Tag Archives: high school

Parents Are Freaking Out Over This Textbook’s Sex Advice

Parents Are Freaking Out Over This Textbook’s Sex Advice

“…Becky Bruno, another parent, planned to sign the petition to ban the book, but then stopped herself after she actually read the book. “I was expecting to see explicit pictures, expecting controversial information, and I didn’t find that in the book,” she told the Mercury News. “Yes, there is a section on sexual health, but the pictures are drawings of anatomy and would be the same thing they were exposed to in elementary and middle school. I didn’t see anything that would be categorized as pornography, and that’s what some of the parents are saying.”..”

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For-profit education and educational systems have just gotten out of hand.

 

I was recently notified that I was under breach of contract for attempting to sell my #LSAT Prep books from a #TestMasters course that I took three years ago (THREE YEARS AGO!). Not only did they forbid the sale of the books, but they are demanding that I return the books to them at my own expense. Not only can I not get a measly $300 back from the $1000 that I originally spent on the course, but I now have to PAY to return the books. The company is so concerned with profit, NOT EDUCATION, that they tracked me down through craigslist, sent me a false inquiry about buying the books, and then both CALLED and EMAILED me to notify me that I was in breach of contract and demanded that I pay to return the materials. THANKS FOR NOTHING.

Not only was I naive for thinking that studying to go to law school would be a good idea, but I was naive for thinking that standardized testing was a good way to gauge my competencies and for buying into the idea that I had to take a prep course in order to excel at said standardized testing. FOR-PROFIT EDUCATION IS NOT THE ANSWER. KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE FREELY AVAILABLE TO ALL THOSE WHO SEEK IT.

I’m not even allowed to simply donate or destroy the books, because they are the “property” of the company. Any “use” of the books other than as specified by the company (a.k.a. donating them to a school in need) would be considered breach of contract. Typical copyright provisions allow for use of the materials for “educational purposes,” but not for TestMasters. They’re not concerned with education, their purpose is PROFIT. How can we make the most money off of students who want to pursue further education and better themselves?

Don’t buy into the lies that perpetuate for-profit education and related systems. If all high school students would stand up and refuse to pay millions and millions of dollars into SAT- & ACT-prep courses and books, if all college students would stand up and refuse to pay millions and millions into text books and GRE-, LSAT-, and MCAT-prep courses and books, if we all realized that making money off of knowledge is the most corrupt form of capitalism, we would see massive change and widespread enlightenment.

It’s the same concept that the FCC is struggling with: is the internet a public utility? Is the spread of information and knowledge a fundamental human right? I say it is. Only then can we progress as a society, as a culture, as a species.

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How I Became an Unfair Teacher

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

I was invited to my first high school reunion this past December and I also recently received my first request for donations from the school’s alumni association (as if I have the money for that, ha!). These two events started the process in my head of sloughing through my massive memory bank of those years in my life, and I’ve come up with two conclusions so far: it was awesome, but it also sucked beyond belief. While I had a great social life, was involved in activities that continue to hold my interest to this day, and had some truly inspiring teachers along the way, I also had my fair share of rotten experiences.

I was always an advocate against ageism from a very early age, even before I knew what it was. My parents raised me more or less as an adult: I was allowed to drink alcohol at family dinners, I was socialized early on with “adults” and could hold my own in “grown-up” conversations, I was allowed to fashion myself with clothes and crazy hair colors, and my parents backed me up whenever I got in “trouble” at school. This “trouble” was often a result of my rebellions against the established pecking order of “teachers/administrators know best.”

This tendency to resist authority figures usually ended in two ways:

1. They would give up and let me do what I want (which resulted in stuff like “science fair” projects on which brand of nail polish was more durable and how different heights of high heels affected walking rates)

Or,
2. They would cite an arbitrary rule that I was violating and punish me (one memorable instance being a ban in 6th grade on wearing costumes to school on Halloween day; instead of wearing “costumes,” my friend and I dressed up as Goths (a valid fashion trend at the time) and were promptly assigned pumpkin-carving duty for the 3rd graders and banned from attending the “Fall Dance” (we continued to protest by dressing as Goths at school for the next two weeks))

I continued this push against authority figures throughout my high school career and thus many of my memories from that time are about how these teachers and administrators made me feel. In one instance, I remember arguing with my 7th grade science teacher about whether clockwise is left to right and counterclockwise is right to left, or whether it depended on where you start. I argued that if you start at the bottom of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you are going right to left. But if you start at the top of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you go left to right. He refused to accept what I said as valid and continued on with his lesson. I remember feeling irate and disrespected, to the point of having to scream into my sweatshirt to release the anger.

