****This pregnancy is really getting in the way of my school board meeting participation. I mean I CAN'T DRINK RIGHT NOW.
So I'm watching the live feed because those chairs were going to see to it I never stood up straight again, and writing a blog... and it's really a ridiculous thing that I even have to write about.
The TOPIC: The inclusion of a nationally recognized and award-winning book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by author Sherman Alexie, into curriculum, as requested by the English Dept.
If you haven't heard the CVUSD school board president, Mike Dunn's opinion on a book he hasn't read in its entirety, he has made some pretty aggressive comments, describing the book as pornographic, stating that "forcing" "children" (high school students) to read this literature (approved by UACT), is "child abuse." Again, I must remind you that at this time, he hasn't been able to confirm actually having read the book, after having more than two months' time to do so.
Now, these assertions are wholly, wholly irresponsible and abhorrent. How dare our school board president accuse the dept. chairs and teachers —whom are experts in their subjects — and that form the curriculum committee, of child abuse. CHILD ABUSE.
I'm going to risk sounding like a broken record BUT, apparently it's needed:
YOUR RELIGIOUS OR PERSONAL "FAMILY VALUES" AGENDA DOESN'T GET TO DETERMINE WHAT LITERATURE IS INCORPORATED INTO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL'S CURRICULUM.
I value your right as a parent to teach whatever your personal values are at home. I welcome your right to have the religion you have, or practice whatever set of ideals you feel important. I welcome you to practice those beliefs in a church, mosque, etc. of your choosing. However, these personal choices and personal religious choices don't have a place in influencing our public school education.
If you want a customized curriculum that caters to the idea of "innocence" you've developed for your children, you have every right to home school or choose a private school that caters to your religion. No, the public school system is not designed to act as your specific tool, to be altered to suit only your personal morals and beliefs, and those you teach to your children. That is not how public education works and it's preposterous to demand that public education be censored to fit a religious criteria.
Now, I did my due diligence. In order to understand what was so "controversial" about this book, I READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. Not only did I read it, I invited everyone who participates on my page to read along with me, and a lot of us participated in analysis of themes and conversation. I asked over and over and over again for those who found objection to share examples of how this book was pornographic, abusive, or inappropriate for high school children.
NOT ONE out of the 40 or so parents that participated felt this piece of literature lived up to Dunn's claims. I made sure to leave this topic open-ended throughout the book reading process and encouraged diverse viewpoints. I also reviewed countless study guides found online through school sites and shared how the themes would be discussed and handled.
And then, I took a few excerpts of reaction to the book and sent it to the entire board so they could also read that feedback.
So, I did my homework on the book.
DID YOU, MR. DUNN?
In regards to the areas of "worry" expressed: language, explicit sex, bullying, violence, etc.... I found these topics no more represented in this literature than in MANY of the current books already in place in the school curriculum. Some titles come to mind: "Romeo and Juliet," "The Lord of the Flies," "Hunger Games," "Catcher in the Rye," to name a few. A FEW.
Are we cool with these books because the author is white? YES OF COURSE WE ARE.
Should it surprise you that a group showed up tonight that identifies themselves as "Unified Conejo" represented by, from what I could visibly deduce as at least 90% white men, to decry this literature? They're worried about family values you see, and that what they teach at home, won't be mirrored in the classroom, and so, they demand this book not be included.
Y'all. Have you not been paying attention to what has been happening not only in our hometown but in our country? Last week a video went viral, that captured high school students in our district, singing and chanting racist speech and insinuating that all black people need to die.
This past weekend, a young woman was murdered by a white, domestic terrorist who ran her over with a car at a white supremacist rally while she was peacefully marching for equality. It's sweet if you think "all minorities are valued," but you've clearly been turning a blind eye to the fuckery that is happening all around, and next to you.
Diverse curriculum is invaluable. It should be quite apparent, especially now, more than ever, that we need to do right by the students in our district. We owe it to them, we have a RESPONSIBILITY to them, to expose them to guided conversation on challenging topics and themes that will help broaden their knowledge base and enhance their education.
