All Sex, All the Time

Well hello there. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything – the last year or so has been pretty crazy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to write. But a few days ago, I read an article that I really enjoyed and on which I wanted to comment.

In the January 2014 issue of Glamour magazine, actress Rashida Jones wrote an article entitled “The Pornification of Everything,” in which she addresses the growing cultural acceptability of pornographic (or borderline pornographic) behavior by celebrities (and as a consequence, by regular people as well). Here’s a link to the article online: http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/2013/12/rashida-jones-major-dont-the-pornification-of-everything It’s not a long read, and if you have a moment, I highly recommend it.

If you don’t want to read it, here’s the basic gist: Ms. Jones came to the realization that over the past couple of years, pop stars have made it their job to present themselves in as sexual a way as possible. She cites as examples Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke at the VMAs, Rhianna grinding on a pole in one of her videos, Nicki Minaj wearing pasties as a Halloween costume, and the cover art for one of Lady Gaga’s songs. She points out that this is largely boring – that we basically become desensitized to these oversexualized images. She also states that it feels inauthentic, and is not a true expression of most women’s sexuality but is instead an effort to sell sex and cater to a male idea of what is sexy. The only issue I have with her article is that she does not give a lot of attention to what I believe to be her most salient point – that these woman are role models, whether they want to be or not. Little girls are watching, and what they are seeing is appalling. It is this particular point that I want to expand upon.

These pop stars, particularly ones like Miley Cyrus who got their start on TV shows aimed at children, have large numbers of teenage girls and pre-teen girls as part of their fanbase. Many of these ladies claim to not want to be role models, but regardless of that, millions of these girls look up to them for their fame, their physical beauty, and their talent. And many of those girls do not have a great deal of guidance at home that will say, “That’s inappropriate, turn it off,” when Miley is shaking it on some guy. When a 12-year-old girl sees Rihanna pole-dancing and there’s no one around to talk to her about it in a reasoned way, she internalizes that behavior and thinks to herself (consciously or unconsciously), “Rihanna does it, she’s beautiful and successful and boys like her. I should do that too.” In her mind, there is no distinction between the fact that she is 12 and Rihanna is in her mid-20s. Young girls see images like that and it exposes them to a range of actions and feelings that they are not emotionally or mentally prepared to deal with. Often they deal with them anyway, by emulating what their idols do. This is especially dangerous in today’s social-media-filled world, where photos and videos live forever in the bowels of the internet.

Over the past 5 to 8 years, with the rise of Smartphones, Instagram, and texting/sexting, the number of incidents of underage girls taking and sending inappropriate pictures of themselves and each other has skyrocketed, resulting in a vast increase in child pornography. Basically, we as a culture are very gradually accepting the sexualization of young girls. And often, the girls themselves are the source of this material. They take photos of themselves in compromising positions and send them to friends, boys, or strangers, because Nicki Minaj got her picture taken in nothing but pasties, so why not? We owe it to our daughters, little sisters, and nieces to reject this hypersexualiztion of our culture. In her article, Rashida Jones quotes one of her own Tweets: “Sure, be SEXY, but leave something to the imagination.” I agree. What happened to Old Hollywood sexiness? Sophia Loren could melt a man with one glance, no pasties or pole-dancing required. I’m not saying that we should walk around in burkas, but there is something to be said for a little mystery.

Not everyone shares the same opinion, however. In the article, Ms. Jones mentions that she Tweeted several times about this issue and was accused of “slut-shaming,” misogyny, and being judgmental. She responded to this by saying that “there is a difference between ‘shaming’ and ‘holding someone accountable.'” I agree. These pop stars and actresses have to realize that their actions have consequences beyond themselves. I don’t know a great deal about Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss in the Hunger Games movies), but I saw a quote from her that I absolutely love. In an interview she said, “I’m never going to starve myself for a part. I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.'” She gets it. She understands the impact that she has on young girls as a role model and how her behavior affects them. She takes responsibility for that, even though she didn’t ASK to be looked up to as someone to emulate.

I know that our culture is largely in decline. Prior to the fall of Rome, sexual immorality (as well as general immorality) was rampant. It is my hope, however, that for the sake of our young girls, America can get itself together. Maybe she can stop snorting lines off the coffee table, put a shirt on, and make sure she’s wearing panties before she goes out for the night.

