Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex: Abstinence and the Preachers of Doom

I've talked about my research on the Quiverfull movement on this blog before, but I haven't gone into one of the more tangential areas related to it--abstinence education. The reason this is on my mind today is a) I just finished a paper a few weeks ago on born again virginity, and b) I'm watching The Education of Shelby Knox on Netflix. Shelby Knox is a documentary about a high school girl in Lubbock, Texas who fought the school's abstinence only policy to try to lower the pregnancy and STD rates there, which were some of the highest in the country. The filmmakers interviewed Ed Ainsworth, a True Love Waits speaker and abstinence proponent; during the course of this interview, AInsworth commented that while he talked about STD's in detail in his presentations, he would never demonstrate how to put on a condom. Then he compared this to showing kids how to use guns.

Okay, first of all, let me say that I am well aware that the only 100% effective way to prevent STD's and pregnancy is abstinence; that is a no-brainer. However, it is incredibly naive to believe that all teenagers are going to save themselves for marriage, and let us not forget that since we in the LGBTQ community cannot, for the most part (depending on where we live), get married, this is effectively saying that we should live completely celibate lives. Neither is realistic. Yes, it would be a perfect world if all teenagers (and adults) for that matter were more careful with their sex lives. STD's, like AIDS, would not be as widespread, and there wouldn't be as many teen and unplanned pregnancies. BUT this is not going to happen. It simply isn't, but these "abstinence warriors" do not want to admit this.

I am not saying that kids should be told that as long as they use protection, it's free love for everyone. However, they should be taught the proper way to use protection, the risks involved in multiple partners, how their bodies function, what STD's are and what they do to you. Unfortunately, many kids don't know the first thing about any of this. Abstinence only proponents claim that if this sort of education were available, there would be more teen pregnancies and STD's, but the evidence shows otherwise. In schools, such as Lubbock, where abstinence is the only line, the rates are much higher than in schools with accurate sex education. Many say that it should be left up to the parents to teach kids these things. Maybe in a perfect world, yes, it should, but the sad fact is that many parents are either unwilling or unable (being products of the same close-mouthed systems as their kids) to provide the education that kids need. As I said in my Mr. Rogers post, kids are exposed to a lot of things, and parenting should be one of those. It is a sad fact that this is not the case, and yet these same parents who are neglecting to tell their kids anything are the ones screaming that parents should have the final line on sex ed at home. Make up your mind. Either parent or allow the school to do it for you, but don't leave these kids to their own devices with no information available. That is dangerous.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Life 10: Following the Dead...Presidents, That Is...and How to Blow Up the World

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

This is one of those books that has been on my "to read" list since it first came out--around 2005. At one point, I think we had it out of the library; Anna read it, but I was managing that god forsaken store in Talladega at the time, so....Anyway, Vowell covers the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations in an amazingly funny way. Along the way, you learn all kinds of strange information while also following her on her road trips to the historical sites associated with each of the deaths. I don't particularly know what to say about this one except that it was an excellent and quick read, and her other books are on my "to read" list for the next break. Fun Fact: Sarah Vowell was the voice of Violet, the daughter, in the Pixar movie, The Incredibles.

E=mc^2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation
by David Bodanis

When I told my friend Sam that this was a great book, he gave me "the look". You know, the "I'm sure it's great but wow what a geek are you" look lol. While I do read quite a lot of material on astrophysics, etc. that can be, frankly, over my head in places, this isn't one of them. Bodanis wrote this book as a way of explaining Einstein's equation to people who may or may not be familiar with physics, without sounding like he's trying to talk down to you. I loved it. He takes the equation apart and gives the history of each component, which was awesome, because though I kind of get what the whole equation does, I never knew the background of the pieces. For instance, I never knew that there were two women so influential in discovering and researching ideas that made the theory of relativity possible. I also never knew that Heisenberg, of the famous Uncertainty Principle, was basically a flaming Nazi; he was in charge of the Third Reich's atomic bomb program. And I don't mean he worked for them under duress and had serious issue with their actions; he once told a colleague that he knew about the concentration camps, but what can you do, you need the labor. o.0 All in all, of any of this interests you, pick up this book, regardless of whether you are a physics nerd. The chapter explaining how the atomic bomb actually works is worth it on its own.

