Monday, February 1, 2016

The Kids Are Alright

It's just a banner week in the land of World Class Education, folks.

  • Hate speech broadcast by a Mount Hebron student.
  • Graduates of Wilde Lake and Hammond arrested in connection with a murder case.

These are individual and unrelated incidents. There are many ways in which they should not be lumped together, but they come at as almost as a single event. They tell us nothing about any kind of trend. But still, we think.

We feel a sense of overwhelming dread. What is wrong with our community that we are raising children like this? And so it is absolutely normal to want to look around and draw some reassurance from the young people in our community of whom we are justly proud.

I'm proud of students at Mount Hebron High School who are planning a peaceful protest within their school community. They are standing together against racism, rightly affirming that it has no place in a learning community. There's quite a bit of pressure against them to back down and not "make a fuss." Their goal is to bear witness to what happened, look at it, discuss it, listen to one another, learn from one another.

I salute them.

And another thing. Saturday night I helped to chaperone a teen party held at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. It was quite the reaffirming experience for me, seeing teens from all over Howard County getting to relax, hang out, be themselves. There were some jeans, some party dresses, some leather jackets, some glittery shoes, some headbands with cat ears.

As you might imagine, the party was a mix of music, snacks and drinks, augmented by a light-up disco ball and bubble machine. The biggest problem of the evening was encouraging the shy people who were hanging out around the edges to take a risk and join in. The most outlandish behavior? Well, that would be a toss-up between the kid who took all the leftover solo cups and made them into an enormous arch and walked around the room with them, and the kids who figured out they could do a little helium singing while we were cleaning up and popping balloons.

All in all, a pretty great experience for one of the first LGTBQ and Allies teen events in Howard County. Planned by teens, run by teens. Made possible through teen fundraising. Publicized by teens on social media. Great kids.

I salute them, too.

When I say, "we need to sit with" the issues that are troubling us right now, I don't mean to negate the beautiful young people we have in our midst. I just ask that, in our rush to "put this behind us" or "get back to normal" we don't refuse to look beyond the comfortable and examine what is making us so deeply uncomfortable. We need to do that, not just for our own good, but for the good of our kids.

They need us to be that brave. Let's not let them down.


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