April 17, 2001

School clubs and related issues


On my way home today, I heard on NPR that my stateís Senate is debating the issue of whether to allow Bible groups for 7th and 8th graders. I think they should be allowed to have clubs for almost anything not hurtful the kids want to have clubs for -- Bible groups, atheist groups, humanist groups, gay/lesbian/bi groups (maybe -- see below), Buddhist groups, sports groups, fan clubs, whatever. The crux, for me, is that there be no pressure to join any, or none, of these groups. I do realize that the peer pressure would be the most difficult part to control.

This is the age at which most people are beginning to consciously define their own moral codes. I think it would help them to do so if they had groups to discuss the different sorts of morality our race has evolved. Even better would be to have multi-group projects -- saying, comparing the code defined in Exodus with the Humanist Pledge, to assess similarities and differences. Of course, people this age might need a lot of adult help (from some very adult adults) to keep these discussions civil and productive -- but what a great learning experience. The clubs should be after school, and the school itself should not favor any one club over another -- also difficult, in some regions more than in others. Explicitly discussing morality and responsibility before all the hormones have fully kicked in -- is this a radical idea?

I hesitated on whether to include the gay/lesbian/bi clubs in my list above, not from the fear of whether they would be proper fields of discussion for 12 and 13-year-olds, but whether they would be meaningful at that young age. Do many people realize their own sexuality at that age, if itís something other than what society has groomed them to accept? Iím asking because I really donít know.

Iíve been reading Hardrainís poignant account of her own coming-out, at 16, and she does still seem to be coming to grips with some of the related issues (such as, for example, whether sheís gay or bi). Given the pressures sheís dealing with, a support group might be of great use for her, but thereís a vast gulf between sixteen and thirteen. On the other hand, it might be of use for middle-schoolers to have clubs for people dealing with a gay parent. Again, I donít know, and the decision for which clubs to have should be made by their potential members, anyway.

A related question Iíve always wondered about, is why do people (including those most concerned) always seem to assume gay and lesbian teenagers will be having sex with each other? There are a lot of voices telling straight teens to hold off on sex until theyíre ready (though the definition of "ready" varies widely, from "old enough" to "emotionally mature enough" to "really in love" to "married"). Lots of them do go ahead and have sex, but for the ones that wait, there is at least some kind of support structure in place. Where are those voices for the other kids? I think that if I had a sixteen year old daughter, I would be hoping she would hold off on sex, with males or females, until she trusted the other person and felt ready to deal with the consequences, both emotional and physical.

Another thing I realized, while thinking over these issues, is that I will not voice these questions in my email groups for fear of ruffling too many feelings and possibly causing some infighting. Iím not sure I would have censored myself there a year or two ago. Granted I do feel that I should keep more of a neutral stance on some tendentious issues now that Iím the primary moderator/Listmum, but still it makes me sad to feel that the group has grown less tolerant. What the hell, maybe Iíll post my questions there anyway.

Posted by dichroic at April 17, 2001 05:31 PM
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