Posts tagged education

Boys will be boys?

Another day, another ticking off for inappropriate and generally thuggish behaviour. Not, i hasten to add, my own. Though its not hard to end up feeling as though the dressing down is personal. Not so much him on the carpet as me back in the Headmaster’s study.

Playground incident

No. I arrive to pick the boy up from school (friday evening) to be informed that the previous day, whilst i was queuing up to speak to someone in reception or his class teacher (i forget which) he had hied himself off and inflicted serious physicality on another in his class. For this, he has now been generally spoken to, seen the Head, and lost various privileges.

In the evening, he appears abashed, and we have hopes that, even if a new leaf is not turned, some light is dawning.

And to contextualise, lest anyone think he is some sort of lone thug, terrorising the rest of his class: sadly – or happily? – not. His school year contains a number of boys who seem to have internalised values that would not be out of place in a medieval fight school. So if it is not our boy in trouble for flooring so-and-so, it is our boy complaining that such-and-such classmate has kicked him “in the peanuts”. (a horrid piece of current juvenile slang).

He’s not, as it is hard sometimes to remember, much worse – or better – than his peers. He is pretty average for his year. He is also kind to kittens and younger children – and was seen earlier this week hand in hand with a female class member, of whom he appears to be reasonably fond. Perhaps this will have a civilising influence.

No. On the whole, it seems that he is not that out of the ordinary: that his class teacher and other mums are aware of the general issue as it affects MOST in his class; and progress is being made – not least thru a strict regime of rewards for good behaviour, and rewards withdrawn for bad.

Line drawn?

Sons vs. feminism

Almost. However, the episode is front of mind as two women, from slightly different perspectives, question whether we aren’t too harsh on boys. The first, raised in principles of fairly strict feminism, but now herself mum to a boy of similar age, bemoans the way in which girls (or “young madams”) now seem to think they own the world: how they dominate in school conversations; how boys are made to take a back seat next to them.

Olde worlde values

T’other, our very own boy’s mum goes a little further: she questions whether we aren’t over-interfering. Because, she suggests, left to their own devices, boys tend to use fighting not as a means to some fatal end, but as a simple tool for sorting out pecking order. Leave them to it and they will scrap and get over it seems to be the thesis. Whereas over-interfere, as with caged animals, and the result is long-term simmering resentments that never quite get fixed.

I have some sympathy. The world has moved on since my youth when accepted wisdom was that boys out-performed girls and the “gender gap” was about the problem of girls failing to do as well as boys. We’ve not just closed the gap – but reversed it, possibly by the simple expedient of switching from male-friendly modes of schooling to female-friendly.

Its an ongoing debate and one where maybe in time we need to admit that the styles of teaching and examining may need to be more closely adapted to gender than they are now.

On the violence thing, i am less sympathetic. Again, i would agree that the genders “use” violence differently: that violence is not a thing in itself, but a tool, with a function and a purpose and a perceived value – and boys (and later men) all tend to place different values on each of those categories compared to girls.

But…no. I am not persuaded. Violence, i fear, all too easily becomes habit. Sure, there may be circs where the participatns in violence are mutually consenting and therefore the action is that much less problematic. But once learned, it becomes far too easy to apply it in other circumstances: in all circumstances.

Boyish violence then does become precursor to adult violence: because it teaches a lesson that when in doubt or when in dispute, it is OK to resolve a disagreement by force. And that, it seems to me, is universally bad.

So much as small boys might like to fight, i think i for one will remain supportive of teachers’ efforts to persuade them not to.



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Very unChristian

Those who read my blog regularly will be aware that i am quite positive when it comes to Christianity and LGBT stuff. Sure: go trawl the fundy sites and you’ll find some nasty stuff of the hell and damnation type.

But in terms of personal experience, i have also found some seriously charitable deeply tolerant, Christian (in the way i was always brought up to understand it) behaviour from real people. Which is why i get so hot under the collar when i read articles like this one from the Sunday Times in Perth, Western Australia.

The lede pretty much says it all: homework given to 14/15 year olds at Armadale Christian College asks pupils to consider homosexuality is “the sickest sin” in a school assignment.

Possible, i guess, that this is just a teacher being provocative in order to stiumulate lively debate. One of the reasons i would make a bad teacher in today’s highly ordered climate: i’d have no prob setting such a title with a view to getting pupils to challenge the view…and i just know that some people would think that merely asking people to challenge the view could be tantamount to endorsing it if one didn’t make it absolutely clear that one was.

SO i shall reserve final judgment (ooops! no biblical allusion intended) until the investigation by the Department of Education reports back.

But if i had to rush to judgment? I have a suspicion, a sinking feeling that this is not challenge, but regrettably Christian homophobia.

The piece also reports that the assignment points children to bible quotes describing homosexuality as an “abomination”, and describes “coming out of the closet” as “open sinning”.

Ye-es. I guess that would make sense if the assignment also pointed the kids towards quotes describing christian fundamentalists as “a bunch of intolerant bigots who will be the first into the pit on the Last Day”…but somehow i doubt it does.

Ah well. Hatred is alive and well in sunny Australia.


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Sharpen your pitchforks!

Now I’m in something of a quandary. Following my encounter with the transphobe bloke from Hell (or possibly Peterborough: the similarities are marked), the local Leisure Centre has been a difficult place for me.

