...what exactly is the point?
Perhaps you're not actually "owning your own sexuality" if you're not thinking outside that box?
I elaborated a while back, here.
...what exactly is the point?
Perhaps you're not actually "owning your own sexuality" if you're not thinking outside that box?
I elaborated a while back, here.
I’m old enough to remember the threat of reform school. Not that it was ever really used as a threat against me personally, but it was a thing I heard about. "If you don’t behave, we’ll send you to reform school." I didn’t know anyone who actually got sent to reform school. For that matter, I wasn’t entirely sure reform school actually existed. But one thing was certain: It was somewhere you didn’t want to go. It was supposed to be a terrible place where kids had to march in straight lines, no talking; where you had to memorize a lot of stuff and lessons were boring; where you never had the fun classes like music and art; where everyone was scared of being punished all the time.
Reading this open letter to students at a no-excuses charter school reminded me of the mythical reform schools of my youth -- the places you knew you never wanted to be in. No-excuses charters are for kids who have committed the crime of being poor and minority. No doubt there are significant differences between these real schools and the reform schools of my young imagination, but there are disturbing similarities as well. They're places for kids who can't be trusted with freedom and autonomy.
Where does the no-excuses charter movement come from? Who thought it was a good idea to go back to such a strict school environment? It seems to have started when people (mostly white people with power and money, I expect) noticed a problem -- or more accurately, bothered to notice it again: Kids living and attending school in racially segregated pockets of poverty have low test scores, low graduation rates, and low college-attendance rates.
One possible solution: Integrate those kids into schools where the kids aren’t all minorities living in poverty, and where lots of kids do well on tests, graduate, and go on to attend college. If you want to get really crazy, you could maybe even do non-school related things in order to break up the pockets of racially isolated poverty, like creating jobs, requiring towns to build affordable housing, and strengthening the safety net for people in need.
Of course, that would require all kinds of legislation unpopular with more affluent white voters, and it would involve using tax dollars to help people, and it might even lead to a (gasp) tax increase.
Hence, plan B: Send all those kids to
reform school no-excuses charters. It doesn’t actually solve the problem, because a whole lot of kids who wouldn’t have done well in conventional urban public schools don’t do well in reform school no-excuses charters either; they just drop out and go back to conventional urban public schools, rejoining the kids from the very poorest, most uninformed and possibly dysfunctional families who, having never gotten (or having chosen to ignore) the memo about the new magic-bullet school in town, never jumped on the charter-lottery bandwagon in the first place. But for the kids who stick out reform school no-excuses charters despite the lack of enrichment, and despite all the soul-crushing test drilling and snapping and tracking, and despite the indignity of being presumptively treated as a bad kid, there might be college at the end of the tunnel. Then the powerful, affluent people who promoted the whole reform school no-excuses charter idea can pat themselves on the back and keep their taxes low.
Not that they would ever send their own kids to those schools, of course. But then, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? To make sure their kids have art and music and enrichment and freedom and creativity -- and don’t go to school with those kids?
Dear Mr. Duncan,
By now, you’ve no doubt been inundated by a wide range of irate responses to your comment that opposition to the Common Core standards is all about "white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- (discovered that) their child isn't as bright as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
You’ve probably heard from non-white suburban moms, and non-white urban moms, and white urban moms, and maybe even a few dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles. The one thing they all have in common is resentment toward your dismissive, insulting characterization of opponents to the Common Core.
I’m just one more voice in the chorus. I don’t mean to imply that my story is typical, but I sure as hell do mean that you should consider it before making stupid generalizations -- just as you should consider all those other stories you’ve been hearing. You’re the secretary of education. The least you could do is refrain from simplistic, insulting, reductive, sweeping statements about the families you’re meant to serve.
I am a white suburban mom. I have three kids. They all attended public school from kindergarten through 8th grade. They’re all in high school now -- but not in public school.
My husband and I wanted our kids in public school because we believe that it is one of the most important institutions in creating a cohesive society and a functional democracy. We were lucky: The schools in our town were both diverse and high quality. We wanted our kids to understand and appreciate the different cultures and experiences of others in their community. We wanted them to view education as a shared value so they would come to see the social contract as a benefit, not a burden. We wanted them to make friends with their neighbors so that their town would be not just the place where they live, but the community where they belong. And of course, we wanted them to get a great education.
For a long while, that’s more or less what they got. We found in our local public schools many wonderful, dedicated teachers who helped our kids thrive and become top students. We found a program that offered them a reasonably wide curriculum. When they were old enough, all three became involved in the instrumental music program, which quickly became an important part of their lives, as did the gifted education program. Some of the teachers in those programs were the ones who had the greatest impact on them, motivating them to strive for excellence.
But even early on, there were signs of trouble. This was already the era of No Child Left Behind. My kids’ elementary school was designated a school “in need of improvement,” for the most part because the many LEP (limited English proficient) and special education students didn’t score as well on standardized tests as their native English-speaking and non-special ed counterparts -- despite the fact that they were making good progress. (Under NCLB, every individual subgroup must score well, not just the school as a whole. LEP and special ed students are subgroups.) Having volunteered as a “parent reader” in the special ed classroom, I had firsthand experience with those students and their teachers, and I knew that it was an excellent program where kids received a huge amount of personal attention. But as far as NCLB was concerned, nothing mattered but the test scores. We parents knew that the “in need of improvement” designation would have the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of helping those kids, it stigmatized and punished the whole school, while other neighborhood schools in the area that served more uniformly affluent, native-born populations essentially got a free pass. The tension level at the school about testing quickly ratcheted up, and the kids all sensed it. The amount of time dedicated to test prep went up and up.
Middle school was a mixed bag. We found more great teachers; a high-quality accelerated math program; more music opportunities. But at the same time, test prep was increasingly eating up time. More and more resources seemed to be devoted to teaching to the middle -- the effort to nudge as many borderline-proficient kids as possible above that arbitrary “proficient” mark on the NJASK, New Jersey’s standardized state test. When I volunteered to tutor kids at the school who needed extra help, I was saddened to learn that only students who were considered borderline proficient were eligible for the tutoring; they didn’t even bother with the lowest performers.
