Vaginas and Nazis and School

blackboard_w_letters_smallSchool: The place where students usually learn about mathematics, science, social studies, and bad cafeteria food,  Some students in the past few weeks had lessons that raised controversy and got the teachers in hot water.

First up is a science teacher in Idaho.  When the school’s health teacher wouldn’t cover sex education, he took up the responsibility.  Unfortunately, parents complained when, in his discussion of the facts of human reproduction, he mentioned a word they found horribly distasteful: Vagina.

This is where I say: Huh?!!!!  I know that there are many names for that area of a woman’s anatomy that would cause me, as a parent, to cry foul.  There are so many words and phrases referring to "there" that are insulting and have no place in a school classroom.

Vagina, however, is not one of them.  It is the proper anatomical term for that particular section of a woman’s reproductive system.  It can be found in scholarly papers and in patent applications.  If it’s good enough for scientists and businessmen to use, why can’t it be taught in our school system?

If you are thinking that the students were forced to hear these horrible medical words, then you’d be wrong.  Parents were allowed to opt their kids out if they wanted to.  This means that the teacher was attempting to inform the students whose parents didn’t opt out of proper medical terminology for a subject that is important for students to learn about.

Next is the honors English teacher who assigned a creative writing assignment.  The assignment?  View some Nazi propaganda and then write a paper detailing why Nazi Germany’s problems are all due to the Jews.  Obviously, this raised a few eyebrows.  In fact, a third of the students refused to do the essay outright.  (I’d like to take a moment to congratulate that third for their excellent judgment skills.  They should get an instant A on the assignment just for that.)  Since the assignment was given, the teacher was put on administrative leave.

I understand what the teacher was trying to do and, in theory, the idea is a good one.  (No, not the Nazi thing…. bear with me.)  He was trying to make the students take on a viewpoint that is not their own and write a persuasive argument for it.  This is a good idea as it forces students to review their preconceived notions.

However, not being anti-semitic and not approving of genocide aren’t "preconceived notions" that need to be reexamined.  A better topic would have been why a certain form of music isn’t good (when the student really thinks that it is) or why a particular phone manufacturer is better than an alternative one.  How did the teacher think that the "Nazi essay" wouldn’t generate controversy?

With this and all of the other things that teachers need to deal with, is it any wonder that so many teachers not only quit teaching, but recommend that new teachers not go into the profession?

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