People ask online all the time, “I’m looking for book recommendations featuring a protagonist that- (fill in the blank) is homosexual, is a man, is a strong female, is a minority, is asexual, is a redhead, is a single parent, etc. etc.” It’s even better when readers ask for these roles in their favorite genre.
It isn’t a problem to have strong protagonist characters of a specific type featured in a novel or story or song, but it is a problem to only read books with those kinds of characters; characters who look strikingly like us. And the problem is that we indulge in a kind of literary segregation, only and ever choosing our favorites and leaving the rest-a very wide swath of literature, indeed-to collect dust on the shelves.
The entire point of reading is to explore new people and places and situations we have never encountered and possibly never will. When done right, reading broadens our expanse of understanding and sympathy, it deepens our humanity and imagination, and it takes us to new places. Reading is ultimately about thinking and learning, although reading can be great fun in the process as well. But if all we ever do is read about ourselves or our fantasy-selves, then we, by necessity exclude the rest, resulting in our own echo chamber and perpetuating the very real societal ills of racism, homophobia, and general lack of community we are currently dealing with in American culture. Be diverse in your reading, and encourage your children to be diverse.
Read about protagonists that are mentally or physically disabled; that are your opposite gender; that are a different skin color than you; a different religion; a different culture; a different language (or more challenging/antique one); a different time; who love the things you hate; who hate the things you love. Stretch your mind, and find that it is so much less what we or others look like, than our underlying humanity that connects us.
I don’t believe the ACLU actually cares about the ethics of this case, they were paid big money to win with a potential windfall of new cases and big money from other wealthy, activist parents.
But the so-called Department of Education ought to be ashamed of itself. It outright threatened the ability of school district 211, which covers five high schools near Chicago, Illinois, to provide an education for its students and that’s the bottom line. The DOE extorted, and I do mean extorted, their desired result from this district in an unprecedented move.
“OCR’s [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence” Source
Let’s pretend the DOE had only focused on the high school in question, rather than the whole district, and let’s further pretend that the DOE was looking out for the welfare of 50 students, in a population of 300. The bottom line is the DOE still threatened the education of every student, and the employment of every teacher there.
What does it mean when the United States Department of Education cares more about where one (or fifty, or even one thousand) teen changes clothing a few times a week, rather than whether those students and hundreds more have access to quality education?
This was not a case of a student being discriminated against or denied the right to an education based on skin color or sexual preference (see photos for examples of actual discrimination and prevention of the right to an equal education). This was a case about where and how a student should change clothes at school, although the student in question had already been assigned a private bathroom for changing. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is completely out of line.
Contact them here to share your thoughts with them.
*If you liked this post, please considersubscribingto my blog for just $1.50/month.
Side Note: It is a potentially interesting tidbit that the lady in charge of the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, worked for 10 years at the ACLU in Southern California.