There were other problems, too. Writing was being taught in a mechanistic way, clearly aimed at producing acceptable NJASK essays. Literature was more often than not treated as an exercise in reading comprehension rather than as a window into great ideas. And despite all the lip service paid to the importance of STEM subjects, the science program was downright anemic. (Up until 2008, NCLB did not require any science testing, so schools deemphasized science. It’s called teaching to the test.) One of the last straws came when we learned that the middle school would be firing one of its three instrumental music teachers, despite the fact that more than half of all students participated in the program. (He was later rehired part-time in response to parental outcry.)
My husband and I were torn. We did not want to abandon public education. But each kid only gets one shot at being a kid. As much as we wanted our children to be part of the grand project of public education, our number one priority was to make education a rich and engaging experience for them.
By this time, I’d been following Common Core for a while. Like a lot of parents, the idea had appealed to me at first. All the talk of analytical skills and high academic standards sounded good, and I figured it might be a way to defang the efforts of the right-wing extremists on school boards around the country who periodically tried to put creationism in the biology classroom and American exceptionalism in the history textbooks.
But when it became apparent that Common Core was being commandeered by those who would profit from selling tests and aligned materials, my tune quickly changed. It was clear that Common Core would be more of the same: ever-increasing high-stakes testing, with the added disastrous component of state-mandated test-based teacher evaluation. Teaching to the test and narrowed curriculum were bound to be the results. This was not what we wanted for our kids. So my husband and I did what so many of the so-called education reformers themselves do: We found an excellent private school that gives no standardized tests, but offers small classes and a rich, varied curriculum, and we transferred our kids there. Not without some guilt, mind you. We knew that we were lucky to have the option, and that if top students leave public schools, the problem only gets worse. But we also knew it would be the best thing for our kids.
To be absolutely clear: Never once did we have the slightest concern that our kids would do badly on Common Core-aligned standardized tests. Never once did we worry that our kids wouldn’t do well in an academically rigorous environment. They are all high achievers, even in the most competitive of environments. And yet Common Core made us run for the hills -- not in fear of failure, but to escape the oncoming tsunami of standardized testing and all the deadly dullness it would bring. We were not afraid that Common Core would show us that our public school was bad. We knew that Common Core would make our good public schools worse.
Well, that’s my story, Mr. Duncan. My kids may not be in public school any more, but I am still a taxpayer, and I want my tax dollars to support robust public education that’s all about learning and not testing. The Common Core Standards you’re promoting, despite what you say, are all about testing. You want to convince us otherwise? Do away with the tests. Until you kick the for-profit testing companies to the curb, your credibility on this matter is severely lacking.
A White Suburban Mom
The one museum there that held endless fascination for my brother and me as children, the one that brought us back over and over again, was the Museum of the American Indian. It’s not there any more -- the collection moved to the Smithsonian. But for something like three-quarters of a century, the greatest collection of Native American art and artifacts was in Washington Heights, where just about nobody ever went to see it.
But we did.
Ask any Orthodox Jewish kid if time is a universal constant, and you’ll get a resounding “No.” Orthodox kids know that, once a week, time slows to a crawl, and minutes become hours. It’s called Shabbos afternoon. No TV, no electronics, no riding in cars or spending money. Absolutely nothing to do.
Unless you happen to live near a free Museum of the American Indian. (Did I mention it was free?)
So my brother and I spent countless Shabbos afternoons gazing at spectacular, unique, priceless Indian artifacts. You might think we were extraordinarily sensitive children with exquisite taste who appreciated the aesthetics of a culture so different than our own. But you’d be wrong. Mostly, we rushed past all the fancy beadwork and pottery (though I did slow down a little for the papooses -- they were cute).
We were heading straight for one thing, the thing that fascinated us endlessly, week after week: the shrunken people.
Real shrunken people. Right there in a glass case for all the world to see -- or all the world that bothered shlepping this far uptown.
That was our Shabbos tradition: visiting the shrunken people. I have no idea how old I was when I first saw them; too young to remember, anyway. I was ten when we moved out of Washington Heights, so our Shabbos visits lasted for years. We didn’t go every week, but we went often enough so that I can still remember it vividly.
Sure, now I know that the display of human remains stolen from an indigenous South American culture that shrunk them for some unknown reason of their own was highly sensational, insensitive, and disrespectful. But at the time, I thought it was just the coolest thing ever. It was gorgeously macabre, simultaneously repulsive and fascinating. I remember standing in front of that case, wondering how it was done, why it was done, who had done it, and whether they were still doing it in a deep, dark jungle somewhere. I remember telling my friends about the shrunken people and them not believing me, or insisting at the very least that they couldn’t be real. (Well, they lived downtown; they probably didn’t believe the whole museum was real.)
Shabbos afternoon visits to see shrunken people in a gorgeous Beaux Arts edifice housing the world’s greatest Native American art collection in a gritty uptown neighborhood.
Only in New York.
Election day is
tomorrow TODAY!, and we in the 25th Legislative District of New Jersey have a real shot at tossing out the state's most right-wing, extremist legislator and replacing him with a reasonable, moderate independent (Rebecca Feldman).
So please, share this list with everyone you know, in or out of the district. These quotes were gathered by me over the years on my Facebook page, NJ District 25 Against Michael Patrick Carroll. The more attention in the final run-up to the election, the better!
(Note: Many of these quotes were copied verbatim from a blog Carroll kept for years, most of which he deleted in March 2011, when Governor Christie nominated him to be a Superior Court judge -- a nomination that was quickly withdrawn.)
UPDATE: It is with a mix of sorrow and disgust that I report this morning that Michael Patrick Carroll handily won re-election. I'm embarrassed for my community.
1. "If slavery was the price that a modern American's ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one's knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid."
January 2008, quoted by the AP
2. "Perhaps the huge expense associated with the Katrina rebuilding effort constitutes a good time to raise the issue of personal responsibility....Government does not exist to bestow charity. Would that more of our representatives understood that."
March 2006, MPC’s blog, now deleted
3. "While folks with pre-existing conditions may make a good, sympathetic case, one thing they are not is unfairly treated by insurance carriers. Because the service they seek is not insurance – which is all about setting rates based upon the risk of certain events transpiring – but welfare: getting someone else to pay your existing bills.