Throwing the Staff Under the Bus – Par for the Course at Applebee’s

Over the last day or two, I’ve been following this story on Yahoo: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/applebees-waitress-fired-pastor-receipt-193820748.html

If you don’t want to read the whole story, here’s the basic gist: A waitress (Chelsea Welch) from a St. Louis-area Applebee’s posted a picture on Reddit of a receipt from another server’s table where the customer (Alois Bell) scratched out the automatic 18% gratuity added by the computer (there were more than 8 people in the party, which triggers the autotip function on the computer) and wrote “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” She then wrote “pastor” above her name, and in the place for “additional tip,” she wrote “0.” After the picture of the receipt went viral, the pastor called the restaurant and complained, and Applebee’s fired the waitress who posted the picture.

There is so much wrong with this story, I don’t even know where to begin. First, as a Christian, I am embarrassed by Pastor Bell’s actions. People will use this event to justify saying untrue things like “Religion is the problem, not the solution,” or “Just another hypocritical Christian – they’re all alike.” Indeed, if you look at the comment section under the story on Yahoo and other news sites and blogs that have posted about this story, they are already filled with statements like those above. As Christians, we are called to live Christ-like lives. We all fall short, but we’re supposed to try. We’re supposed to be loving and generous, not snarky and stingy. Additionally, I don’t think this pastor had a very clear concept of how percentages work. God is supposed to get 10% of EVERYTHING YOU EARN. The waitstaff was supposed to get 18% of ONE MEAL. That’s quite a big difference. Just because 18 is the higher number, doesn’t mean the amount received by the waitress is bigger than the amount received by God.

After the photo went viral, a friend of the pastor’s brought it to her attention that her special note was making its way around the internet. The pastor was (rightfully) embarrassed, but rather than owning up to her childish act, she demanded that Ms. Welch be fired. Her remorse was not over her treatment of the wait staff; it was over getting called out for bad behavior. I have seen it reported on a number of blogs that the pastor actually demanded that the whole staff be fired, including management, but I don’t know if that is true or not. Regardless, her initial action and her reaction to the fallout are both appalling.

Perhaps the waitress was wrong to post the receipt online, but I can relate to where she’s coming from. The food service industry is extremely stressful. You are constantly rushing around to get everyone’s food to them in a timely manner. You get hot and sweaty, and go home smelling like fry grease and other unpleasant things. You get burnt (sometimes severely), you slip, run into other people, get hit by doors, yelled at, cursed at, and called names. I have never waited tables, but I work in fast food, and I know how ungrateful people are and how funny they are about food. I worked at the jewelry department in a big box store for awhile and sometimes people would bring back jewelery that they had purchased because it broke. They were usually very nice about it, asking for a refund or to send it off and have it fixed. I’ve also worked in fast food, and people get more upset about a lack of cheese on their sandwich that they paid $5 for than they do over the broken necklace they paid $120 for. It’s a stressful environment, and at the end of the night, you just want to vent to someone about how rude the customers were to you. That’s what Ms. Welch was doing here. She was just venting. No personal information, save for the pastor’s name, was shared on the receipt.

I think Applebee’s overreacted by firing the waitress. IF there is a policy in their handbook about this kind of thing (which the server claims there is not), then a less severe punishment should have been administered. A written warning, maybe, or retraining. But to fire a server because a customer who was in the wrong threw a fit seems like an extreme measure. It also indicates an unhappy, decaying corporate culture that does not value or stand by its employees, who are the face of the company. I am not a big fan of Applebee’s food to begin with and I usually only go there if someone else I’m with picks the restaurant. But I will definitely not be eating there anymore AT ALL after this fiasco.

Breaking News: Virginia Woman Doesn’t Care about Women’s Issues

I have (barely) held my silence about this issue for a few weeks now, but my rage has reached a boiling point and I can contain it no longer. Why in the name of Jesus H. Christ are we talking about birth control when Syria is in the middle of a civil war, Greece is on the verge of financial collapse, our own economy is still in the toilet, we’re in the middle of one of the biggest and most important elections in our history, and Iran is THIS CLOSE to getting nuclear weapons? I think we have bigger issues in this country than who is paying for our birth control.

I’ve been following this obnoxious line of public discourse for a couple of weeks now (vaguely at first, and more intensely after the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke incident), and each week I’ve become a little more outraged. First of all, if you KNOW that a school or company does not share your values, then why would you chose to go there? If the fact that their insurance doesn’t cover birth control is a big deal for you, then go somewhere else. If you need birth control for a medical condition, you can supplement your employer’s insurance with insurance that DOES cover it, or you can get it on the cheap at Planned Parenthood (since that’s what they claim their main business is – supplying health care to under-served women). And why is everyone acting like this is “limiting” access to birth control? No one is saying “You can’t have that.” They’re just saying “You can have it, but we’re not going to pay for it because it goes against something that we strongly believe in.” The government has no right to FORCE someone to pay for something that they believe is wrong. If we just stopped tying employment to insurance, we could solve a lot of these problems.

