education, Rants, Teacher

“Gimme a Y! Gimme an O!” Seriously…Gimme some common sense.

writing131Have you ever found yourself singing along to the lyrics of a song and suddenly going, “Holy crap! Did he really say that?!”

Google the lyrics of some of your favorite songs and be prepared. My favorite song of the summer, Blurred Lines? I really wish I could unlearn those lyrics.

There’s something about chanting or singing that makes us lose sight of the meaning of the words we are saying.

The Orientation Committee at St. Mary’s University learned this the hard way last week.

Committee members were caught on camera leading hundreds frosh in a chant that was…how shall I put it nicely…just plain wrong.

“Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass. SMU boys we like them young!”

Ummm…seriously?

Did anyone actually think about what they were saying? It seems like the siren of the song lulled the organizers into thinking that their words didn’t matter.

Now, imagine for a moment that the rhythm of the chant and energy of the crowd were removed. Only the words remained.

Here’s what a simple conversation between a new freshman and his orientation leader might sound like:

Male Orientation Leader: Hey man. Welcome to SMU!

New Frosh: Yeah, thanks!

MOL: So, listen. Uh, I don’t suppose you have a sister, do you?

NF: Yeah, I actually I do. She’s in Grade 10.

MOL: Cool! You know, us SMU guys, we like them young.

NF: What are you talking about, man? Are you saying something about my sister?

MOL: Chill out, man. It’s OK. Us SMU guys, we just ike ‘em young, like your sister. Cuz she’s so tight, you know?

NF: Are you kidding me right now? Shut the hell up, man! Why are you talking about my sister like that?!

 MOL: Don’t freak out, man. I just really like the fact that she’s underage, you know? I don’t even need to get her consent. I’m just going to grab her ass.”

I don’t think we need to stretch our imaginations to figure out how this scenario would end. The Orientation Guy would most likely be on the ground trying to find his teeth, while the frosh rushed home to get his sister into a nunnery.

Of course, a conversation with dialogue like this sounds ridiculous.

And yet, when it was sung in the middle of a football field, by hundreds of young people, it somehow seemed completely normal. Young men and women smiled and sang along.

The release of the video has caused an outpouring of outrage across North America.

Once again, adults are shocked and appalled by the behaviour of “young people today”!

On local radio call-in shows, outraged old men were calling for the end of orientation events altogether.

“Kids today! They have no respect! It’s just Party! Party! Party! Orientation is just partying and should be cancelled. University should be learning and nothing else!”

OK. Thanks for that, Gramps.

But in the real world where I live, orientation committees play a valuable role in helping young people make that transition from home to independent living.

Orientation used to be about hazing and heavy drinking.  Enormous progress has been made in getting these things out of official orientation events. And I have faith that progress on eradicating this bizarre “rape culture” will be made as well.

All we can do is keep calling foul when we hear these things and help kids to understand why it’s wrong.

Some folks are saying that it’s unfair that SMU Student Association President, Jared Perry, was pressured to resign. He made a mistake. That’s all. And he apologized, so…

I disagree.

Seriously people. We are the town of Rehtaeh Parsons. For the past few months, our airwaves have been full of discussions about the importance of consent and the dangers of a so-called “rape culture”. How could anyone not know that this chant  was wrong?

I’m sure Mr. Perry did plenty of wonderful things during his term and I suspect he has a bright future ahead of him. No one is saying he’s the devil incarnate.

BUT, when you make a mistake, you have to own it. And owning it means accepting the consequences.

SMU needs to regains its reputation and rebuild the trust of its students, alumni and community. And they will.

This “scandal” will blow over and a new one will take its place.

But let’s hope the lesson sticks. Think first..then think again.

writing132

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Pop Culture, Rants, Suburban

Rehtaeh Parsons – Do her alleged “rapists” deserve our open hearts and minds?

writing76Last week, I published a blog post about Rehtaeh Parsons, the Cole Harbour girl who committed suicide following an alleged sexual assault and the subsequent bullying that followed. (see post below)

Today I received an interesting comment from someone with the handle TruthSeeker. It invites a different perspective. While I disagree with most of what the poster has to say, I do agree that we can’t start a witch-hunt. We can pressure our lawmakers and politicians to pursue a very difficult case, but we shouldn’t be taking the law into our own hands.

Kindness nurtures kindness; hate nurtures hate. And right now, there is a lot of hate floating around out there. Perhaps instead of ranting and raving about how could such a thing happen and kids today and how this wouldn’t have happened in MY day (yeah, it did…it just didn’t get spread all over the internet) we could try working on our own little circles – be kind to ourselves, each other. I want justice to be served, but hate isn’t going to get us there.