September 2009, MPC’s blog, now deleted
4. “Advocates of stem cell research, unhappy with being restricted simply to embryonic stem cells, now propose to use FETAL stem cells. Securing those cells requires pregnancy. This means deliberately cloning human beings, implanting the eggs in a woman, and starting a pregnancy. Perhaps immediately before birth, the pregnancy would be (VERY CAREFULLY) aborted and the child's parts harvested for use by its adult clone.”
November 2005, Letter sent by MPC to constituents
5."If Newark can't afford to spend as much as Princeton or some other wealthy town, too bad. That's the nice thing about living in a wealthy town and the downside of living in Newark."
January 2005, quoted in the Trenton Times
6. "An armed and vigilant citizenry, ever on guard against abuses of governmental power and encroaching tyranny, is America’s greatest virtue."
April 2009, MPC’s blog, now deleted
7. "The Left wears kids like fashion accessories. Given how many of them are childless, they exhibit no little chutzpah in purporting to care so much more about kids than those who actually bear and raise them."
October 2007, MPC’s blog, now deleted
8. "The biggest threat to our freedom comes not from a lone wacko, or even from the occasional criminal, but from government....Government, however seemingly beneficent today, simply cannot be trusted to remain that way....An armed society is a free society."
April 2007, MPC’s blog, now deleted
9. "Minimum wage laws...benefit the working poor essentially not at all, unless a suburban teen with a gas payment to support counts as 'poor.' And they indisputably destroy jobs."
January 2007, MPC’s blog, now deleted
10. "As a matter of policy, the question presented is: what benefits do gay couples offer to the state sufficient to compel it to recognize their unions? To which, the only legitimate answer is: nothing....Limiting marital rights to those couples which may presumptively produce biological children makes perfect sense."
October 2006, MPC’s blog, now deleted
11. "Illegals in NJ urban zones cost the taxpayers a bloody fortune. Even a hard working, otherwise law abiding couple with three kids sets the taxpayers back a cool $75K or so, just in educational costs. That’s one hell of a price to pay for a cheap short order cook."
May 2006, MPC’s blog, now deleted
12. "Eliminating departments such as Black Studies, Africana Studies, Women and Gender studies, etc., and replacing them with real scholarship – as opposed to "Introduction to Victimology and Political Correctness 101" – could save millions while, at the same time, ensuring that people who attend college actually receive an education."
March 2006, MPC’s blog, now deleted
13. "Clearly, 'public' education, defined as a system of governmentally operated schools is, to a great extent, an expensive failure. Why not get government out of the education business, in effect contracting out this social responsibility to private enterprise?"
July 1991, MPC-penned letter to the editor of the New York Times
14. "Leftists see government as an engine designed to ‘spread the wealth around’, as our chief envycrat (referring to President Obama) opined during the late campaign."
February 2009, MPC’s blog, now deleted
15. A New Jersey resolution apologizing for slavery "panders to and encourages an unfortunate sense of racial oppression, (and) encourages wholly inappropriate anger over historic grievances. Far from ‘comforting’ anyone, it would simply encourage that culture of victimization."
January 2008, MPC’s blog, now deleted
This poetry slam video has been making the Facebook rounds among my Jewish friends. In it, a young man named Ethan Metzger defends his Judaism against the charge that his faith is the result of brainwashing.
Before anything else, let me just say that I have nothing but respect for this young man. His idealism does him credit, as does his creativity. It takes guts to get up and speak about your core beliefs in front of strangers, and he is articulate in his defense of his moral vision.
But here’s the thing: The Judaism he defends is all about respect, tolerance, integrity, love, faith and character -- all elements of Judaism, but all low-hanging fruit. These are the humanistic ideals widely shared by people around the world, of many different faiths and of no faith at all. In fact, if you bleeped the references to Judaism and edited out the yarmulke from this video, the religion or moral system in question wouldn’t even be identifiable.
The Judaism of Ethan’s piece is the stripped-down, modernized version that has easy, universal appeal. It’s a version that focuses on values and general principles, not on laws, traditions, rituals and practices. It’s all about “ben adam l’chavero,” the aspects of Judaism that deal with human relationships to each other, not “ben adam la’makom,” the aspects that deal with the human relationship to god. The whole “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” thing is pretty copacetic all around, while the whole “I am the lord your god” thing -- and for that matter, a “jealous and vengeful god” -- is a much harder sell.
It would naturally offend any young person of faith to be accused of having been brainwashed. But would Ethan’s response be so effective if he brought other aspects of Judaism into it -- aspects that are more problematic and also more particularly Jewish (which is not to say that they are more essential to Judaism -- just that they are more identifiably Jewish)? I’m talking about beliefs like biblical creation, divine revelation at Sinai and the parting of the Red Sea; milk and meat must not be eaten together; Sabbath is a day of rest that precludes lighting a fire but does not preclude walking 20 miles; god demands animal sacrifice; menstruating women are impure and must be set apart for seven days; god requires fewer mitzvot of women because of their domestic obligations; god told his people to utterly destroy every man, woman and child of a particular nation; the Jews are god’s chosen people.
For that matter, does Ethan believe all these things himself -- and if not, why not?
It’s’ not my intention to argue the validity or invalidity of belief in these things, but to point out that they do not lend themselves to quick-and-easy, gut-level acceptance by a mass audience. I’m pointing out that Ethan’s defense of his Jewish education is facile. In a world where most people at least pay lip service to such values as kindness and integrity, Ethan’s audience is of course going to get a feel-good rush in response to his passionate defense of feel-good Judaism. But Judaism is much more than those things, or at least, that is what a traditional Jewish education teaches.
As Jews, we have to grapple with the whole picture, not just the easy parts. In a world where science contradicts Torah; where women are free to move well outside traditional boundaries; where assimilation is not just possible, but likely; where we are free to walk paths of our own choosing; where most Jews at least question, if not outright reject, some aspects of their tradition; the question of what we believe and why we believe it is much bigger and thornier than Ethan acknowledges in his piece.
Just because the person asking whether you’ve been brainwashed is a jerk and a bully doesn’t mean the question isn’t valid. But I feel pretty certain Ethan Metzger, along with many other good, smart Jewish kids like him, will continue to confront the difficult questions. As they get older and gain perspective, the answers may not seem so simple -- which is as it should be.
Not too many people, upon hearing of a Carrie remake hitting theaters, think immediately of mikvah. If that association is perfectly logical to you, then you’re probably a female Boomer of the Tribe (or Jew of my generation).