Second, everyone keeps talking about “women’s rights,” or, to speak more plainly, “abortion.” First, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a “right” to abortion, because it infringes on the right of another human being to live, but putting aside my moral objections to the practice, let’s look at this fairly. If women have a “right” to abortion, or birth control for that matter, then we also have a responsibility to pay for it. I don’t know why we suddenly assume that just because we’ve decided we have a “right” to a good or service means that we don’t have a responsibility to pay for it. We keep saying “keep your laws off my uterus” but the unspoken end of that phrase is “but keep the money, pills, and abortions flowing.” We have a responsibility for everything that we put into our bodies and everything that we DO with our bodies. So how can we expect others to pay for the consequences of our actions? We have a right to free speech, but no one demands that the government pay for us to publish books. Isn’t the government subsidizing our rights with tax dollars in contrast to everything the founders intended? Those rights were enumerated specifically to PROTECT US from the government. If the government is paying for something that is deemed a “right,” isn’t that a precarious situation? Like Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take it all away.”

Smart guy, that Jefferson

Third, there is an enormous amount of hypocrisy in the media over this Limbaugh-Fluke incident, and I find that to be extremely offensive, as both a conservative and a woman. Was Rush Limbaugh wrong to call Sandra Fluke a prostitute? Absolutely. But what really irks me is that Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and even Hilary Clinton were called all sorts of vile names by a number of people in the media, and I heard little to no outcry over that. They definitely didn’t receive an apology phone call from Barack Obama. Believe me, I’m not a big fan of any of those 3 women, but I do believe they have been treated very unfairly by the press. Can we at least PRETEND to be SOMEWHAT outraged when conservative women are mistreated by the media? Where were the feminists when Bill Maher repeatedly called Sarah Palin a cunt? Why are they only outraged when women of their own political leanings are insulted? Are conservative women not worthy of the same respect given to liberal women?

Unless you're conservative, of course. Then eff you.

Fourth, American women seem to be under the delusion that this so-called “right” to abortion is THE most important right that we have and that there is a “war on women” in this country. I’m sorry, but there are women around the world who are never taught to read and who aren’t even allowed to leave their house without a male relative with them. Please don’t act like you are SO OPPRESSED when there are places where it is ILLEGAL for girls to go to school – where you could be killed for trying to get an education. And we’re complaining because we might have to pay for our own birth control? No wonder the rest of the world seems to hate us.

And you think YOU'RE oppressed because you have to pay for birth control?

Finally, there has been a great deal of anger directed at “white men” during this whole debacle. More than usual, I mean. I’m so sick of this cliched political cop-out that I could just vomit. The point of feminism is not to demean men, to speak ill of them, or to put women above men. The goal was to make us equals in the eyes of the government & society. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Not everything bad in the world stems from this vague, evil group of “white men.” I know a lot of white men. I married one. My dad is a white guy. If I ever have a son, he’ll be a white man. I had a lot of good teachers who were white men, and both of the pastors of my church are white men. I’m quite fond of all these “evil white men,” and I wish the media would get off their nuts. Literally. And can we stop with all the dumb comments about “Where are the laws for just MEN’S health? HUH?? Why aren’t THEY targeted?” I’ll tell you why. Because like it or not, men cannot carry babies. It’s a fact of biology. I know that upsets a lot of women, but you can’t change nature. Getting a prostate exam just isn’t as controversial as vacuuming a dismembered baby from the womb.

So, can we move on now? Can we stop talking about birth control and worry about stuff that really matters? Because the world is kind of falling apart around us, and I think that’s slightly more important that who pays for birth control.

Failing freedom in 2011

Once again, an article I read on Yahoo! has inspired me to write something. I was reading this article about various things that have been banned this year, both in America and abroad. It mentions babies being banned on planes and in restaurants, baggy pants and skinny jeans, too-short cheerleader uniforms, Happy Meals in San Francisco, etc. Three of the items on the list really caught my attention – “happy couples,” “having eyes,” and “brown-bag lunches.”

