Amy Loper of Cedarville, New Jersey was enraged after reading her eighth grader’s homework assignment. The homework, given to him in his language arts class at Powell Elementary, asked him to write about a scenario that included explicit descriptions of drinking and sexual promiscuity.
The scenario’s narrative was to imagine going to a party, having “a little too much to drink,” and having sex with a stranger. Upon waking up the next day, you can’t remember what happened. As it turns out, “you contracted herpes from your one night stand.”
“I was just shocked,” said Loper. “This is vulgarity at the utmost.”
After bringing her concerns to the district superintendent, Loper was told that the assignment was linked to a book the kids were studying called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. She was further told that she was within her rights to opt her son out of sex-ed. That, of course, doesn’t solve the problem since this assignment was not presented in a sex-ed class.
Loper’s child apparently did not complete the assignment, but that’s hardly the takeaway. We should instead be questioning why an assignment like this is being handed out in the first place. These educators don’t realize the psychological damage they are doing to these young minds by presenting this scenario as normal. This gives kids living similar lifestyles the license to keep on keeping on. And it makes 8th graders who aren’t living this kind of life stop and wonder if they are doing something wrong. Could a message be any more backwards than that?
Of course, the argument is that kids know all about this stuff anyway, so the best we can do is teach them to make good choices. Drink, but watch your intake. Have sex, but use a condom. And maybe try to know the person beforehand, if convenient.
This argument is the most disturbing part of all of this, because it means we’ve just given up. We’re not going to infringe on our kids’ social lives by monitoring what they watch on TV or which internet sites they visit. What the hell, watch Orange is the New Black, little Johnny! Surf all the porn sites you like. I’ve got my own shit to deal with.
In Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, there’s a brilliant passage where the sheriff reflects on the trends of society:
I read in the papers a while back some teachers come across a survey that was sent out back in the thirties to a number of schools around the country. Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. […] And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. […] So they got one of them forms that was blank and printed up a bunch of em and sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years later. Well, here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide. So I think about that. Because a lot of the time ever when I say anything about how the world is goin to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of smile and tell me I’m gettin old. That it’s one of the symptoms. But my feelin about that is that anybody that can’t tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has got a whole lot bigger of a problem that what I’ve got.
One generation will perhaps always seem a little wild compared to the generation before, but we’re making a big mistake if we don’t see the difference between Elvis shaking his hips on TV and schools presenting 13-year-olds with ethical dilemmas regarding sex and drinking and herpes.