The original Carrie blew my 14-year-old mind when it came out in 1976. I didn’t fully understand why it disturbed me so greatly at the time, but in later years I came to realize that its premise -- that female puberty carried with it a toxic combination of shame and the potential for destructive supernatural power -- is an assault on any thoughtful teenage girl, let alone one who has just taken a class in taharat hamishpacha (literally, “family purity”; Jewish law governing ritual impurity associated with menstruation -- a required class at Ramaz, the Upper East Side Jewish day school I attended).
Carrie made explicit what our modern culture has buried deep beneath the surface: a primal terror of the once-mysterious female procreative capability, represented by that most metaphysical of symbols associating female sexuality with death: blood. Carrie played that for all it was worth; no one who saw that movie will ever forget the blood.
Lately, I’ve read a couple of things about how Jewish women are trying to bring the tradition of mikvah into the modern age, making it meaningful in a contemporary context. Mikvah is a ritual bath; under Jewish law, a woman is niddah, or ritually impure, as a result of menstruation and cannot be touched by a man until immersion in the mikvah purifies her. I know this because I took taharat hamishpacha. We even had a field trip to a mikvah, where we were told all about how, once married, a week after our periods end we’ll have to come to the mikvah, strip off everything (including jewelry -- they made a big point of that), and immerse ourselves completely before we can be touched by our husbands.
Even back then, when I was still pretty gung ho about Orthodox Judaism, I was horrified.
I have never gone to mikvah.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who doubts that the laws of niddah and the tradition of the ritual purification of mikvah have their origin in the same blood-and-death superstition that drives cheesy horror films is deluding herself. And anyone who thinks that that association can be redeemed through reinterpretation -- that modern revisionism will wipe away the stain of the original intent -- is also deluding herself. No matter how badly you want to make the traditions of your religion dovetail with your modern sensibilities, some traditions cannot weather the elements that batter them, like science and egalitarianism; they are built on unsound foundations and will not stand. You should not resort to slapping a fresh coat of paint on old symbols and rituals that will always reveal their underlying form and function.
Why not? Because symbols and rituals influence the way we make sense of our world. That’s why they exist. They serve as constant reminders of the belief system that created them. They influence our thinking by permeating not just the culture around us, but the most personal spaces of our lives. If symbol and ritual were not so effective, they wouldn’t be ubiquitous in every culture that ever existed.
What harm can antiquated ideas about female fertility possibly do in our own age of information? Plenty. The sex-and-death association is all about casting female sexuality as a dangerous force; it’s a myth that supports a male-dominated power structure. Much ink has been spilled on why men seem so desperate to control female sexuality: the male need to control the blood line; the threat of female sexual autonomy; the association between female sexuality, hostile natural forces, and even the devil himself. The notion that women, in their pubescent stage, and more generally in their sexual, reproductive role, are unpredictable, aggressive, unreliable, flighty, destructive, mysterious, emotional, and dangerous permeates our culture. The logical extension, that women must be controlled, humored, infantilized, objectified, and fetishized, persists as well. The definition of femininity that to this day prevents women from taking their rightful place in public life; from acquiring true agency over themselves; from escaping the narrow confines of being defined by their sexuality; in many places, from their very liberty and human rights -- that definition of femininity is rooted in everything of which mikvah was created to remind us.
No doubt there are many who say that, whatever their origin, these ideas about femininity, pernicious as they are, now live on independent of any connection to ancient rituals and symbols. I would argue otherwise; I don’t think any girl, when first told that her period makes her impure and untouchable, fails to connect a whole lot of cultural dots, consciously or otherwise. But even if these ideas no longer root themselves in ancient symbols and rituals -- even if they have broken loose and become free-floating, received ideas that must be battled head-on -- why hold on to the rituals and symbols as if they mattered? Why be attached to the historical representation of ideas that have caused so much misery and oppression?
I really can’t see mikvah reinvention as a positive thing. Making a mikvah look like a high-end day spa strikes me a bit like putting Carrie in a prom dress; it’s just not that easy to hide the taint of Original Sin. Carrie’s vicious schoolmates hadn’t actually changed their spots by making her prom queen; they were incapable of seeing past the blood, and it was excruciatingly naive of Carrie not to recognize that. Similarly, mikvah will always be about blood. There is no magic wand-waving -- no amount of limestone tiling, fancy bath products and skylights -- that can erase that fundamental, historical truth. Nor should it. The danger of revisionism lies in whitewashing hard truths about the past.
Symbols and rituals matter. Among all the truths that get lost in our materialistic culture, that one is so lost, no one even thinks about it. But perhaps we should.
Leviticus 15: 19-30 And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be in her impurity seven days; and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her impurity shall be unclean; every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sitteth upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And if he be on the bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. And if any man lie with her, and her impurity be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean. And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days not in the time of her impurity, or if she have an issue beyond the time of her impurity; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness she shall be as in the days of her impurity: she is unclean. Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her impurity; and every thing whereon she sitteth shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.
NB: Yes, I know men go to mikvah, too. It has mostly to do with nocturnal emissions. Hey, nobody said sexually repressed societies only target women. Just mostly.
Now that my kids have all made it through public elementary and middle school, I’d like to get some things off my chest: the things we really need to stop doing to high-ability students.
But first, a word about words. “Gifted” is often used interchangeably with “high ability.” I think that’s very unfortunate. Talk about a word that reeks of elitism. "Gifted" is like saying, “The heavens opened and dropped blessings upon my child, but not upon yours. Sorry.” That said, I do think there are kids who should rightly be called “gifted.” The young Mozart and Einstein. You know -- prodigies. I don’t know what exactly got dropped on their heads, but it certainly isn’t what got dropped on mine or my kids'. “High achieving” describes kids who consistently master grade-level material with ease and quickly move beyond, and I’m sticking with that.