“Happy couples” referred to a situation in Kentucky where a church voted to ban interracial marriage and bar interracial couples from joining their church. I can’t even believe this type of ignorance is still happening – in a CHURCH, no less. There is no Biblical ban on interracial marriages. Are there Bible verses that could be MISUSED to support this kind of racist decision? Yes. Does this make it right? No. Deuteronomy 7:3 states (addressing the Jews), “You shall not marry them, you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.” The “them” referred to in this verse is the gentiles (non-Jewish people). The reason for this was because the gentiles did not worship the same God as the Hebrews. God commanded the Jews to marry only other Jews so that they would not be led to worship false gods by their gentile spouses and families. It was not a RACE issue – it was a CULTURE issue. Another verse that is often misused in this way is 2 Corinthians 6:14, which states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” This verse says basically the same thing: Do not marry non-believers because they will lead you astray. The part about light and dark communing has nothing to do with skin color. It’s a metaphor for opposite belief systems trying to come together – they cannot exist in the same place at the same time. That a church would treat people this way is unbelievable, and it is most definitely NOT a Christian way to behave. God created people of all colors, and we are all made in his image. For us to show hatred to other people because of their skin color is a sin. The fact that this type of blatant racism is still around in 2011 means that we have not come as far as we thought we had.

“Having eyes” showcases the absolute absurdity that is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Apparently Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (read: religious police) has decided that women with “nice eyes” need to cover those things up so that the men of Saudi Arabia (who apparently lack ANY kind of self-control) won’t be tempted to think dirty thoughts about women other than their wives. Who defines “nice eyes?” Anyone can have “nice eyes.” Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a picture of a Middle Eastern woman with eyes that WEREN’T nice. They are lovely women, and they continue to be oppressed on a daily basis. The eyes are the only thing left that these women do not have to cover up. They walk around in the oppressive Saudi heat, covered head-to-toe in black head scarves and cloaks so as not to lead any male to stray. The extreme Wahhabi form of Islam that is so popular there is intolerant of anyone who is not a devout Muslim and is extremely oppressive to women. My heart goes out to the women and girls of Saudi Arabia because they are so obviously being abused, both by their government and many times by their families and husbands as well. Why we continue to be allied with a nation that so clearly does not share our values and doesn’t even like us is beyond me.

Finally, “brown-bag lunches” talks about how a school in Chicago now forbids students from bringing a lunch from home. They HAVE to pay the $2.25 for a school lunch, or go hungry. Exceptions are made only for food allergies (and possibly religious reasons. The article doesn’t say this, but I would imagine they would allow a kid to bring halal or kosher food as well). The reasoning behind this decision, according to the principal, is that school lunch is healthier than what the kids bring from home. First of all, why is that the school’s business? Believe it or not, parents have been successfully feeding their children for thousands of years without the benevolent dictatorship of the public school system peering over their shoulder. This is clearly an infringement on the rights of parents to do what they think is best for their child. It is not the schools system’s job to feed my kids. That’s my job. Second, this is not a good move for the kids. Yes, the food MIGHT be healthier than what they bring from home (but not necessarily), but if a child doesn’t like what the cafeteria is serving, they are not going to eat it. A hungry kid does not perform well in school, and that is a scientific fact. It’s hard to focus on a math lesson when your stomach is growling loud enough to drown out the teacher. If I were a parent, I would prefer that I pack a lunch for my kid that I KNOW he or she likes and will eat instead of paying money for food that they might not like and probably won’t eat. This brings us to my third point – buying lunch every day is expensive. The cost of a student lunch in this school is $2.25. Kids generally go to school for 180 days a year. This means that for one child, a family will spend $405 each school year on lunch. If they have 2 kids enrolled in this school, the cost doubles to $810 a year. Many families receive free or reduced lunches, but many families do not qualify for these programs even though they are far from wealthy. This puts a hardship on the families that are not poor enough to qualify for free/reduced lunch, but not wealthy enough to be able to throw away over $400 a year. It’s much cheaper to send leftovers or a sandwich with your kids than to pay for school lunch. This is clearly yet another case of progressive government overstepping its boundaries and intruding on the family in ways that are totally Orwellian and uncalled for.

The trampling of freedom exhibited by these incidents, both here and in other nations, really enrages me. How can man (or woman) flourish under governments, churches, and governmental churches that insist on infringing on the rights given to us by the Creator? What the good Lord giveth, the government taketh away, apparently.