It is not the board's job to vote to suit the religious right who backs them in campaigns. That is not what it means to be a board member in our district. I realize that Dunn has a re-election coming up in 2018, and wants to satisfy his conservative base, but IT'S UNACCEPTABLE to prevent students in the district from the opportunity to be exposed to diverse literature in order to pad their upcoming campaign runs.
And let's talk about the issue of formalizing and enhancing an opt-out policy. Where do we draw the line? Something can be found offensive in every single book ever written. What will the district do, when this circus encourages droves of conservative parents to demand multiple opt-out options on curriculum? What then? How will the teachers satisfy these requests? How can we guarantee our students receive an enriched education, if we spend our time trying to appease only the religious right? How can our teachers even handle that amount of work?
A student speaker today said it best: it is not the board's job to protect students' innocence, it is their job to educate the students.
JUST IN: THE BOOK IS APPROVED, DESPITE DUNN'S VOTE AGAINST THE BOOK. There is still concern on Mr. Andersen's part regarding opt-out policy and discussion, but he is hopeful a discussion will be had moving forward.
It's been a while since we've chatted. Years, even. You were my maid of honor. You were the first person I texted when I learned I was pregnant. You were there for the birth of AB, the first public tantrum (AB's, not mine), and my first outing post baby. You held my baby shower for me, planned down to every last detail. You called me every day to catch up. Our friendship spawned over more than 15 years. It wasn't always smooth, but you grew into someone I considered family, even if we had a lot of different views. And boy, we sure did, and I imagine still do, don't we?
Recently, someone messaged me and asked me why I no longer post about mom group posts. My posts had made them laugh, and while they appreciate some of my "political" posts and still follow my page, they miss the days of laughter over the most ridiculous mom group post of the day.
I mean, material was RIPE if we're being honest. From women bemoaning over being taken to brunch to posts waxing poetic about the latest fight or sex episode with their "DHs" (dear husbands), I didn't have to look far for entertainment. It filled my feed by the second.
So going back to the first time I started "blogging," which lasted all of nine and half seconds, I had a very similarly-styled blogged, which at the time, was named "Anything But Brunch." You've heard me talk about this before if you've read some of my previous blogs or posts. It stemmed from a sarcastic "note" I wrote on Facebook on my personal page, detailing my shock and awe over the things I was reading about in a mom group a friend had added me too. I guess I took it too seriously and not seriously enough if that makes any sense. Anyway, I wrote the little note on my Facebook page, it garnered some reaction, and voila, I created a makeshift blog on Tumblr.
Of course, it wasn't long before it got shared in said mom group, and the pitchforks came out. While I had been receiving likes and laughter from friends and family, wellllllll, I can't say the response was the same from the women of this group who felt betrayed. Their safe space had been invaded and I was public enemy number one. I mean, the fallout resulted in a new admin being brought in, members that were less than a year old to the group being kicked out, etc. It was a fiasco.
And at first I didn't care. I was all, "la, la, laaaaa, sorry not sorry!"
And then I was like: "OMG AB IS GOING TO HAVE NO FRIENDS. I'VE ALREADY RUINED HER WHOLE LIFE." I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I wrote apology messages and attempted to at least calm the shit storm I was responsible for creating.
And there was a part of me, a part which grew bigger, that felt genuinely bad at the thought of hurting these women's feelings for a laugh. Whereas, I aimed, and sometimes poorly, to poke fun at the content (so I convinced myself it was a victimless crime), there's still an originator of that content, and still someone on the other side of that post who will feel however they want to about a post of theirs being taken to town.
Of course, when shit hit the fan so swiftly and I was just a wee little lamb, I deleted that Tumblr blog without blinking and moved on with my life. It wasn't until a year later that my friend encouraged me to start up the blog again. It had been a while. My wounds and lessons of blogging past had faded... except the lesson that the blog should be anonymous so I didn't lose my head.
And it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of laughs to be had. And on the whole, a lot of people with the same sense of humor as myself found their way to my page and we had a jolly time. But, again, I naturally found myself over time having those same feelings of guilt. I love laughing as much as the next person, but it still didn't necessarily always feel great to do so at the expense of others, no matter what cautions I took to avoid that.