And now, back to --
FIVE THINGS WE SHOULD STOP DOING TO HIGH-ABILITY STUDENTS
1. Group projects. For some reason that passeth all understanding, the Powers On High seem to have decided that group projects are SO GREAT that kids need to do them all the time in every class. This is not exaggeration. I have been told by middle school teachers that they have explicit instructions from the administration: They MUST do group projects in every class. Now, I have nothing against the occasional group project, but here’s a news flash: They’re highly problematic for high-ability kids. Teachers want the groups to be “balanced” so that they all have an opportunity to succeed. This means they usually put high-ability kids in groups with some or all low achievers. Now let’s put the message in realistic kid language, from the high-achieving kid’s point of view: “Do all the work or get a sucky grade.” Or in other words, “We are punishing you for being a good student by giving you extra work.” (This is kind of an ongoing theme. More on that later.)
2. Crappy differentiation. “Differentiation” is education jargon for giving individuals or groups of kids in the same classroom different work based on their ability and achievement level. It’s a very difficult thing to do well, because it means that the teacher has to prepare multiple lessons that truly tackle material at different levels and can be completed semi-independently. On top of that, the teacher must then manage a classroom where not everyone is doing the same thing at the same time, moving among students in a way that provides enough time and instruction to each to be useful, but also divides his time fairly. What usually happens instead is the teacher gives everyone the same worksheet, and the kid who does it with great speed and accuracy gets....another worksheet. Or an extra reading assignment. Or told to help a kid who’s slower. In other words, “We are punishing you for being a good student by giving you extra work.” (See, I told you this would be an ongoing theme.)
3. Contests instead of curriculum. In our school district, we actually have a special program for high-ability kids (more or less -- see number 5 below), with dedicated faculty, so we’re luckier than many. But there’s no specific curriculum. Should Quest kids be delving more deeply into academic subjects? Independently researching topics of interest to them? Accelerating through the standard curriculum? Given highly specialized instruction? There are no guidelines. It seems to be entirely up to the teacher. The teachers did come up with some great ideas (which often involved group projects -- see number 1 above and 5 below). But a shocking amount of the Quest curriculum was dedicated to participation in contests outside of school: debates, spelling bees, mock trials, model UN, and, God help us, ENTREPRENEURSHIP. (The latter is rendered in angry, yelling CAPS because this contest was run by the right-wing Foundation for Free Enterprise, dedicated to teaching youngsters that money is good and government regulation is evil; the whole endeavor offended me mightily. "Non-political" my ass. But that’s another post.) Yes, the kids learned something in preparation for these events, but the truth is, these competitions were being used in place of a curriculum rather than as complements to one -- because, WHAT CURRICULUM?
4. Ignoring their achievements. And don’t try to tell me school administrators don’t, because they do. Schools give shockingly tepid recognition to high academic performers, as though it would somehow offend the Gods of Democracy to publicly praise a kid for doing well in the arts, humanities or sciences (as opposed to, say, running fast with a ball). Yeah, these days you get a little recognition when the jazz band or the math team does well, but only when teachers and parents push, and only out of a grudging sense of political correctness. The truth is, to get football-team-level attention, an academic high-achiever has to get national-level acclaim. Working ten times harder to get the same recognition. What does that sound like, I wonder? (“You want recognition? If you’re so smart, DO MORE WORK.” There’s that theme again.)
5. Low standards. This problem affects kids at all achievement levels, but we tend to consider it only as it affects low achievers. We talk about the problem of social promotion, where standards are set so low that kids move from grade to grade, and ultimately graduate, without having become truly proficient. But we rarely talk about the effect of grade inflation on the high achiever, who may have mastered material well above grade level, but gets the same A as a kid who is proficient at grade level. We don’t acknowledge how demoralizing it is when a high achiever is placed in an honors class, or even a Quest class, only to discover that the class is moving slowly because so many kids in it are not really ready for accelerated work. A few highly self-motivated kids will grab the bull by the horns and seek out opportunities commensurate with their abilities. But far more will simply conform to expectations, producing mediocre work that meets the standard they’re given, whether or not it’s the best they can do.
It’s hard for parents of high-ability kids to get up and talk about this stuff, because frankly they’re worried about sounding immodest. Like, “Excuse me, but my kid is too smart for your stupid school.” Of course, that’s not what this is at all, any more than the parent of a kid in need of remedial learning is saying, “Excuse me, but my kid is too stupid for your smart school.” We’re all just saying, “Please give my kid a program that meets her needs, is geared to her level, and helps her advance at the rate of which she is capable.”
Of course, that’s a pretty costly proposition, all that differentiation and individualization. It might cut into the standardized testing budget.
You know how your parents tell you stories, and you grow up believing them, but then as an adult you find out that some of them were greatly exaggerated, so then you wonder if any of those stories were true? This morning, I was able to confirm that one of my family legends was true -- or quite likely, anyway. It’s not much of a story, mind you, but it’s a neat little bit of my family’s history that has a connection to the bigger history of the nation.
I was watching Face the Nation -- the topic was the anniversary of the March on Washington -- and Colin Powell was on. I was reminded of something my mother, who died four years ago, used to tell me: that as a teenager, Powell had worked in a baby furniture store next door to my grandfather’s grocery store in the Jewish Bronx neighborhood where my mother grew up. I always thought that seemed mighty unlikely, but out of idle curiosity, I Googled.
Sure enough, Snopes says the story about Powell working in a Bronx baby furniture store in the 1950s is true -- in fact, he apparently learned some Yiddish from the store’s Jewish owners. Even better, the source Snopes cited gives the location of the store: corner of Westchester and Fox.
Turning to Google maps, I quickly found the corner of Fox Street and Westchester Avenue -- and saw that the next street over from Fox was Tiffany, which I remembered my mother telling me was the street where she lived.
So now the story was looking way more likely than it had seemed at first. But was my grandfather’s grocery really next door to the baby furniture store, or was it just in the same neighborhood, another example of an exaggerated family legend? Just as I was mulling that question, the phone rang. It was my father.
After chatting for a few minutes (he, checking up on my cold; I, checking up on his sore leg -- such is the scintillating conversation at our stage of life), I said, “Dad, do you happen to remember what street Grandpa’s store was on in the Bronx?”
“Fox Street,” he answered without hesitation. “Funny how I remember that. I haven’t thought of it in years.” (Truth be told, he remembers things he was told half a century ago far better than he remembers what he was told ten minutes ago.)
So there it was. Mom’s story was probably true. Young Colin Powell did work in the store next door to Grandpa’s, or at least, very close by. And here I was, some six decades later, listening to him, now a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, speaking on Face the Nation about the state of race relations in America. That was kind of neat.
