Friday, May 22, 2015
Parents furious over school’s plan to teach gender spectrum, fluidity
One of the nation’s largest public school systems is preparing to include gender identity to its classroom curriculum, including lessons on sexual fluidity and spectrum – the idea that there’s no such thing as 100 percent boys or 100 percent girls.
Fairfax County Public Schools released a report recommending changes to their family life curriculum for grades 7 through 12. The changes, which critics call radical gender ideology, will be formally introduced next week.
“The larger picture is this is really an attack on nature itself – the created order,” said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.
“Human beings are created male and female. But the current transgender ideology goes way beyond that. They’re telling us you can be both genders, you can be no gender, you can be a gender that you make up for yourself. And we’re supposed to affirm all of it.”
The plan calls for teaching seventh graders about transgenderism and tenth graders about the concept that sexuality is a broader spectrum --- but it sure smells like unadulterated sex indoctrination.
Get a load of what the kids are going to be learning in middle school:
“Students will be provided definitions for sexual orientation terms heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality; and the gender identity term transgender,” the district’s recommendations state. “Emphasis will be placed on recognizing that everyone is experiencing changes and the role of respectful, inclusive language in promoting an environment free of bias and discrimination.”
Eighth graders will be taught that individual identity “occurs over a lifetime and includes the component of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Individual identity will also be described as having four parts – biological gender, gender identity (includes transgender), gender role, and sexual orientation (includes heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual).”
The district will also introduce young teenagers to the “concept that sexuality is a broader spectrum.” By tenth grade, they will be taught that one’s sexuality “develops throughout a lifetime.”
“Emphasis will be placed on an understanding that there is a broader, boundless, and fluid spectrum of sexuality that is developed throughout a lifetime,” the document states. “Sexual orientation and gender identity terms will be discussed with focus on appreciation for individual differences.”
As you might imagine – parents are freaking out.
“Parents need to protect their kids from this assault,” said Andrea Lafferty, president of Traditional Values Coalition. “Who could imagine that we are in this place today – but we are.”
Last week, the school board voted to include gender identity in the district’s nondiscrimination policy – a decision that was strongly opposed by parents.
Lafferty, who led the opposition to the nondiscrimination policy, warned that the district is moving towards the deconstruction of gender.
“At the end of this is the deconstruction of gender - absolutely,” she told me. “The majority of people pushing (this) are not saying that – but that clearly is the motivation.”
School Board spokesman John Torre told the Washington Times the proposed curriculum changes have nothing to do with last week’s vote to allow boys who identity as girls to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
He would have us believe it was purely coincidental.
To make matters worse, Lafferty contends parents will not be able to opt their children out of the classes because the lessons will be a part of the mandatory health curriculum.
However, Torre told me that parents will indeed be able to opt out of those classes “including the sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.”
I must confess that I’m a bit old school on sex education. I believe that God created male and female. My reading of the Bible does not indicate there were dozens of other options.
“They are not being forthright with the information,” Lafferty said. “They are not telling people the truth. They are bullying parents. They are intimidating and they are threatening.”
I must confess that I’m a bit old school on sex education. I believe that God created male and female. My reading of the Bible does not indicate there were dozens of other options.
However, I’m always open to learning new things – so I asked the school district to provide me with the textbooks and scientific data they will be using to instruct the children that there are dozens and dozens of possible genders.
Here’s the reply I received from Torre:
“Lessons have not been developed for the proposed lesson objectives,” he stated. “Because of the need to develop lessons, the proposed objectives would not be implemented until fall 2016.”
In other words – they don’t have a clue.
And the Family Research Council’s Sprigg said there’s a pretty good reason why they can’t produce a textbook about fluidity.
“It’s an ideological concept,” he told me. “It’s not a scientific one.”
He warned that Fairfax County’s planned curriculum could be harmful to students.
“It’s only going to create more confusion in the minds of young people who don’t need any further confusion about sexual identity,” he said.
The board will introduce the changes on May 21. Lafferty said she hopes parents will turn out in force to voice their objections.
Columbia students claim Greek mythology needs a trigger warning
“Not far from the walls of Enna, there is a deep pool,” begins Ovid’s version of the rape of Persephone. “While [Persephone] was playing in this glade, and gathering violets or radiant lilies, while with girlish fondness she filled the folds of her gown, and her basket, trying to outdo her companions in her picking, [Pluto], almost in a moment, saw her, prized her, took her: so swift as this, is love.”
