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"Nappy Hair"

Supplemental: http://cnn.com/US/9811/24/teacher.book.ap/

I really have no energy to write an essay regarding the specifics of parenting and social responsibility, two debates this Soapbox touches upon. I just wanted to throw some thoughts out about what I see wrong with parents these days. So please be lenient in your interpretation and criticism. ;)

Did you hear about the teacher who was removed from her third grade class because parents of students complained about her reading the book Nappy Hair? The book, written by an African-American professor, aims to make children with "nappy", or knotted and curly, hair proud to have it, instead of being ashamed of it.

I don't think many people who read this will disagree with me when I say that the parents are overreacting. Therefore, my aim isn't so much to persuade anyone that what the parents did was out of line, but more to describe what I see as foreboding about this whole debacle.

Alright, so let's begin by examining the parents' motivation for complaining about the book. The class is made up mainly of Hispanic and African-American students. The teacher is white. Perhaps some of the parents considered it inappropriate that a white teacher chose to identify with non-whites by using Nappy Hair. I can only speculate -- all I've read are summarized newspaper articles. Why would parents want their children identifying with their own cultures through someone who isn't even a part of that culture?

Why should children discuss the word "nappy" and what it means in their own lives? There should be no conflict in schools, only learning and preparing children for higher learning. It isn't so much finding a way to relate school to reality, some parents may think, but instead just teaching them how to survive.

I don't know the true intentions of the teacher, but I can honestly say that at face value, she should be lauded for trying to find ways to identify with students she otherwise wouldn't be able to as well. She brought in a book (which I must remind the offended parents is JUST a book) which covered topics that these kids might've had to deal with every day. Mary Had a Little Lamb, a book mentioned in CNN's article, would not relate anywhere near as well. Like children give a damn what happened to the stupid sheep, or to Little Miss Muffet, or the cow and the cat and the moon and the spoon and the milking that story has gotten through the years.

Alright, easy enough topic to take sides in, yeah? Okay, now let's have some fun.

Teachers get enough shit as it is. It's not enough that teachers get paid what amounts to less than dirt these days, as do other people who perform civic duties like policemen and firemen -- teachers are also labelled pedophiles if they even touch or pat students on their backs. Touching, a natural form of communication, particularly used by humans to express approval, is off-limits. Teachers are forced to stay to a set curriculum, with little flexibility and little rearranging of schedules to compensate for the actual flow of a class over a semester. Rush rush rush, got to get the quizzes out so the Board doesn't reprimand me... Teachers also are blamed for lack of motivation in their students, as are they not allowed to try to give their students enriching and rewarding lives by making them think. There is virtually no incentive to teach to grade school kids beyond the sheer motivation of the individual trying to become a teacher. Society does not reward these people who have huge influences on molding children at their early ages.

There aren't that many good teachers because they've been scared off.

At least university professors are given much more freedom to teach. :) You only have to make it through twelve Hellish years of unfulfilling, vapid grade school before you get there.

At the same time, mankind's colossal defeat over natural selection means that the idiocy contingent is growing at astonishing rates. Parents are becoming even more stupid with every passing day, and there are more and more of them, as well as more and more children for each of those families. They spread like bacteria.

Many parents, like the ones who protested this book, are so bewildered with the mature task of raising and educating their own children that they search for external factors to explain their kids' failures. It's television, they say, or the Internet, or even books by Mark Twain and Thomas Hardy. Heck, some groups fear Disney's proliferation of smut is destroying their children's minds. Granted, much of this is only found in the platforms of extremist religious groups, but it signals a trend of parental stupidity nevertheless.

You've heard it all before. Parents are more and more detached from their children than ever before, and children don't identify with their parents, and the chain continues with the children's offspring. We all live separate lives, and we have little in common. Parents don't take time out for their kids, and they deny their children much needed love and care. At the same time, they think they know what's best for their children, so they don't think the kids need to learn about certain things like sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. But the children learn anyway, because the people they DO identify with are other children.

There is no reason to ban books. In my opinion, there's no reason to stop children from seeing violent and graphic movies if the parents consent. Having an age restriction unless parents are around is a benign thing, I believe, but completely outlawing it is absurd. There is an article at ABCNews.com regarding a children's media watchdog group which is complaining about violence in computer games. How insipid. Attempts to place society's ills on media are a joke. Children are fucked up these days for dozens upon dozens of reasons, but I'd say one of the chief reasons is the deflection of responsibility by parents to provide interactive, inspiring, and intelligent environments for their kids. Reading a book about Hester Prynne getting knocked up by a priest does not lead to premarital sex, nor does gibbing a Quake 2 monster into a wet vapor of blood lead to murder and violent crime. Granted, some TV shows occasionally make you want to do violent things, but that's only because they're so bad. :) The point here is that it takes deeper emotions and problems to make children indifferent to learning and to being socialized to fit into society. It takes...like...a massive breakdown in one's moral fiber, a relapse into complete demensia, and lack of remorse to become a murderer...quite a far cry from what a video game can give you, believe me. (and any game that COULD recreate that would be badass, but that's another issue...)