Of course, I’d like to believe that, if Powell had ever had any contact with my family all those years ago (which now seems very possible), it was a positive experience that contributed to his optimism about race relations. I’d like to believe that, but it really depends a lot on whom he talked to. My grandpa was a sweet-natured man who, I believe, would have treated everyone with kindness. My grandma -- not so much. Of course, I knew her in her later years, but from what my mother always told me, the peppery personality I called Grandma was not a late development. How peppery? I never quite recovered from one particular day, maybe 15 years ago now, when I was riding the crosstown bus with her. We were sitting in more or less companionable silence when she blurted out, for no apparent reason and at the kind of volume only achieved by the hard-of-hearing elderly, “I read that Jews are marrying schvartzes! It’s terrible!”
This is what Colin Powell said on Face the Nation: “This country’s come so far....I think we should be very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we should not say, ‘All done.’”
I’d say that sounds about right.
How do you talk about the differences between pricey private school and public school without sounding like a total asshole?
In 1991, very soon after the fall of the Communist governments of the former Soviet bloc, my husband and I spent nine months in Romania, he as a physician working in the infamous orphanages, I as a freelance reporter and all-around logistical support. (Bear with me. This is relevant to my original question, I promise.) The culture shock we experienced was profound. Some of the weirdness could be chalked up to developments during Romania’s Communist years; the rest was just part and parcel of the Romanian national character.
“How much money do you make?”
That question was asked of us repeatedly, from the moment we arrived. As Americans, we were taken aback. It was rude. It was shocking. It was, more than anything else, unanswerable. Ask yourself: Could YOU bring yourself to tell someone who probably makes $45 a month what you make?
But in Romania, salary information is not treated as sacrosanct. I don’t know if this developed during the Communist years, when everyone earned more or less similar amounts (at least, on the books), or whether Romanian society has always had different ideas about money and privacy. Probably some combination of both. At any rate, we quickly took to answering the question with, “Sorry, in America we don’t talk about that.” This answer seemed to confuse Romanians and probably sounded as rude to them as their question sounded to us, but it did the trick, and the topic was generally dropped.
But it’s actually a damn good question -- not just good, but IMPORTANT. As we all know from personal experience, if you don’t know what other people make, you don’t know if you’re being underpaid, how much the company values you, or whether you’d be better off in another department, an entirely different industry, or for that matter, another country. The taboo about discussing salary is the employer’s ace in the hole; something he knows that you don’t. We all know our employers benefit from this power, and yet we all play along, because we are so deeply uncomfortable talking about what we make. If we earn more than the next guy, telling seems like boasting, or at least like very bad form; if we earn less, we don't want anyone to know because it makes us feel inferior, or at least vaguely embarrassed, or possibly just pissed off and resentful.
Ever since transferring my kids from public to private school, I’ve felt the same way talking about education (other than with a couple of very close friends). How do you tell public school parents that the smaller class sizes, absence of standardized testing, broad curriculum, and excellent facilities make this school a better learning environment than the one my kids had in public school without sounding like a total asshole, or at the very least like someone who is oblivious to issues of privilege? For that matter, how do you tell private school parents that, while the overall quality of teaching in private school is high, the best teachers in public school are better than the best teachers in the private school they're shelling out tens of thousands for?
It is absolutely true that the private school my kids now attend is expensive as hell, and many (though by no means all) of the kids who attend come from families who can afford to pay. And yes, the school accepts only about 30 percent of an already highly self-selected applicant pool. So, yes, many issues faced by public schools are simply absent in this privileged private school environment. And, while my kids’ private school can boast of diversity, it’s not the same all-comers-welcome diversity of which public schools are so rightly proud.
But if we can’t open a dialogue about differences between private and public education, don’t we parents hand politicians, school boards, boards of trustees, administrators, etc. an ace in the hole similar to the one employers get because of the taboo on salary discussion? If parents can’t compare their kids’ school experiences, aren’t we more likely to just accept whatever we’re handed, without even knowing what possibilities are out there?
Despite the obvious differences, some comparisons are valid and worth making; at least, some questions are worth asking. For example, is it best to focus on AP classes, or will high-achieving students get more out of independent study and research? Does arts education contribute to a student’s critical thinking skills? What role should physical education play at different stages of development? What’s the right balance between education theory and subject expertise in teacher training? How does class size affect learning?
In the past year, I have on numerous occasions bitten my tongue in conversations about such questions for fear that my, “Well, at my kids’ school...” will come out sounding like, “Well, at Fancy Shmancy Academy, the sun shines out of every teacher’s ass and there are unicorns and rainbows in every classroom; too bad for your kids that you can’t afford it.” (To be totally honest, I have met private school parents who, I swear, do think this way. It's pretty horrifying.)
And what about the other way around? What should Fancy Shmancy Academy be learning from its public school counterparts? What messages are not being heard by the private-school crowd because of false assumptions about public schools? Like, say, messages about job security and benefits that would allow teachers to make a go of teaching as a lifelong career, so kids can benefit from master teachers who have honed their art over a lifetime? Or how to prioritize spending to create opportunities for more kids rather than prestige opportunities for the institution? How do we get that dialogue going?
The plain fact is, in America, talking about money makes us queasy because of the fundamental tension between our shared democratic ideal and the obvious financial inequality among us. The public-vs-private education tension is a part of that. But if we don’t find a way to bridge that gap, we all miss out on valuable dialogue that can, over the long haul, create more equitable and effectively better school systems for all.
And that’s the thing we really have to remember: There is nothing magic about private school. Yes, resource levels vary between private and public schools, but they also vary among different private schools -- and, for that matter, among public school districts. Per pupil spending is a key issue, but not the only issue. How do we get the most out of the resources at our disposal? Which educational philosophy benefits kids most? How should schools be organized? Who should be making the decisions? We can find the right answers if we look at what works, but we can only do that if we talk -- and listen -- to each other.
Bonus track: Here's something that should be part of the dialogue about the intersection between money and education: Taylor Mali's brilliant "What Teachers Make."
