is the general message. But when religion is taught in schools it is usually taught in a way that makes one religion stand out as the right way and that religion is the way to go. It is taught in a way that makes the children who aren’t brought up in that religion terrified that they and their parents are going to hell or some reasonable hand-drawn facsimile thereof. I have actually SEEN this happen.

        I’m also pretty sure that a jewish or muslim or buddhist or wiccan or taoist or otherwise person doesn’t want their children learning a christian biased course on religion in this country. The only thing that I really think that children need to know about religion outside of what is taught in their home is that there are a variety of them out there and they all say the same damn thing, yet human beings use it as an excuse to kill one another.

        I am not incensed that someone should mention Christmas or Easter in a public school. I am incensed that the school makes big productions out of Christmas and Easter while completely ignoring other sacred religious days. When the school makes a big deal out of a Muslim religious holiday in school, then we are talking.

        Even my university religious studies 110 course was biased. We got through HUGE sections on Christianity and Judaism and then hardly touched on anything else. I am horrified that I actually paid for that.

        Bottom line, I would really like to see the school get out of the half-assed “social integration” business and stop teaching to the lowest common denominator. I would like to see children getting an *actual* education rather than a diploma that holds as much water as one pulled out of a cracker-jack box. Seriously! My son was told that he could *draw* significant scenes from a book rather than writing a book report!

        Look, I was bullied. Severely. Nothing was done to help me. We need to stop coddling our children and allow them to experience real life and give them an education that they can be proud of and that prepares them for post-secondary conditions. And if we keep guns out of our homes, then maybe children won’t shoot each other and learn other techniques of coping.

        1. But you CAN’T teach religion in schools unless you are consistent and teach about ALL religions and not in a way that makes you believe that religion is NECESSARY to life.

          So you’re saying that’s impossible? I disagree wholeheartedly. I think you can and you should.

          And I never. NEVER ONCE said anything about any one religion. I never ONCE said anything about Christian-based learning. Not once. You brought that to the table. In the religious studies courses I took, it was absolutely NOT a ‘Christian-based course on religion’; not even the one that was taught by a Jesuit. I said our children should learn about religion in school. And, for the record, most of the religious people I know would welcome the opportunity for their children to learn about other religions. Because they’re good, well-rounded people.

          Uh. And taking rifles away from hunters won’t stop bullying.

          1. I actually said you can’t UNLESS *insert caveat from previous comment here*. Not you just plain CAN’T. I would most definitely welcome a well rounded course on religion but there just AREN’T any to be had. We are human and our biases are injected into everything.

            I’m not saying take rifles away from hunters. I’m saying take them out of homes where troubled people have immediate access to them.

            And yes, I did bring religion to the table because that is in large part why people don’t want to address homosexuality or even sexuality in general in school. Although you and I would never do that, once the school starts teaching homosexual slurs as hate speech in school there is going to be some wingnut out there (or several) making a lot of noise about *spreading homosexuality* or some such nonsense.

            Schools can only do so much when there are parents out there who need to be assholes. We have taken our jobs and given them to teachers and as a result, real education of our children is suffering. Again, there were no rules about bullys when I was in school. I was severely bullied. I made it through. Real life sucks. Some of us make it and some of us don’t. We need to stop coddling our children.

            1. So the way to teach kids that homophobia is wrong is to give in to the fear that if we teach our kids about sexuality and gender identity and homophobia, their fanatical parents (who are all religious wing-nuts) will get upset?

              I can’t agree with that.

              1. I think that the issue here is that we need to inform our kids without brainwashing them. This involves teaching them in a non-condescending and respectful way. Sadly educators seem unable to do this, and the second that any one thing is mentioned that excites the “wing-nuts” they get in their wing-nut-mobiles and march on the school.