A more psychologically damaging instance involved my P.E. teacher in 10th grade. I remember him being a retired military general or something of the sort, and, as a P.E. teacher, he continued his relationship with the military by offering community service hours to military personnel in exchange for helping with his classes for a day. So one day, we arrive for P.E. and he tells us that we will be playing a game with active military members for our daily activity. Now, at this point in time, I was an active member of a school club called S.A.W. (Students Against War). We were in the middle of the Iraq War and I had been developing an increasing distaste for all things military. So, to make a point, I calmly told the teacher that I would not be participating in the activity that involved the military personnel. He sneered at me and walked away. When the class had gotten to the field, I walked over to the side and sat down.

I saw the P.E. teacher say something to the military personnel and point over to me, and within minutes one of them walked over to me to ask why I was not participating. I told her that I did not believe in the military (probably a bad choice of words on my part) and she immediately launched into a yelled (yes, yelled) lecture about how the military is not make-believe and that there are people (her friends!) who are dying out there. I told her that, yes, I understood that the military was not make-believe and that I simply had no desire to participate with them in the activity. She continued to scream at me for another five minutes, during which the group of students that had followed my protest and sat on the edge of the field with me decided that it wasn’t worth the fight and went to participate in the activity.

At some point, the screaming turned into a lecture about physical activity. She was accusing me of being against physical activity and P.E. in general when my teacher walked over and joined her in the verbal assault. They both continued to yell at me even after I offered to take part in another P.E. class for the day that didn’t involved military personnel. I just sat there, stunned by the sheer amount of volume and vitrol that was being thrown my way. Eventually they realized that they weren’t getting anywhere and granted my request to join a different P.E. class. So I walked over to another teacher, asked if I could join their class, and played baseball for the rest of the period.

That day after school, I went home and told my parents the entire story and they offered their support if/when I decided to take action. I tried to get various teachers to help back my complaint to the principal, but none offered assistance and the issue eventually faded into the background of my memories.

Another example that had lasting effects on both myself and my friendships at the time was my 12th grade English teacher. Her and I had had numerous arguments and tensions throughout the year, all stemming from the fact that she refused to take my opposing opinions as valid. My opinions were often creatively “outside the box,” such as a statement I made once about chemistry being an art. I had argued that the mixing of chemicals could be considered just as artful as the mixing of paint or words. She laughed at me.

The most notable example of her blatant disrespect, however, happened toward the end of the year, when we were both ready to get out of each others’ hair. We had been studying the book Hamlet, which was a personal favorite of hers (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she wrote her dissertation on it or something). The assignment that she had given us was to write a psychological evaluation of the character Hamlet, as revealed in his four soliloquies. She expressly instructed us to forget the rest of the play and just focus on the soliloquies. So I sat down one night and wrote out an evaluation in the voice of a stuck-up psychologist who insisted that “Sir Hamlet” was stuck in adolescence.

When we got to class, she instructed us to group into fours and read each others’ papers. We were then to choose the best one from the group and then read it to the class. My group chose my paper and, while I was reading it out loud, the teacher happened to be behind me. As I read, I kept noticing expressions of pain, disbelief, and confusion running over the faces of the others in my group so by the time I was done I knew I was in for something.

She immediately launched into an attack of my paper; first citing the use of “Sir Hamlet” and then the use of “adolescent.” I hadn’t known this at the time, but “Sir” could only be used by someone who is socially above the person they are calling sir. Hence, Sir Hamlet was inappropriate because a psychologist would not be socially above a prince. My response was that the psychologist was haughty and considered himself above Hamlet, which she laughed at and disregarded.

The use of “adolescent” was a much bigger issue. My paper implied that Hamlet was still an adolescent in age, since I had not clarified that his actions and mindset were adolescent. She basically told me that I was wrong, that the play lists Hamlet’s age, and implied that I hadn’t read the play at all. I left class more irate than I’d ever been at school and launched into a tirade once I met my friends for lunch.

It turns out the play did in fact list Hamlet’s age in a monologue near the end of the play, which I only found out after screaming at my best friend who knew her Shakespeare well (that years-long relationship unfortunately ended soon after that episode). I then realized, however, that Hamlet’s age was not mentioned in the four soliloquies that the teacher had expressly instructed us to use exclusively when writing our papers.