Adding a related story of interest: Recently, actor Matt Damon has been attacked by the right as a hypocrite for sending his own kids to private school. Why? Because he has very publicly supported the anti-reformy public education movement -- those who are trying to stop so-called reformers who push high-stakes standardized testing, using student test scores to evaluate teachers and schools, abandonment of poverty-mitigating measures, and, yes, the mishmash of charters, vouchers and other privatizing measures commonly known as "school choice." The right's simplistic attack says, "So Matt Damon wants choice for his own kids, but not for poor kids." In fact, what Matt Damon and so many others are saying is that he wants progressive education for all kids, including his own. The kind of education reform that pushes testing, school closings, and privatization of public institutions is actually killing progressive public education by narrowing the curriculum, defunding public schools, demoralizing teachers, and increasing segregation. As a result, those who want progressive education must turn to private school to get it, if they can afford to. That's what we've done as well.
So Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor. This reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to blog about:
Part of my hair is now bright blue. This is not the non sequitur it seems to be.
No sooner was the announcement made that the actor taking over the lead role on Doctor Who is 55 (four years older than I -- gasp!), than we started to get comments like this one from the website Den of Geek: “Having an older actor in the role arguably switches the focus of the show once again. That's not to say it won't still be frenetic and action packed, but Capaldi brings something different. It presumably cuts out the romantic hints and tinges between the Doctor and his companion for one, going back to the first appearance of the character as more of a father/grandfather figure....”
Because, y’know, the shift to a more sexualized Doctor couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with an overall relaxing of decency standards on British TV and a seismic shift in the culture since 1963. It’s all down to the actor’s age.
It’s a case of straightforward ageism. Fifty-five is old, and old is asexual. Old is grandfatherly. Old is icky. (If you think this overstates the case, just spend a few minutes searching Peter Capaldi on Tumblr or Twitter, if you dare. I assure you, “icky” is mild. Though to be fair, by now, most of what you'll find online is backlash against the ageist backlash.)
By the way, this is Peter Capaldi.
Which brings me to my blue hair. A few people have wondered why I did that, given the fact that I made a big deal about not dying my hair anymore. So, to explain:
I don’t object to dyed hair. I object to the notion that grey hair must be eradicated. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to color your grey hair, as long as it’s a choice. But as long as we live in a society that treats it as a requirement, it’s not a choice, and it won’t be a choice until enough people choose not to. I jumped on that train.
Part of battling assumptions about grey hair is pushing back on the terror of aging and concomitant youth worship that characterize our culture. In fact, we go to such lengths to hide our age that the whole topic makes us intensely uncomfortable -- hence the fact that very, very few people ever even commented on my grey, despite the obviousness of the change. You have to ask yourself, what are the subconscious assumptions people make when they see grey? Could it be, for example, the absence of sexuality? (Hello, Den of Geek and large swaths of Who fandom.) A lack of vigor? The death of fun?
So that’s what the blue hair is about. It's meant to signal that my sense of fun is not dead. My enjoyment of life is not over. Granted, it’s a pretty simplistic -- one might even say, juvenile -- response. As rebellions go, it's pretty weak. But it makes me happy, at least for now. It gives me a fairly obvious way to defy at least some of those offensive expectations. I don’t think I’ll keep it forever, though. It’ll probably be gone by the time Peter Capaldi hits my TV screen in Doctor Who. Or not. Time will tell.
Apparently, the gray hair on my head is more like an embarrassing rash than hair.
I got a haircut about a month ago. The observant among you may have noted what’s missing from that statement. Just a cut. No color.
I’m 51 years old.
So here’s the thing: Not one person -- NOT ONE -- has mentioned my now-very-apparent gray hair.
Over the years, I’ve changed my hair in sudden and noticeable ways many times. I’ve always enjoyed the startled look on people’s faces when they see me for the first time after going super-short, bright red or platinum blonde. And every single time, some people have commented on the change. Not everyone, but at least some. Even subtle changes are always noted. “Did you change your color?” “Is that a new style?” “I like your hair.”
But this time -- nothing.
The whole thing didn’t start as a social experiment, but it quickly became one when I realized that no one was saying a word about my hair. I kept waiting for someone to say, “Interesting choice,” or, “Wow, that’s different,” or just a straightforward, “Why did you stop coloring your hair?” I wasn’t really expecting to hear, “It looks good,” but I guess I hoped just a little.
Instead -- nothing. Dead silence on the matter of my gray hair.
And it dawned on me slowly: People were ignoring the obvious because they felt they were being tactful, as though I had an embarrassing condition, like a nasty rash or a cold sore. Nothing bad enough to be painful and demand sympathy, like a broken bone or a laceration; just bad enough to be in that awkward gray area (if you’ll pardon the pun) where everyone knows it’s there, but no one feels comfortable drawing attention to it.
I can hardly blame them. I wouldn’t mention it, either. In fact, I didn’t. When an acquaintance recently stopped coloring her hair, I never said a word to her, even though I sincerely thought she looked beautiful. I’d like to think I would have said something if we were better friends, but to be honest, I’m not sure I would. It’s awkward. It seems like any compliment would have the subtext, “I admire your courage in staring steadfastly into the face of your own mortality.” Okay, maybe not quite. But sort of.
My acquaintance was inspiring, but the idea definitely didn’t start with her. I’ve been thinking I should stop coloring my hair for years. Well, since I started, really.
It will come as no surprise to those who know me when I say that I lean toward the old-school feminist when it comes to matters of personal appearance. I think so much that keeps women down can be traced to early socialization that makes us insecure about our appearance and causes us to internalize the belief that it’s more important to look good than to do good -- and when I say do good, I really mean do anything. When I see women suffering absurd levels of discomfort and inconvenience in order to conform to some societal expectation about feminine beauty, it makes me angry. High heels, makeup, Botox, Brazilian waxing -- don’t even get me started on plastic surgery.
Yes, I get that there actually are women who wear heels and makeup to please themselves and not because of societal pressure to conform to an unrealistic ideal of beauty or because they see themselves through the filter of the male gaze. A few. But most women who say that? They have about as much credibility as the heavy drinker swearing she can quit anytime she likes. (Taking a pause here to give the third wave a moment to rant at me. Okay? Moving on.)
Worse than anything else, I always thought, were all the potions and procedures women used because of their deeply rooted terror of aging. I think it’s tragic that we’d rather look young and stupid than old and wise. Yes, stupid. The obsession with youthful appearance goes hand in hand with the camouflaging of intellect by playing dumb. It’s all about infantilization. Men can wear age as a badge of honor. In middle age and beyond, they can look distinguished, dignified, authoritative, even powerful. But middle age women? The best we can hope for is to look younger than we actually are. (Oops, sorry. I think the third wave may need another minute here.)