Parents keep complaining about how schools are not staffing knowledgeable and creative teachers, about how schools do not emphasize learning anymore but are just meeting grounds for kids to have sex and to take drugs, all while playing football. And then the same parents band together to point out the exact books which are contributing to the filth inside their children's minds, the rock music that rots brains inside-out, and the teachers who are teaching their kids offensive topics like evolution, sex education, and "nappy" hair.

Is this contradiction just not as obvious to everyone else as it seems to me? What, parents, do you WANT? The parents are a major source of the problem. It pains me to say that, since I'm one of those defenders of media such as television and the Internet, an advocate of letting parents have the choice of how to raise their children. It's hard to say that when you have no confidence in parents' abilities. It's hard to advocate parental choice when parents are busy beating their children and sleeping with their co-workers instead of their wives.

With the older generations, they retain the values and principles they feel are most pure and worthy, and they scorn the younger cultures and generations. They're antiquated, out-of-date. They're closed-minded, and kids aren't going to put up with that. At the same time, children these days are extremely cunning and intelligent. They gravitate towards people who WILL let them think how they want, and unfortunately, those "free-thinking" people are not exactly the best influences.

This is the way it has always been, even in the early days of mankind. But what's dangerous about the rift between old people and young people in TODAY'S age is that there are blatant contradictions in the rhetoric of irresponsible parents and the clueless politicans who claim to support the family. While in the past, kids couldn't identify with their older relatives, now they're told they SHOULD learn, just not learn about much of what they're interested in at young ages, like sex and dating, sports and gaming. Children are expected to enjoy Socrates, Emily Dickenson, and Christopher Columbus at an early age -- it's just not happening with this system. Kids on the whole aren't really ready to appreciate it -- more tangible topics, like physical appearance, should be explored to give children the sense of identity and self-awareness they'll find crucial for their personalities as they get older. This isn't to say children shouldn't have their abilities pushed to the limits in order to expand their minds while the paths in the brain are still flexible -- no -- indeed all I am saying is that kids shouldn't be labelled abnormal for not appreciating the finer authors and composers and artists at their age.

In short, parents suck. They can't do anything right. They find scapegoats and refuse to take the blame -- meanwhile, kids like me, and people I know, are growing up with full freedom to explore and look at just about anything we want, and it doesn't make us any more violent or extremist. In fact, having the freedom and the lack of pressure to choose what I wanted to learn more about was probably one of the main factors in my pursuit of becoming a well-rounded adult, learned in everything from computers to literature to physical activities. I think it's fair to say these parents are bogus.

Telling children about nappy hair is not promoting stereotypes or racism, it's showing children that they're normal at a point in their lives when they're struggling to match up against other children. Parents continue to censor and "protect" their children from offensive material, but it causes more harm than good, simply because children are by their nature going to rebel against what they don't want to do.

Let the teachers teach, and give teachers incentive to teach. Don't punish teachers ANY fucking time they try to help, and then chastise them for NOT trying to help. Let information be free, let children be free to learn what they want, given responsible parental supervision. It was Socrates who expressed concern over people basing their views of the world on utter ignorance, and who encouraged those people to reevaluate their philosophies and come to logical conclusions.

Parents, emotionally childish as they are, do neither of these, and therefore they are afraid of their children's educations with a passion. They are scared that any slightest thing will trigger something to snap inside their children, and they are unaware that it is not learning and information which cause destructive behavior.

The offended parents are afraid of teaching Nappy Hair because they do not understand what it means for children, nor did they even take the time to read the book through to ascertain its overall goal. Is it any wonder our whole school system is failing miserably, when everyone is afraid to actually receive an education?

Considering how things could have turned out for me, I'm extremely grateful towards my parents and my teachers for allowing me to develop the way I have. By the time I got to UT Austin, I was taught how to think rationally through various perspectives, and I believe I've been thoroughly enriched through my two and a half years there, because of the excellent curriculums and professors I've had the privilege of taking.

Doesn't it simplify things and put them in perspective when you consider that fear is the only thing holding mankind back? How much could we accomplish as a whole if we were to boldly charge into the unknown instead of pussyfooting around it for decades upon decades?

I'm sorry to say, as a practical kind of guy, that this will never happen -- it's human nature to fear what we aren't familiar with. What that says about our future as a race is a stunning thing indeed.

And I'm also stunned to think what's going to happen to me -- I'm not sure my book deal will go through now. =) That's too bad, because I'd really love to see my books, Big Nose, Slanted Eyes, and the titles with less racial overtones, Floppy Ears and Super-Long Tongue go to paperback. Gimme a chance to argue with those people after they've banned my books from their school district! Lemme at 'em, the irresponsible, censoring bastards!

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