First, because I have no idea of how much anger and angst my very existence has stirred up. Are the villagers out the back, sharpening up their pitchforks, just waiting for the opportunity to spring out, en masse, yelling “burn the tranny!”? Or is it that I have done no more than excite the prejudice of one lone threatened male, who has co-opted his family to his cause and now feels entitled to lecture me on the “discomfort” I cause to others?

And that’s the issue, I guess. The unknown. The fact that whatever is out there, in the way of prejudice, it has been turned on me and once turned on, its hard to turn off again. On the one hand, I fear still, albeit remotely, that some anonymous dickhead will step out of the shadows and bash my head in.

On the other, I hate the sense that I may actually be causing discomfort to others. And whilst that is ever the case – just being Jewish no doubt causes discomfort to your average White supremacist – that sense of othering is istill a source of discomfort to me. How to explain? We-ell, direct physical threat to me from a minority I get very well. It happens: I need to take care not to put myself in harm’s way.

But the sense that beneath the surface, some unspecified number of people – as the guy who confronted me implied – regard me with suspicion and disquiet. That turns the tables. It makes me fill ill at ease. Makes me feel less at home in places I thought I was safe, accepted.

So. After a minor follow-up incident about two weeks ago, I’ve tackled the Leisure Centre again – and again niente! Nada! Nothing! If women do resent my presence in the female changing rooms, none has the presence of mind to even inquire about it. Or rather, two individuals over the space of six months plus have asked whether I am entitled to be there and, being told I am, have made no further issue.

Still, I dislike the sense of things festering. The Leisure Centre agree and, in a week or two, I will be doing a public meeting at which the public can come to ask questions and check out the situation. I can see that going badly: but since most of those involved want to make it work, my hope is that it will be a genuine opportunity for someone both trans and fluent to do a bit of pubic education.

It helps that there will be someone from the Council’s diversity team there – and a PCSO, just in case things heat. But back to the quandary.

If I focus on my “rights” I risk alienating. Some bolshie tranny stood in front of a cis audience proclaiming her right to go where she wishes, do as she pleases is a sure fire recipe for raised hackles and putting backs up.

On the other hand, my other tack – one that I tend to favour emotionally – may give too much to the mob. That is, a chunk of this is about fear for the kids/fear of the unknown, the pervert. Simple. I just explain a bit about the hormones. Explain I couldn’t, much, present a threat if I wanted to and…

…you see the problem? Alienate them by being too bold: or put myself over as damaged, incapable. Not to be feared because I’m a miserable wretch who couldn’t hurt a fly.

No. Neither seems the right way to go. So any advice from anyone who has done this sort of thing before…would be very welcome.


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TV for the TS?

Sometimes I just don’t get around to stuff. That’s been the case with two stories I wanted to write about of late. One, a bit of personal detail, about dancing. It’ll keep – but I really need to write it up.

The second, which no doubt will have various members of the trans community excited in one way or another, is the fact that a month or so back I signed my soul away. Or, more precisely, I agreed to take part in a documentary on transition.

Its likely to be fairly mainstream, being aired on one of the ITV channels. It will also, I hope, be a bit different. Oh. It won’t be ALL different. The world isn’t ready for that yet.

Because the start point is about trying to produce something that takes a serious look at transition, highlighting some of the issues, some of the challenges to be faced when you decide this is the path for you.

There’s a lot of fly-on-the-wall stuff. A fair bit of getting inside the whole family…or as much of family as is happy to be got inside of and it will provide a perspective of sorts.

I agreed to do it because after a number of conversations, both with friends in the trans community and with the producers, I felt it would, on balance, be positive. How so? Well, it won’t please anyone whose instant reaction to a meeting of media and trans is that it must be inevitably doomed to being exploitative.

Of course it will be, in the literal sense that any contact between media and the real world is characterised by the exploiting of the raw material involved. Exploitation happens whenever I put my neck on the line as an activist, or even when I complain about abuse by a member of the public and the press picks up the story and reports on it.

Because the raw material of the press, of TV, of the internet is stories. Narratives. In that sense, we haven’t moved on very far in almost 3,000 years. 800 BC was it, when Homer – or whoever the guy was really – told stories about the Fall of Troy and the exploits of that notorious cross-dresser, Achilles?

Those who see the job of the media as somehow or other telling the truth are doomed forever to be disappointed. That really is not its role. The media likes stories. That which is unusual will always feature highly. Within that, the story-tellers like characters that take on certain clearly defined roles within the action.

At the end of the day, those who complain about press coverage of “trannies” need to decide: are we demanding some sort of embargo? A total news black-out? Or do we accept that we are fit subjects for the myriad stories that go the rounds. Fairly obviously I go with the latter.

Why? Because the only way that the majority of the population is going to learn about us is by hearing stories about us – and the more those stories are ordinary, everyday, normal, the better.

What I hope this documentary will do is show that we are people, too. That no matter how different our journey, we have families, friends, communities within which we function – just like everyone else. That for all our difference, we are as much part of the human race as everyone else.

High-flown? Yep. I have every expectation that the documentary will fail to live up to idealised trans perfection. Still, right now, I have a fairly strong hope – a belief, even – that some degree of normality will shine through the imperfection and the overall message will be positive.

Ask me again in six months whether I still think that has happened. I’ll let you know.


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