Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Activists. Crusaders. It won't surprise you that everyone in my family has a cause. Right now my main focus is on #save2ndchance. Today I want to highlight the rest of my family.

Older daughter @hocohousehon helps keep the focus on issues surrounding mental illness and health care. (Although I would be remiss if I didn't put in a plug for her post last night which responds to the Baltimore Sun's despicable editorial about Columbia.)

My husband continues to work on creating music programs to reach #theother80, that is, the 80 percent of students in our schools who are not music performance driven, yet who still can benefit from music education.

Seventh-grader Margo has explored a variety of causes through the years. Disability awareness, the need for adequate recess time in schools, and the importance of arts education are a few of them. This year she has taken on new cause which has been educational to the whole family.

At one time it would have been called simply "Gay Rights", then evolved to LGBT Rights. But Margo corrects me to say "LGBTQ". And so I learn a little more. As she has grown up she has come to realize how many people in our lives, through family, our church, friends in the arts community, are affected by how our culture rejects or marginalizes them.

In October she went to the GT Resource Teacher at her school to suggest that the student-run television news feature information each day pertaining to LGBT History Month. Although the teacher was kind, her idea was rejected because the Howard County Schools official policy forbids discussion of this material at the Middle School level without prior parental consent. She was livid.

Through the ages so many groups have been excluded from or marginalized by the educational system. Racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, the cognitively and physically disabled. Don't forget that it wasn't all that long ago that being left-handed was considered a disability or worse. We have come so far, haven't we?

This morning as she got ready for school, she talked about a book she liked. "I can't review it for school though, because it has LGBT characters. You know," she finished, simply.

Yes. I do know. Middle school students who are growing into a fuller awareness of themselves can examine race, ethnicity, religion, disability and even left-handedness, I suppose, but something as basic as the gender identity they were born with may not be discussed. Who can possibly benefit from this?

This is a great disservice to our students. Gender identity is so central to who we are. It is not something that will be mailed to us in an envelope like a college acceptance letter, at a time when other people feel it would be appropriate. And, although much progress has been made, LGBT persons continue to experience marginalization and outright discrimination within our culture.

Learning more about who you are. Learning that you are not alone. Learning about others who are like you. And for the cisgendered (another new word for me) learning that everyone is acceptable and should be respected. Middle School is not too early to be learning this.

How will our students become college and career-ready when they need a permission slip merely to learn about who they are?


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