I went to talk to her a few days later during lunch and said, “you instructed us to only use the four soliloquies, yes?” And she said, yes, she did. But the fact that Hamlet’s age was never mentioned in the soliloquies and thus we could arguably apply artistic license when extrapolating for the paper did not faze her. She simply interrupted me and said, “you may leave now.”

I later learned from a friend that she was using my paper as an example to other classes of an ignorant student who hadn’t read the play and thinks that Hamlet is an adolescent in age. She threatened that she had a way to check the paper against internet databases for plagiarism. In other words, she didn’t accuse me of plagiarism to my face but instead used my paper as an example of plagiarism to other students.

I told my parents the story and again they offered their support, my dad having actually witnessed me writing the paper itself. So I went to my school guidance counselor the next day and told her what I knew. She said there wasn’t much we could do until the teacher formally accused me of plagiarism. So we waited.

Nothing happened and the day came when she passed back the graded papers to the class. The moment came when she laid the paper face down on my desk and I held my breath as I turned it over. “98” is all it said. A red-inked 98 at the top of my paper. No grammar corrections, no spelling mistakes, no suggestions for further edits. Just a big, red 98.

I was stunned. I couldn’t decide whether to be happy or upset. I mean, hey! A 98! But had I earned it? Was my paper worthy of that grade? I don’t think it was. What kind of weird, twisted, psychological punishment was this??

I was encouraged by friends to just accept it and move on, they even implied that I was ridiculous to keep picking fights with her in the first place. I did move on and graduate and all that, but the psychological impressions exist to this day. I’ve returned to those memories every now and then over the years, and I’ve been tempted to write to the teachers who had damaging effects on my psyche to let them know that it wasn’t just “teenage hormones” that drove me to rebel. And that my opposing thoughts and opinions during that time period deserved the same amount of respect and attention as their ideas and teachings. But would it be worth it?

Would they actually listen to what I say now when they didn’t listen then? Does a handful of years in the “real world” validate my opinions and thoughts in their eyes? I doubt it.

Ageism still plagues me to this day, although I now have a less explosive and irate response to it. I experience it in stores, in bars, in the work place, and elsewhere. It occurs especially in the work place and in particular when I am applying for jobs. For instance, every time I work my part-time job in a gift shop, the volunteers and other workers always assume that I’m a volunteer. They often don’t heed my instructions for various tasks until after they realize that I’m a paid employee.

I’m glad that the above article comes from the perspective of a teacher. They often don’t realize how much of a profound, long-lasting difference their words and actions can have on a student’s life. Because of teachers I now hate the play Hamlet, and am wary of gym teachers and military personnel. But I also love art, history, and Brahms. How did teachers affect your life?

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by | June 2, 2014 · 9:38 pm

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

By Valerie Strauss, Published: February 9 at 12:00 pm

“For more than a decade now we have heard that the high-stakes testing obsession in K-12 education that began with the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should because so much emphasis has been placed on passing standardized tests. Here, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired, Kenneth Bernstein, warns college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers, and he is nationally known as the blogger “teacherken.” His e-mail address is kber@earthlink.net. This appeared inAcademe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.

By Kenneth Bernstein

You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.

No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the U.S. Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.

Troubling Assessments

My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.

In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.

Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.

Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Indexcreated by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions. The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.

Let me use as an example my own AP course, U.S. Government and Politics. I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. In that capacity, I read the constructed responses that make up half of the score of a student’s examination. I saw several problems.

First (and I acknowledge that I bear some culpability here), in the AP U.S. Government exam the constructed responses are called “free response questions” and are graded by a rubric that is concerned primarily with content and, to a lesser degree, argument. If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. A student who takes time to construct a clear topic sentence and a proper conclusion gets no credit for those words. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support. Some critical thinkingmay be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.

My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit.

I would like to believe that I prepared them to think more critically and to present cogent arguments, but I could not simultaneously prepare them to do well on that portion of the test and teach them to write in a fashion that would properly serve them at higher levels of education.

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

The structure of testing has led to students arriving at our school without what previously would have been considered requisite background knowledge in social studies, but the problem is not limited to this field. Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects. In high-need schools, resources not directly related to testing are eliminated: at the time of the teachers’ strike last fall, 160 Chicago public schools had no libraries. Class sizes exceeded forty students—in elementary school.