Book Life 9: Beam Me Up (Yet Again)

Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Infinity's Prism by William Leisner, Christopher L. Bennett, and James Swallow

Ahhh...the all-too-short break between spring and summer semesters is here. You know what that means? OUTSIDE READING! YAY! Don't get me wrong; there are only a few books that I have had in classes that I didn't like. However, sometimes the lovelies lying unread on my shelf call my name, and during the semester, I must ignore them. This particular book has been being ignored since the last break unfortunately...

In any case, if you are a Star Trek geek and are unfamiliar with the Myriad Universes series by Pocket Books, you need to go get them now! Basically each volume (there are 2 already in print with another on the way in December of this year) is three short ST novels, each written with the idea that at least one thing in the standard ST universe did not go as we know it. Hence the name Myriad Universes. I've read both of the ones that are out, and I LOVE THEM. This one in particular is interesting because of the final novel, though the first two are awesome as well.

Seeds of Dissent by James Swallow incorporates not only the characters of ST Voyager but also Capt. Picard (in a tangential way). The historical difference here is that rather than be defeated Khan won in the early twentieth century and his empire in the twenty-third extends beyond Earth to the Trill home world as well as Vulcan and a host of others. What Swallow has done is create a ST version of the classic "if Hitler had won" idea, and it works quite well. The most interesting is the notion of rewritten history. Almost no one in the 23rd century knows that Khan was a bloodthirsty tyrant; the histories available paint him as a savior. It is definitely enough to make one consider the history one was fed in school (if that hasn't already happened)...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blaming Mr. Rogers: A Critique

Blame it on Mr. Rogers

okay, my awesome friend Shyla posted the above article on facebook this morning. It isn't a bad article or terribly bad theory, but I have issues with it. Basically, LSU finance professor Don Chance claims that the overwhelming sense of entitlement among young people today is due to Mr. Rogers inundating them with "you're special just the way you are" messages. He says that it's all just a part of the ego-boosting aimed at children and the upsurge in "His Majesty, the Fetus" rhetoric from the pro-life groups. Again, not a completely flawed theory, at least when it comes to the ego-boosting and pro-life parts, that is. My main issue with the Mr. Rogers part is that it seems to be just one more way to take attention off of the fact that many parents are simply not teaching their kids how to act. Not only that it de-emphasizes all the good that Mr. Rogers did. Let me explain...

As pathetic as it may sound, as a child of Mr. Rogers-watching age, I was told very little that I was okay as I was. I had little evidence to assume this even without verbal cues, and Mr. Rogers was, somedays, the only person that actually claimed to like me for who I was. I had few friends, and as most of my current friends know, a terrible and usually not present mother. For kids like me, Mr. Rogers provided, if not perfect self-esteem (because let's face it, he was on TV and not entirely invested in my life), a seed of self-acceptance. Yes, I was weird and the biggest geek I knew, but that was okay. I know I was not the only kid for whom Mr. Rogers provided this...

"You're special." On the Yahoo Answers Web site, a discussion thread about Mr. Rogers begins with this
posting: "Mr. Rogers spent years telling little creeps that he liked them just the way they were. He should
have been telling them there was a lot of room for improvement. ... Nice as he was, and as good as his
intentions may have been, he did a disservice."

Even if Mr. Rogers did tell us that we were special the way we are, the entire show was about how to be a better person. Caring, compassion, empathy--these were constant themes. We may be special just the way we are, but we still needed to learn empathy and how to care for others.

That aside, we are living in an age in which children are the all-important and media and culture at large are blamed for everything. Take Columbine. Who was the first to be blamed? Not parents for not realizing the kids had problems, not bullies who caused the problem, but Marilyn Manson--a singer whose music the adults didn't understand and who is different enough to be easily targeted. When a kid does anything--take a gun to school, beat someone up--it is the video games and movies that are blamed. Now, I'm not saying that media and culture don't have any effect. Obviously they do, but think about this. If parents did not expect TV, movies, and video games to babysit their kids, maybe they wouldn't absorb the influences so fully.

One example that Chance points out in the article is calling adults by their first names. Now, maybe this is a regional thing, but I was never allowed to simply call an adult by their given name. When a friend's mom told us to call her by just her name and not Ms. (first name here) and I said it in front of my grandmother, she proceeded to bawl me out. I was to call people Mr. or Mrs. and their last name, or at the very least Mr. or Ms. and their first name. Just a first name was considered the height of disrespect. But apparently other places this isn't as stringently enforced...

But all of this can't be simply the fault of Mr. Rogers. After all, it's only a half-hour show. There are 23 1/2 other hours in the day in which kids can absorb other influences. Maybe parenting should be one of them...