And so naturally, my page has shifted. We don't joke about mom groups much anymore. I mean, sometimes because sometimes you just receive a screenshot that can't be ignored, but on the whole... I've realized that if I want to preach women empowerment, perhaps instead of filling my time in mom groups that do the exact opposite of that, I should focus my time on those making a difference... and maybe even find some time to do that myself.
So, I feel ya. It was a good thing that had its time and place, but I couldn't live up to the expectations forever, nor the responsibility that came with punchline.
There's a lot of things people can be addicted to. Most commonly, you hear of food addictions, drug addictions, alcohol addictions, video games, gambling and so on.
I'm not addicted to what are considered "traditional" or obvious things to have an addiction to, which makes it harder to acknowledge or even admit the problem.
It takes a village, they say, often leaving out exactly who you should prioritize being in this said village.
When I was pregnant with AB, I didn't read a single baby book. I joined BabyCenter and got those, "YOUR BEBE IS NOW A PEANUT" emails, and quickly regretted that. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as online mom groups.
I was blissfully unaware.
I spent my time worrying about moving into a house, how we were going to decorate the baby room, how we were going to afford life, how our lives would change, and wondering if I was going to be a good parent.
What I didn't do was research the pros and cons of breastfeeding. I didn't look into whether or not I should co-sleep. I didn't fully wallow in the merits of baby carrying versus baby strolling. I didn't look too heavily into how screen time will undoubtedly kill your child. I didn't do a lot of research, and THANK BABY JESUS I DIDN'T because had I known about all of the things people were about to start judging me for, I probably would have become a hermit.
I did look into the benefits of drinking beer while breastfeeding.
Of course, as the story goes, girl becomes pregnant, girl has baby, girl joins mom group, and girl vows never to have another child again so she doesn't have to put up with that bullshit — not the child, but the judgmental as fuck parenting community.
We are our worst enemy. Mostly we pretend to be a supportive community, meant to "lift women (or parents) up," when in reality, many are just waiting for the opportunity to tell another woman that her child's IQ will be affected because she turned to formula.
A lot of this comes down to the language and approach we use. "YOU SHOULD BE...." or "THE BEST THING FOR YOUR BABY IS...".
We speak in absolutes, instead of acknowledging all of the many different upbringings, grandma remedies and experiences we as children had, and our parents before us, when determining how to raise the future generation.
We see a parent at the park on a cellphone and make a snide remark.
Our kid throws a tantrum at the market and five strangers are sharing how they would have handled it.
A parent takes out a bottle of formula at a restaurant — garners stares.
A nursing mother takes out a boob at a restaurant — garners stares.
Earlier today we watched a viral video of a man giving his son a baseball bat as a surprise present and people still had something to complain about. The comments, sadly predictable, rolled in: "You should say Happy Birthday immediately to your child when they wake up or you're traumatizing them. What a mean thing to do, I would have been devastated." I mean, right? How terribly cruel to let this little boy think his birthday was forgotten for the 30 seconds it took him and his dad to go to the car and find the surprise present in the back of the car. MUST WE COMPLAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING? The boy got a present he wanted, on his birthday, and his dad was present to attend his baseball game and be present in his son's life, and WE ARE STILL BITCHING. "Well, I would have..." STFU. Nobody cares what you would have done. Do it with your child and move the fuck onnnnnnn.
With the level of insane judgment, whether it be from the "breast is best" crowd or the anti-CRY-IT-OUT (CIO) crusaders, parents are surely drowning from a lack of support.
I've never understood why we couldn't be happy for someone if their baby was fed, and clothed and happy. Noooope, that's not enough for us. We're now professional parents and our way is surely the only, right way, just like our god is the only, right god.
My village, and the one I'll continue to cultivate for AB2, will consist of the people who respect the challenges of parents. Respect the challenges of being a person and a parent. Respect that there are more important battles to be fought than whether or not I breastfeed, use formula or both. I encourage you to remember you get to choose your village. It is your right to ignore unsolicited comments and "advice" from those who have no other investment in your child's life other than to be a superior-than-thou stranger on an internet board or in a grocery store line.
You're going to do just fine if you keep that in mind.