A Teacher’s Plea

As a retired public school teacher, I believe I have a responsibility to offer a caution to college professors, or perhaps to make a plea.

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.

If you, as a higher education professional, are concerned about the quality of students arriving at your institution, you have a responsibility to step up and speak out. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.

You should have a further selfish motivation. Those who have imposed the mindless and destructive patterns of misuse of tests to drive policy in K–12 education are already moving to impose it on higher education, at least in the case of the departments and schools of education that prepare teachers: they want to “rate” those departments by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

If you, as someone who teaches in the liberal arts or engineering or business, think that this development does not concern you, think again. It is not just that schools and colleges of education are major sources of revenue for colleges and universities—they are in fact often cash cows, which is why so many institutions lobby to be able initially to certify teachers and then to offer the courses (and degrees) required for continuing certification. If strictures like these can be imposed on schools and colleges of education, the time will be short before similar kinds of measure are imposed on other schools, including liberal arts, engineering, business, and conceivably even professional schools like medicine and law. If you teach either in a medical school or in programs that offer courses required as part of the pre-med curriculum, do you want the fatality rates of patients treated by the doctors whom you have taught to be used to judge your performance? If you think that won’t happen because you work at a private institution, remember that it is the rare private university that does not receive some form of funding from governments, local to national. Research grants are one example; the scholarships and loans used by students to attend your institution are another.

Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people. Many of us tried. We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.”

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by | August 8, 2013 · 7:15 pm

How Casual Sex Became a Privilege of the Rich

Posted by  on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 10:17 AM

 

girls-jessa-marnie-1534916.jpg

 

“Privilege is everywhere. Privilege is the word of the day. And it’s just the accident of birth that leaves you on the right or the wrong side of privilege. And, really, whether it’s privilege related to class, race, economic status, gender, looks, or even intelligence, there is a right or a wrong side. If you don’t believe it, think to yourself about whether or not you’d feel afraid of walking home after going to buy some Skittles because you might be shot through the heart. That’s the world we live in right now, where the ability to walk in your own neighborhood without fearing assault is a privilege. And, you know, fuck that. Fuck that, but don’t deny what the reality is. There are people who are born into power, and there are people who have to fight for it, every step of the way.

But so, sex. This past weekend, the New York Times ran an article addressing the stunning new revelation that college girls like to have sex. Which, ha ha, New York Times. Pretty funny to publish aseven-page article on the topic of women’s bodies and sexuality which deals with, among other things, date rape and sexual violence and put it in the Fashion & Styles section. I guess everything having to do with women is just automatically shunted into Fashion? Cool. Good to know.

Within the scope of the article, however, was something that was far more notable than the young woman who sees sex as something with a concrete “cost-benefit” ratio or the fact that there is apparently a thing now called “difmo” or “dance floor make-out.” I guess what I’m trying to say is, alarming as the acronym “difmo” is (which, VERY alarming), there was actually an interesting element to the piece that isn’t even worth mocking. At one point in the article, which concerns the sexual proclivities of female undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania, author Kate Taylor, notes that “campuses are not sexual free-for-alls” and speaks with “Mercedes, a junior at Penn who is on financial aid.” Mercedes comes from a “mostly Latino public high school in California” where she says “it was the troubled and unmotivated students who drank and hooked up, while the honors students who wanted to go to college kept away from those things.” Now at Penn, Mercedes “was surprised to see her elite classmates drinking, but even more surprised by the casual making out.” Taylor further illuminates that “[Mercedes’s} unease was common among students from relatively modest backgrounds…women from wealthier backgrounds were much more likely to hook up, more interested in postponing adult responsibilities and warier of serious romantic commitment than their less-affluent classmates.”

So this is interesting, right? What reason does Taylor give for there being such a disparity between the wealthier students and those who are less economically privileged? Well, she doesn’t really give any. Instead she allows Mercedes to claim, “Nothing is stopping me from rebelling. I just didn’t rebel.” And then Taylor moves on. But wait. Not to take anything away from Mercedes and the choice she has made, but, well, it isn’t really much of a choice when you come from an economically disadvantaged background, is it? When Mercedes recalls that it was the “troubled” students at her high school who had the most sex and were frequent partiers, what she’s leaving unmentioned is that those students are seen as troubled because they very publicly pay the consequences of casual sex, namely, they get pregnant and don’t have the same types of options afforded to them that their wealthier, better connected peers do.