                The other issue is one of perspective, namely ours here speaking of this topic. For the very people we describe as “wing-nuts” would consider us to be the same. “Godless freaks intent on ruining Christmas for everyone” or some such. We mock from our ivory towers while the “simple folk” pray in their temples. Also there are some progressive and smart religious people out there too, I just don’t happen to agree with them on all things. But when it comes to our kids, rationality is often the last thing on our minds. We get protective and crazy (I know I do). So expecting a person who sports a “God is my co-pilot” bumper sticker to not over-react to a school teaching little Johnny about “Adam and Steve” is a bit of a reach.

                So as for why this 2 week course (which will likely only refine the bullying tactics utilized anyway) there is a very real reason why it, and only it, is happening:

                Bullying is a much more pressing target to address for the schools. Why? Because of the precedent being set where a school district that knowingly allows it to occur is liable in civil court for the damages it can produce. ie. a child bullied to the point of suicide rendering the school board liable in a wrongful death suit worth millions. Without the 2-week course a school could be accused of not doing it’s part in prevention.

                It’s really all about money, always is, always will be.

                1. Kay, well, God *is* my co-pilot, and I am the one asking for sexuality and gender orientation education. I am the one asking for anti-hate education.

                  I’m not “simple folk”, and I pray in temples….and I don’t get all freaked out at the thought of Adam and Steve sharing my back bedroom, or even of one of my kids ‘coming up gay’. I’m just…it really picks my arse when all we do is blame religion and people who choose to believe in God for this kind of shit. Because I don’t believe that’s the issue. I think it’s because people in general (regardless of their spiritual beliefs) never got that education themselves.

                  So sure, I’ll agree that it’s about the money. But I’m not going to sit here and agree with people who are trying to say that the reason my kids don’t learn about hate crime and anti-homophobia in their anti-bullying course is because of religion. That’s too easy, it’s disingenuous, and it’s a little insulting, not only to Yours Truly.

      2. Although we do not subscribe to a particular organized religion in our household, and I’m pretty sure we’d describe ourselves as agnostics, I whole-heartedly agree with ceno. Religion SHOULD be taught in schools. But here is my one caveat, and it’s really about HOW it’s taught.

        If you are trying to force one particular religion down my childs throat, saying, ‘it’s the only way and if you don’t believe, you’ll go to hell’, then I don’t want you teaching my children religion, in fact, I probably don’t want you teaching my child anything with that attitude. On the other hand, if you are presenting the array of religious beliefs that currently exist/used to exist, and are presenting them as history and/or how they impact(and are part of) society, the YES, teach away.

        Like ceno said, this is how they will be able to make an informed decision. Just because I’m not a practicing ‘whatever’ doesn’t mean my children shouldn’t have the knowledge and know how to make there own decisions about how religion will play a role in their future lives. If I deny them that choice, what kind of parent would that make me?

  2. I agree very much with this sentiment, although my experience with queer theory would point to a different definition of sex and gender:

    sex: not just the act but the biological state i.e. two X chromosomes = female, XY – male.

    gender: the male/female identity, which may or may not be the same as a person’s sex.

    For example, a person could be of the male sex (have male body parts) but be of female gender. I consider myself to be bio-female (that is my sex) but don’t feel that my gender is either male or female.

    I offer these definitions in the spirit of people better understanding each other when it comes to sex and gender issues.

  3. “Kids are going to be bullied. It’s part of growing up and it’s part of being an adult. I know plenty of bullies over the age of 20. They don’t just go away because we had a frank discussion about bullying.”

    Talking about bullying in school isn’t about making the problem go away. It’s about letting kids know that the authorities consider bullying wrong, that they should stand up for themselves, and that they don’t have to do it alone. It DEFINITELY is something that needs to be practically addressed in schools, not for education’s sake, but for the sake of practically dealing with it.

    And this needs to go double for hate speech, including insults using gender-identity. Will this stop the use of those words by those who want to use them? Probably not (and, in fact, I hope not). But it will let kids know that they aren’t the ones “doing bad” in the eyes of the authorities when they oppose that kind of crap.