Which brings me to my hair. I started coloring it when I was in my 20s, and it really was all about having fun, or so I told myself. I had not a trace of gray, and I went through periods where I changed my color wildly on a whim, and then went natural again when I got bored. I was never concerned about whether my dyed hair looked natural -- why should I be? I was absolutely certain I was coloring my hair for my own entertainment. I even made a mental deal with myself: I’d never dye for the primary purpose of covering gray, and when I was 40, I’d stop altogether. This was especially important to me after I had kids. I knew my daughter was growing up in a world that would beat her senseless with messages about youth and beauty, and I wanted to model for her a comfort in my own skin -- my own hair -- that contradicted sexist hype.
Forty came and went, and still I colored. There was less whimsy about it, too. I had a color and I more or less stuck to it, with only slight changes. Some highlights here, some more red there, but nothing major. I began noticing when my roots showed -- salted with gray -- and calling the salon to make an appointment when they did. I pushed the guilt down. What’s the big deal? Everyone does it. I’ll stop when I’m 50.
Fifty came and went. My roots were clearly more than half gray now. It was getting harder and harder to ignore the truth: I didn’t have the courage to show my gray. I told myself I just needed to get through my twin boys’ bar mitzvah pictures. Fifty-one came and went. I told myself I just needed to get through my daughter’s bat mitzvah pictures. Last month, I told myself I just needed to get through my niece’s wedding pictures.
And then I told myself, “Bullshit. You’re a coward.”
So I went into the salon and got a haircut. No color. My stylist did her best to be supportive, but clearly it didn’t come easy. (Well, why should it? My personal grooming choice was going to take a toll on her bottom line.) Because I wear my hair very short (part of the whole easy-is-better ethic), the gray was very obvious at the temples, but I still had plenty of color up top. Still, there it was. Gray hair, out there for all to see.
I have to admit, the first week wasn’t easy. I kept looking in the mirror and thinking, to my own chagrin, “I look old.” I’m not sure if I was more chagrined about looking old or about being embarrassed by it. A little of each, I guess. In public places, I found myself looking around to see if anyone even close to my age was showing any gray. The answer, of course, was no. In the last several weeks, I’ve only spotted a couple of people under 70ish showing their gray -- and not very many more over 70ish. They say 75 percent of American women color their hair. I suspect the other 25 percent are under 30.
It’s getting easier now, even though my hair is growing and I’m getting grayer by the day. I imagine the next haircut will involve some more chagrin. Pretty much all the dye will be gone then. I hope that, a week after that, I’ll have more or less stopped giving a damn about whether I look older. (Note that I said “whether.” I’m sure many will argue that of course I will look older. My hair will be gray. But I'm not convinced dyed hair really looks as much younger as we all like to think it does. I suspect it's a lot like a face lift. It doesn’t really make you look young so much as it makes you look less old, but not in a natural way. It signals that you’re trying. You’re not “letting yourself go.” It’s more a sign of youth than youth itself.)
To everyone who has tactfully avoided mentioning the embarrassing rash on my head: No worries. I truly do appreciate the difficult position you’re in, and I’m grateful you have my feelings at heart. Maybe someday we’ll all get to the point where we look at a gray-haired woman and say, “You look great,” without meaning, “That took courage.” But we’ll never get there as long as there are no gray-haired women around.
Yesterday, after blogging about Xerox’s Ignite software, which turns photocopiers into machines that evaluate student work (including writing), I tweeted this:
A photocopier that grades student writing? No thanks @xeroxcorp. You're all about profit, not learning. smokingtowardnewjersey.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-br…
— NJ Parents (@NJParents1) May 17, 2013
To my surprise, I actually got a response from Xerox:
@njparents1 #Xerox Ignite helps teachers w/grading, but real value comes in ID'ing learning gaps, so teachers can focus on student needs.
— XeroxCorp (@XeroxCorp) May 17, 2013
Isn’t that reassuring? The soulless data produced by mechanized evaluation would NEVER replace the human touch. It only makes the teacher’s job easier by identifying problem areas. Then the teacher can better meet student needs!
Wait a minute...that sounds kind of familiar. Isn’t that exactly what they used to say about standardized testing? The testing companies reassured us that the tests are tools to help teachers gauge student progress and identify learning gaps. That’s all they’re designed to do. They would NEVER use the tests for other purposes. Evaluate teachers and schools based on these tests? That would be crazy! I mean, my goodness -- next thing you know, teachers will be teaching to the test! Pearson wouldn’t want that, now would they? And Pearson would NEVER attempt to drive education policy toward higher stakes testing in order to sell more of their product, now would they?
So when Xerox says their student-evaluation photocopier upgrade is just a helpful tool for teachers that would never become an automated grading system that every school would be required to purchase, of course we believe them.
Imagine a world where teachers not only teach to the test -- they teach to the photocopier’s scoring of the test.
When you endorse a recording artist like Beyonce, I see the most misogynistic aspects of the music industry (that prefers girls to be no more complex than dolls) interpret your comments as a seal of approval for the thoughtless cultural currency that they flood the youth market with. I’m writing because I think it’s time to stop suggesting to very young girls that ultimate feminine success – in the music industry or anywhere else – comes with the need, or the expectation for them to undress.
In a longitudinal content analysis of images of women and men on more than four decades of Rolling Stone magazine covers (1967–2009)...we find that sexualized images of men and women have increased, though women continue to be more frequently sexualized than men. Yet our most striking finding is the change in how women—but not men—are sexualized. Women are increasingly likely to be “hypersexualized,” but men are not. These findings not only document changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular culture over time, they also point to a narrowing of the culturally acceptable ways for “doing” femininity as presented in popular media.
We all got a sex-ed presentation in middle school. They kept the boys and girls together because the presentation wouldn't work without boys. They had two girls holding clear cups of clean water. They then gave several boys cups of water and had them swish it around in their mouths before spitting it into one girl's cup. This was supposed to represent what sex does to you, I guess. Turns you into a nasty grimy cup of spit water. Who would ever want you when there's a sparkling virgin right over there?