The Greek myth has been recounted for thousands of years in hundreds of languages, scores of countries and countless works of art. It’s considered a cultural touchstone for Western civilization: a parable about power, lust and grief.
Now, however, it could be getting a treatment it’s never had before: a trigger warning.
In an op-ed in the student newspaper, four Columbia University undergrads have called on the school to implement trigger warnings — alerts about potentially distressing material — even for classics like Greek mythology or Roman poetry.
“Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom,” wrote the four students, who are members of Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. “These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.”
The April 30 op-ed has stirred debate on campus and online.
“Grow up, open up, care less about your identity and more about your passions,” wrote one of hundreds of commenters. “Such an insufferable breed of self-centered Care Bears.”
The op-ed comes at a time of intense debate about trigger warnings, a term that is 20 years old but only recently has become a proxy for broader issues such as political correctness, identity politics, liberal arts education and sexual assault.
The phrase can be traced back to the treatment of Vietnam War veterans in the 1980s, according to BuzzFeed’s Alison Vingiano. Psychologists started identifying “triggers” that sent vets spiraling into flashbacks of past traumas. With the rise of the Internet in the late ’90s, feminist message boards began using “trigger warnings” to warn readers of content that could stir up painful or paralyzing memories of sexual assault.
Trigger warnings quickly spread to include discussions of everything from eating disorders to self injury to suicide. In 2010, sex blogger Susannah Breslin wrote that feminists were using the term “like a Southern cook applies Pam cooking spray to an overused nonstick frying pan.” Breslin argued that trigger warnings were pointless or, even worse, self-defeating. A trigger warning is “like a flashing neon sign, attracting *more* attention to a particularly explicit post, even as it purports to deflect the attention of those to whom it might actually be relevant.”
By 2012, The Awl’s Choire Sicha argued that the phrase had “lost all its meaning.”
“Alerts have been applied to topics as diverse as sex, pregnancy, addiction, bullying, suicide, sizeism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, slut shaming, victim-blaming, alcohol, blood, insects, small holes, and animals in wigs,” Jenny Jarvie wrote last year in the New Republic. “Certain people, from rapper Chris Brown to sex columnist Dan Savage, have been dubbed ‘triggering.’ Some have called for trigger warnings for television shows such as ‘Scandal’ and ‘Downton Abbey.'”
But the Internet debate over trigger warnings is nothing compared to the controversy over their use on American university campuses. Last year, students at the University of California at Santa Barbara passed a resolution asking professors to put trigger warnings on class syllabuses and allow students to skip classes containing “content that may trigger the onset of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“Oberlin College has published an official document on triggers, advising faculty members to ‘be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,’ to remove triggering material when it doesn’t ‘directly’ contribute to learning goals and ‘strongly consider’ developing a policy to make ‘triggering material’ optional,” Jarvie wrote. “Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart,’ it states, is a novel that may ‘trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.’ Warnings have been proposed even for books long considered suitable material for high-schoolers: Last month, a Rutgers University sophomore suggested that an alert for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby say, ‘TW: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence.'”
Critics on both the left and the right have expressed concern that these trigger warnings are impinging upon free speech and undermining the meaning of a liberal arts education, where students from all walks of life are exposed to new and often disturbing ideas.
“What began as a way of moderating Internet forums for the vulnerable and mentally ill now threatens to define public discussion both online and off,” Jarvie wrote. “The trigger warning signals not only the growing precautionary approach to words and ideas in the university, but a wider cultural hypersensitivity to harm and a paranoia about giving offense.”
“In reality, trigger warnings are unrealistic,” argued Breslin, the sex blogger. “They are the dream-child of a fantasy in which the unknown can be labeled, anticipated, and controlled. What trigger warnings promise — protection — does not exist. The world is simply too chaotic, too out-of-control for every trigger to be anticipated, avoided, and defused.”
“Hypersensitivity to the trauma allegedly inflicted by listening to controversial ideas approaches a strange form of derangement — a disorder whose lethal spread in academia grows by the day,” Harvey Silverglate opined in the Wall Street Journal. “What should be the object of derision, a focus for satire, is instead the subject of serious faux academic discussion and precautionary warnings. For this disorder there is no effective quarantine. A whole generation of students soon will have imbibed the warped notions of justice and entitlement now handed down as dogma in the universities.”