Encounter with an Estonian Exchange Student

Today I worked as a substitute for a math teacher at the high school close to my house. In addition to geometry, this particular teacher taught a “service learning” class. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but today the kids were supposed to go around to the other classrooms, collect their recycling, and then return to our room for the remainder of the period, where they were free to chat, do homework, etc. As I was calling the role, I came across a student named “Laura,” which also happens to be my name, and I told her so. The other kids all mentioned that she was an exchange student from Estonia, which I thought was interesting. After all the kids came back to the classroom, I sat down next to this particular student and asked her a few questions about her home country and what she thought of America. She seemed impressed and excited with my extremely minimal knowledge of her homeland (oppression under the Soviet Union during the Cold War, its vicinity to Latvia & Lithuania), which surprised me a little. She then mentioned that students at the high school she was attending here in the US had asked her where Estonia was, with some asking if it was in Asia or Africa. Might I add that this girl was very white, with blond hair and blue eyes. She looked neither African nor Asian. I was quite disappointed with our (American) students’ lack of critical thinking and knowledge of geography. It’s no wonder that other nations think poorly of us. I don’t think it’s vital that we try to impress anyone (especially Europe – about that whole “defeating the Nazis” thing – you’re welcome), but a little self-improvement would not hurt our nation in the least, especially in the realm of public education. That’s really my first and only “point” for this entry.

My other thoughts on this incident are centered around my desire to travel to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), but especially Estonia. I had heard of these nations when I was little, but I didn’t know much about any of the Baltic states beyond the fact that they existed. The first time I remember hearing about Estonia was in a Miss Universe pageant that I was watching with my mom one year when I was maybe between the ages of 5 & 8. My next encounter with anything Estonian was this absolutely terrifying Soviet-era commercial for chicken. I first watched this video when I came out to visit my husband at the base here where we live now. He was at work, and I was holed up in his barracks room with his laptop, trying to go undetected by roaming officers and NCOs. I watched several of these crazy ads, all made by a man named Harry Egipt. The ads piqued my curiosity about the nation, so I started looking for other info on it. The pictures I’ve seen of Estonia are very pretty and the towns all look like charming places. Laura was very friendly and seemed happy to talk to me about her country, so my hope is that other people from this region are friendly too. One of my teachers from high school that I’ve kept up with has been to Estonia, and he said it’s a beautiful country. I hope maybe I can go visit one day =)

A Boy Named Pancake

Yesterday I subbed as a resource (special ed) teacher at one of the elementary schools in my town. My job was to go around to different classrooms and help the students with learning disabilities in those classes. So, that’s what I did. In the third classroom, I heard the teacher refer to one of her students as “Pancake.” Initially, I thought “Man, what a weird nickname. Maybe she called him that because he had his head down on his desk?” But then I heard her refer to him as Pancake again. Two more times, in fact. And then I thought, “Is this kid’s real name Pancake? For serious?” So I sort of casually strolled over to where this little boy was seated and glanced at the notebook laying on his desk, under the guise of making sure he was on task. Sure enough, his notebook had “Pancake Smith*” written on the cover. I can’t say with 100% certainty that his given name is Pancake because I didn’t actually see the class role. There were a couple of kids I went to school with who had unusual names (Cricket and Pepper come to mind), but those were not their GIVEN names – they were nicknames given to them by their parents and used as given names. Maybe this was a case like that. But judging from my huge list of crazy things people in this town have named their children, I would not be surprised if there really was a boy named Pancake.

*Not his real last name… though I doubt there are too many Pancakes roaming around in the world, so maybe that doesn’t do much to protect his privacy.

In Support of Senior Release

I grew up and went to school in Hanover County, Virginia, and our high schools (at least the one I went to) had a policy of allowing seniors to leave school early if they had met most of the requirements for their chosen diploma (advanced or standard) and only had a couple of classes they had to take their senior year. We were on a block schedule (4 classes one day, then the other 4 the next day, at 1.5 hours each), so some days you might leave early, and other days you might not. All seniors had to take Government and English, and most people still had a science class or elective they needed to take. But many people had met all of their requirements for math, because so many people take algebra in middle school that they only have to take 3 more math classes in high school, meaning they’re done by their senior year. Because our school day didn’t start until 8:30, our curriculum also offered early morning classes for certain core subjects like government (for seniors only), so you could come to school early and get a class out of the way and then get out early and go to work or do whatever it was that you wanted to do. My own experience was that I went to school until 3:30 on “even” days and got out around 11 on “odd” days. Some people got out at 2, and some people went all day on one day and then might only have one class the next day. My point is that we were only required to be in school for the classes that we were enrolled in and receiving a grade for.