I invite you to read what TruthSeeker has to say, along with my follow-up comments, and let me know what YOU think. I understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but I have a very hard time believing that Rehtaeh Parsons was able to give informed consent to four of her male  classmates so that they could have sex with her, photograph the act, and then send the picture around to their peers. Call me crazy, but something about that story doesn’t ring true for me.

Law and Order - This is where I get most of my legal 'knowledge'.
Law and Order – This is where I get most of my legal ‘knowledge’.

p.s. I have been advised by a lawyer-friend that I don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the law very well. Which makes sense seeing as I have an English degree, not a law degree. Since he’s much smarter than me in all things legal, here’s what he had to say: Regrettably the law is not as cut and dry as we would like it to be. Law is an absolute premise (statutes saying you can’t do this or that), justice is the contextual premise. Your commentator is correct. We cannot presume guilt because of age, alcohol, the numbers involved. Just because it looks criminally icky (and it does look very icky) does not mean when the evidence is reviewed, or heard that it would qualify as a breach of the law.

Rants, Suburban, Teacher

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be assholes.

Like the rest of the world, the folks in my small Canadian community watched the court proceedings of the two boys charged with raping a classmate in Steubenville, Ohio with shocked dismay and horror. It was easy to look at those boys in Steubenville and say, “Oh, they’re different from us. They were small town football heroes, protected by their community.”

March 13, 2013, Facebook post by Rehtaeh Parsons. Less than month before she committed suicide.
March 13, 2013, Facebook post by Rehtaeh Parsons. Less than month before she committed suicide.

“That is so awful,” we said.

“Those kids are being raised with absolutely no morals or values,” many said smugly.

“I am so glad I am not raising kids in the states,” some said. “Thank God those things don’t happen here.”

Then today’s paper arrived and smacked that smug look right off our faces.

The headline screamed, “Who failed Rehtaeh Parsons?”

Rehtaeh Parsons was a 17-year-old girl from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

On Sunday night, Rehtaeh died after trying to commit suicide earlier that week.

A year and half ago, she had been raped by four boys. The rape was photographed and shared on the internet. Rehtaeh was shunned by her classmates and eventually changed schools.

Even after Rehtaeh switched schools the bullying continued. She received texts from boys asking her if she wanted to have sex and texts from girls calling her a slut.

Rehtaeh told her parents what happened a few days after the rape occurred. They immediately went to the police. Rehtaeh’s mother said the investigation took over a year and the boys themselves weren’t interviewed until long after the rape occurred. After a year of investigating, the RCMP said there was insufficient evidence to lay charges.

Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on???

What possesses a teenage boy to rape his classmate while his friends look on and join in like it’s some sort of bizarre drinking game?

What possesses a child (and I say “child” because these kids were children) to take a picture of this crime and post it on the internet for the world to see?

What possesses a teenage girl to send hateful text messages to someone who has already been victimized many times over instead of helping her?

Where was the empathy? Where was the sympathy? Where was the compassion?

Where were the adults???

It sounds like Rehtaeh’s parents were doing everything they could to help their daughter. What about the parents of the other children?

Don’t tell me people didn’t know. Cole Harbour is a small community. Everyone knew.

What did the parents of these boys do when they were told what their children had ‘allegedly’ done? There was photographic evidence for godsake! Did these boys go to counseling? What did their parents say or do to let their children know that what they did was wrong?

Did Mom and Dad stick their heads in the sand and say, “Not my boy. I know, I know. You have a picture of him doing this awful thing but it must have been her fault. My boy wouldn’t do that.”

And what about the parents of the kids who tormented Rehtaeh on Facebook and through text messages? Did they take away their children’s computers? Their phones? Were these children counseled on how their actions made another human being feel?

The scariest thing about all of this is that these kids who raped, bullied, and tortured Rehtaeh didn’t think of her as a human being. They dehumanized her, so that they could treat her the way they did. This is how bullying happens. It’s how genocide starts. It’s how the Holocaust occurred. If you don’t think someone is a person, worthy of your respect, then you don’t care what happens to them.

In her book “Just because it’s not wrong, doesn’t make it right” parenting expert, Barbara Coloroso talks about how we need to be raising compassionate, caring, empathetic children.

I know there are no quick fixes or easy answers. Nor is it possible to pour into our children all we have learned. Their learning must come from the inside out. They need opportunities to care and to share and to do. They need to be accountable for what they do or fail to do. They also need opportunities to reflect on moral issues, work through ethical dilemmas, and determine for themselves what kind of people they would like to become.

For godsake people. A child is dead. How many more children have to die before we start doing our jobs?

http://www.kidsareworthit.com/uploads/ethics_handout.pdf