    1. You know, there is absolutely no difference that I can see in the whole ‘bullying’ arena in my kids’ school from what there was in my elementary school. None. Except that the teachers are advised not to deal with unreasonable situations and students because administration is afraid they’ll be dealt with by bureaucrats who are terrified of lawsuits and such from parents who can’t be bothered to spend time with their kids.

      The difference is the first bit, about the teachers and administration.

      My kid gets bullied. I got bullied. My grandchildren will be bullied. Talking about it hasn’t changed a goddamned thing. Not. A. Thing. When I was in school and was bullied, I had to figure it out for myself how to deal with it. My kid did everything the teachers and anti-bullying programs did and do you know what happened? Not a fucking thing. Not. A. Thing. The bullying got the same or stayed worse, and we didn’t find out about it until the end of the school year because he was too scared to tell us about it and the school didn’t tell us about it either.

      Because I think the only time you provide consequences for actions is when someone is already damaged, physically, mentally, and/or psychologically. Makes sense, right?

      So I don’t have a whole lot of respect for the psychobabble “I’m OK You’re OK” bullshit that anti-bullying programs that advocate talking about the problem and telling someone about it and all that BS. Know what’s good? The book that came out last spring about bullying. It’s a book full of kids talking about their experiences, but there’s nothing there about someone trying to fix it.

      Because it can’t be fixed And I don’t even know that talking about it makes much of a difference. It doesn’t appear to have ameliorated anything. My kid still suffered alone, in spite of doing everything he was told to do – he told teachers, supervisors, other students, and, finally, at the very end of the year, his parents.

      He won’t get away from the bully, who we saw at the park the other day. I asked the kid whose class he was in and when he told me it was the same as my boy’s, I looked the kid right in the eye and said, “Good. Then there won’t be any of the silly bully business you two had two years ago, will there?”

      And he got really red. And I said, “because believe me, it *will* end as fast as it starts. I know you guys can get along. You both just need confidence.”

      But my boy is worried nonetheless. There will most likely be bloodshed this year, once the testosterone kicks in.

      1. “Kids are going to be bullied. It’s part of growing up and it’s part of being an adult. I know plenty of bullies over the age of 20. They don’t just go away because we had a frank discussion about bullying.”

        BULLYING is NOT a part of growing up. EVER.EVER. One of the main reasons that the bullying continues is because Saskatchewan does not have a policy on how to deal with bullies. Each school is left to their own devices and for the most part that means nothing as there is no policy or system to support it. PARENTS of children need to stand up to the board and DEMAND change. Especially those parents that have children that have been victimized. Nobody should be scared to go to school. EVER. There are other provinces that have been effective at implementing policy and affecting change.
        As long as tax-payers believe: “Kids are going to be bullied. It’s part of growing up and it’s part of being an adult. I know plenty of bullies over the age of 20. They don’t just go away because we had a frank discussion about bullying.”

        It probably won’t go away.

        1. Well that’s a self-fulfilling argument.
          And I don’t know that I believe that policy will change behaviour in children. I don’t know that I believe that more rules will make any difference. I have family and friends in other provinces and states where anti-bullying policies and rules have been implemented and their comments to me have been along the lines of ‘the bullying still happens. On the way to school. On the weekends. In the summer. When no one’s looking. It still happens.” Some people behave like arse-hats, and I do think it’s normal animal behaviour to have a pecking order.

          When we do away with kids getting the crap beaten out of them at school (which is a long way off), and when we get away from kids being bitches to each other (which will never happen), and when we get away from kids playing mind games (I can’t even IMAGINE that) with each other, I’ll be surprised.

          Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t try. Quite the opposite. But I think the idea that we can get rid of bullying by talking about it and by bringing in more rules is ridiculous

          We already HAVE rules against bullying. It’s called assault. I’ve never understood why parents of children who’ve been assaulted never charge the other kid with assault.

  4. They might learn that it’s naughty or wrong to think about or to mention any kind of religious belief. They might learn that people who express their religious beliefs are weird and untrustworthy.