The school system where I sub does not have this policy, however. According to one of the seniors I spoke to, they are only allowed one free period (they are on a period schedule, where they have 7 classes a day for 45-50 minutes each). For the other periods where they are not actually IN the class, they are enrolled as “teacher’s aides,” which means they sit in a corner and do their homework, sleep, and maybe occasionally run an errand for the teacher. They are ON the role and they have to show up, or they are counted absent. If they are caught skipping these classes, they are punished just the same as if they were actually taking the class for credit. In addition, the high schools have all changed their schedules this year to accommodate an extra credit requirement for the diplomas of those students who will be graduating in 2013 (ie, this year’s junior class). They used to be on a 6-period schedule – now they have 7 periods a day (same amount of hours in school, they just shortened all of the classes). This one extra credit required by the state does not apply to THIS year’s seniors, so these kids have yet another class they have to sit in, without getting anything out of it.

I have a number of problems with this policy. My main issue is that the time that these students spend sitting in a class that they’ve already taken or that has no bearing whatsoever on what they want to do could be spent more productively. Most of these kids will either be going to college next year, or entering the workforce. If they plan on going to college, they could be getting out early to work to save money for school expenses. They could also be doing internships, or taking community college classes. If they plan on immediately entering the workforce after they graduate, allowing them to get out early would allow them to get a head start in the job market. And in this economy, don’t we owe it to our kids to help them out and facilitate success as much as we can? Many of these kids already have after-school jobs, of course, but if they could get more hours, it would be highly beneficial for them. They could start saving up for a car, or they use the money to pay for their car insurance, cell phone bill, and other expenses. They could even start saving up money to move out of their parents’ homes, which, as every 18 year old can tell you, is the coolest possible thing you could do right out of high school.

The area where I live is by no means impoverished, but there are definitely A LOT of families that struggle to make ends meet. If the senior students in these families were able to work enough to pay for more of their own expenses or contribute to the family budget, it would really ease the financial pain felt by the rest of their clan. One girl I spoke with near the very beginning of the school year said that her father had died of cancer last year, and now her mother had cancer and couldn’t work very much. Her goal was to go to an automotive college, but she was afraid she wouldn’t have enough money. A few extra hours of work each day added on to her paycheck would have really helped out her AND her mom. Would all of these kids make productive use of their extra time away from school? No, probably not. But NONE of them are being productive sitting in the back of a class they’re not even really enrolled in!

One of my other problems with this policy is that, quite frankly, it’s boring to the kids. School is supposed to be intellectually stimulating and (hopefully) enjoyable, but if you spend half your time stuck in a corner taking a nap because you only need 2 classes your senior year, it’s probably not going to be the most mentally invigorating thing you’ve ever been through. I asked the student aide in one of my classes today if she liked being an aide, and she said she felt like it was a waste of her life. She only had ONE class she had to take this year. She said she chose to have her free period as 1st period so she could get some extra sleep every morning, and then she came to school for her ONE class. Then she had to sit through 5 other classes as an aide, where she did NOTHING. That’s almost 4 hours EACH DAY of this girl’s life that is wasted by state-mandated boredom. She told me that she would rather get out early and go to work. What kid doesn’t want to make some extra money for their senior year, instead of sitting in classes where they don’t do anything?

My other problem with this arrangement is that these kids really can’t even DO that much as an aide. They aren’t allowed to go into the teachers’ lounge/workrooms, so they can’t make copies for them or anything of that nature. Since they are minors and not employees of the school system, the teacher can’t put the aide in charge of students in the way that they could with an adult aide (ie, splitting students into groups and having the aide direct the students in an activity). I suppose they could hang posters or student work around the room, but that would be distracting to the other students in the class. The only thing that I, as a sub, have ever used a student aide for is to take the paper copy of the attendance down to the office. Regular teachers don’t even use them for that because they do their attendance on the computer. Why make the teacher (and, for that matter, the administration) responsible for a student who, in reality, has absolutely no need to be there in the first place?

One of the big things that we as students in my high school looked forward to was being able to get out early our senior year. It was one of the special privileges that made being a senior that much more awesome, and it served as a motivator to do well in your classes so that you could pass them and have enough credits under your belt to get that extra hour and a half or so of sweet freedom every day (or every other day) your senior year. The school district where I work is doing a BIG program to push for 100% graduation, and I think that any reward or incentive that can be used to help reach that goal should be implemented. My hope is that in the coming years, the school district will realize that allowing seniors the privilege of getting out early is a smart move for everyone involved.