A pro-choice protestor at the Texas State legislature, wearing a tampon necklace.A pro-choice protestor at the Texas State legislature, wearing a tampon necklace.

 

One of the reasons that this particular article was immediately derided by most women that I know, is that, at first glance, it seems to be one of those terribly obvious Times trend pieces, like the one on how city families move to the suburbs, that isn’t really a “trend” at all, just a fact of life. Most women I know said something along the lines of: “Of course women like to have sex as much as men. What was the Times smoking when it green-lit this article?” But the issue isn’t whether or not women want sex as much as men, it’s whether or not they have the power to control the situation in the same way a man can. Which, let’s face it, that will never be the case. It will always be the man who has the power in a sexual relationship because it is only the woman who can get pregnant. It is no coincidence that women’s prominence in the workplace coincided with newfound accessibility to family planning, including both birth control pills and legalized abortion. Suddenly, women had control over the destiny of their own bodies, and a lot of the time, women chose to do exactly what men had always done, namely, enjoy their bodies—including through sex—without the burden of knowing that any wrong move could forever change the rest of their lives.

And so it would seem like the privilege of being a male, at least in the realm of certain kinds of sexual freedom, is a thing of the past. With abortion legalized and birth control readily available and—perhaps most importantly—a comprehensive sex education policy in schools to teach young women who might not already know exactly what their choices are, everyone can live happily ever after, right? Yeah, right. Except that many places in the US have abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, and places like Planned Parenthood which offer reasonably priced birth control are defunded, and access to safe abortions has become more and more difficult to find in places like Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina. Outrageous as all this is for every woman, the women who it will impact the most, obviously, are the women who don’t have the funds to travel the extra distance to get an abortion, and who don’t have health insurance that will pay for contraception. These are the women that Mercedes is familiar with, and that’s why she associates sexual freedom with a dead-end life. Mercedes doesn’t get to enjoy the privileges that her wealthier classmates do. If they have unprotected sex, they can pay fifty bucks for Plan B without even blinking an eye. For someone without the money, one night of fun could easily lead to a lifetime of responsibility.

And it is for that reason that it almost makes perverse sense that, last week, the Texas State Legislature confiscated tampons and condoms from the protestors who had come out to oppose the passage of the restrictive new abortion legislation. Tampons and condoms, you see, might be used as weapons. Guns, as usual, were allowed into legislative chambers. But in this case, condoms and tampons are weapons. They are weapons in the fight against an oppressive system that is working to make it difficult for women to have the same freedoms that men do with their bodies. And the sad truth is, the more money and the more education a woman has, the less she will be affected by restrictive laws. It’s the less economically secure women who will, as they historically always do, pay the price of privilege.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen”

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High Schooler Protests ‘Slut-Shaming’ Abstinence Assembly Despite Alleged Threats From Her Principal

By Tara Culp-Ressler on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

“A West Virginia high school student is filing an injunction against her principal, who she claims is threatening to punish her for speaking out against a factually inaccurate abstinence assembly at her school. Katelyn Campbell, who is the student body vice president at George Washington High School, alleges her principal threatened to call the college where she’s been accepted to report that she has “bad character.”

George Washington High School recently hosted a conservative speaker, Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence-only approach to teen sexuality. Stenzel has a long history ofusing inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

GW Principal George Aulenbacher, on the other hand, didn’t see anything wrong with hosting Stenzel. “The only way to guarantee safety is abstinence. Sometimes, that can be a touchy topic, but I was not offended by her,” he told the West Virginia Gazette last week.

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident.

Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

Campbell’s complaints about her high school reflect a problematic trend across the country. There are serious consequences when figures like Stenzel repeatedly tell young Americans that contraception isn’t safe. Partly because of the scientific misinformation that often pervades abstinence-only curricula, an estimated 60 percent of young adults are misinformed about birth control’s effectiveness — and some of those teens choose not to use it because they assume it won’t make any difference. Predictably, the states that lack adequate sex ed requirements are also the states that have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Some of Campbell’s fellow students at GW High School are also rallying for her cause. They plan to take up the issue at a local board of education meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday evening.

 

UPDATE

Via Twitter, Wellesley College has confirmed that Campbell doesn’t need to worry about her spot next year:”

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by | April 19, 2013 · 3:10 pm

When Is Rape Okay?

When Is Rape Okay?

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by | March 22, 2013 · 9:04 pm