And yet, it’s no coincidence that trigger warnings have arisen just as sexual assault finally becomes part of the national conversation. As Katie J.M. Baker pointed out in a recent BuzzFeed article, discussing rape and sexual assault simply is different than discussing other societal ills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women in America have been raped. “As far as brutal crimes go, there won’t be any murder victims sitting in class, but statistically, there will likely be survivors of sexual assault,” Baker wrote.
“Of course I understand the import of studying rape in law school,” one Harvard Law graduate told Baker. “That I expect rape to be taught with the understanding that 1 in 5 women are assaulted while in college, and therefore there are very likely survivors sharing the law school classroom does not mean I am afraid. It means I care.”
In their op-ed, the Columbia undergrads — all women of color — recount the story of another female student.
“During the week spent on Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault,” they write. “As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.”
The students then call on Columbia to “issue a letter to faculty about potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students” and institute “a mechanism for students to communicate their concerns to professors anonymously, as well as a mediation mechanism for students who have identity-based disagreements with professors.”
“Finally, the center should create a training program for all professors, including faculty and graduate instructors, which will enable them to constructively facilitate conversations that embrace all identities, share best practices, and think critically about how the Core Curriculum is framed for their students,” the students write.
Conservative critics claim that the Columbia students want to silence class discussion of certain texts.
“The hyperbolic language of trauma that’s used! Sheesh,” wrote Elizabeth Nolan Brown in Reason. “Apparently this discussion of Ovid was so threatening it was a matter of self-preservation to ignore it. If that’s really true — if the mere discussion of rape causes this student to feel panicked and physically unsafe — than she needs help treating severe post-traumatic stress disorder, not a f—— trigger warning.”
“Op-eds like this are a call for academic vandalism, defacing culture and history with the ugly graffiti of modern class, race, and sex-war politics,” John Hayward wrote in a Breitbart blog titled “Campus special snowflakes melt upon contact with Greek mythology.”
In the case of the Columbia students, however, they say they want more discussion, not less. A trigger warning on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” might help a student who has suffered sexual assault stay engaged by offering her a chance to discuss the brutality in the text — not just its beauty.
“Our vision for this training is not to infringe upon the instructors’ academic freedom in teaching the material,” the students conclude. “Rather, it is a means of providing them with effective strategies to engage with potential conflicts and confrontations in the classroom, whether they are between students or in response to the material itself. Given these tools, professors will be able to aid in the inclusion of student voices which presently feel silenced.”
UK: Even private schools crushed under exam requirements
Sir Anthony Seldon, who is due to step down as master of fee-paying Wellington College this summer, said the “crushing burden” inspections and league tables put so much pressure on schools it means they end up lacking diversity and innovation.
However, the Independent Schools Council disagreed with his view and said parents actually choose public schools because of the “holistic and broad education on offer”.
Ahead of his last speech at the school on Saturday, Mr Seldon said: “The biodiversity of our independent school sector is now under real threat. Private schools, in their hunt for exam-focused parents from Britain and abroad, have narrowed the range of their educational opportunities and have become overly focused on exams and league table performance to the exclusion of much else.
He cited as evidence prep schools and their obsession with getting their students into the top senior schools, and equally senior schools’ obsession with rankings and in turn getting their pupils to high-achieving universities.
He added: “Universities equally have allowed exams to become overly dominant to the detriment of all-round education and intellectual development of their students.” “Very few have been able to resist this pressure.
He said: “The crushing burdens of state requirements, league tables and inspection regimes, have squeezed the lifeblood and originality out of much of the sector. One independent school now looks much like another for all the attempts to portray themselves as different.
“Parents are being denied real choice in provision, and we lack the force, individually and collectively, to challenge the monolithic state regime in education.”
Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the ISC, disagreed with Mr Seldon’s assessment of the private school sector.
Mr Lenon said: “There is no evidence for most of Anthony Seldon’s claims. There is huge diversity and innovation happening across the UK independent sector. Our exam results are excellent but research shows parents choose our schools mainly because of the holistic and broad education on offer.
“It is not the case that independent schools are chasing league table positions - most now offer iGCSEs which have the effect of excluding them from the DfE league tables and many of the highest achieving independent schools refuse to release their exam results to the press.
“Nor is it the case that independent schools are becoming less diverse: we offer alternatives to A-levels such as IB and Pre-U qualifications. Many of our schools have a specific specialism, such as the cathedral choir schools, music, dance or special needs schools. Our very independence from Government control means our schools provide the bespoke education that local parents are seeking for their children.”
Posted by jonjayray at 12:50 AM