    Who’s been teaching that? This is news to me. I’ve heard of, and met, several evangelistic teachers, but never heard of teachers who taught religious terms were naughty words that should not be spoken, or that religious folk are weird or untrustworthy. What’s the story behind this?

    While there isn’t a rainbow shirt day, there is a Day of Pink http://www.dayofpink.org/ that students in Regina have participated in, at least once.

    Has anyone written any elementary-age books about sexual orientation? There are several books about for that age about how parents might be of different or similar genders, and I’d be surprised if some of those books *aren’t* in every elementary school library– but has anyone written a book, with children as the intended audience, that suggests children might have sexual orientations, or sexual identities?

    It would be lovely, though, if curricula included more about, well, every subject you mentioned. Oh, and critical thinking. And if we funded schools so that the classes could be smaller, that those who need help can get it, that teachers had the resources they needed to teach different subjects, and that these were priorities for those distributing what funding there might be. That would be grand.

    1. Point by point:
      1) Yes, while not outright saying “religious words and terms and people are naughty and evil or weird and untrustworthy”, there is certainly an atmosphere at many schools wherein the students walk away with the idea that religion and/or *expressing* your religious beliefs is dangerous, naughty, wrong, or the ubiquitous “different”. There are parents who do tell teachers and schools outright that they do not want their children exposed to any kind of religious teaching, including information *about* religion. Any religion. That, in my opinion, sends religion very close to a social taboo. We vehemently want to separate church and state, which is a Good Thing, but in doing so, we often forget about freedom of religion.

      2) Yes. There are elementary books about sexual orientation and gender identity. Sometimes they are present in school libraries. But having a book in a library is not the same as teaching a unit on sexuality and gender identity.

      3) If we funded schools like that, the conservatives would demand private schools so that they could choose where to spend their tax dollars, blah-blah-blah. But yes. That is a pipe dream.

      **feeling chippy today.

      1. Going with your numbering:

        1) Things have really changed since I went to school, then. I remember learning Christian praise songs in class, at least up to grade 4. I don’t believe we have separation of church and state in this country, neither officially nor effectively, though I agree it would be a good thing.

        I hadn’t realized that individual expression of religion was being in any way quashed in schools. I’d expect to see that sort of thing in the news when the vocal majority of religious parents got upset at this attack on their children’s rights.

        2) True, it’s less than a class or unit, but it is more than no resources.

        3) But such a lovely pipe dream, where tax dollars got spent to improve lives.

        Is chippy good?

  5. I went to a Catholic school.

    Sexuality was taught and was taught well, fairly and reasonable. With Catholic dogma thrown in. BUT, if one was aware of what was dogma, and what wasn’t, and admittedly I doubt some people knew the difference. How and what they taught with regard to sexuality was really quite enlightening and unbiased.

    Now, this was not taught until grade 9 or higher. And although sexuality was taught very little about sex was taught. That being said I would suggest that sexuality was more important.

    One of the good things about going to a Catholic school is that you do get to talk about religion and sexuality. Those people who were able recognize the doctrine were able to take a lot out of what was taught. Others just got indoctrinated

    The problem with public schools, is that they are so afraid of indoctrinating people that they fail to teach some worthwhile subjects or topics.

  6. I too went to Catholic school and took religion classes, which covered everything from Catholicism to Witchcraft, in varying levels of detail. Of course, much of it was slanted towards the Church but still, they did teach things other than just Catholic dogma. I stopped taking Religion classes in grade 9, it was just decided that since I was not being raised Catholic, I could be spending that time taking another class. I think I took Drama or Art, both of which were far more fun and useful than Religion class.

    We had a Health class in grade 8 that taught about sex and sexuality, reproduction and all that. Of course, this was 20+ years ago so there was no classes or anything about bullying or any of that stuff. Back then, no one talked about it. It wasn’t avoided or ignored if it was happening, but it sure wasn’t this HUGE issue.

  7. According to my gender studies classes, gender can also have absolutely nothing to do with the make and model of your chromosomes.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
%d bloggers like this: