Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Into a War Zone

Last night, my wife and I watched a Lifetime television movie together. Yes, I know. Lifetime is television for women. But I'm proud to admit that I like a great many of the movies they produce. Sometimes they go over-the-top, throwing in every angle to a given social issue they possibly can until all believabiliy is thrown out the door...but still, the movie last night was enlightening.

Odd One Out is very similar to the theatrical movie Mean Girls (starring Lindsay Lohan). It chronicles just how cruel girls can be during the teen years with no really good reason. The movie really did a great job of portraying the helplessness the main character and victim of the cruelty would feel, and how even her mother was unable to do a whole lot to stop it.

To my wife and I, the cruelty in both movies seems totally implausible. For me, I think it is because I am a guy. Sure, I grew up in a public school, but I had a very close peer group, and while there was definitely picking that went on, I managed to avoid it most of the time. (Not always, though. I was a prime target for being picked on since I was a top honor student, aka geek, as well as strong in my faith.)

My wife spent her junior high and high school years in a Christian private school, which likely saved her life. She was already experiencing a lot of cruelty in the public schools during the elementary years, so it was so good for her to get out of that environment.

So, are girls really that mean? Well, according to my wife's good friend, yes. In fact, the type of meanness portrayed in those movies was very similar to her own high school life.

The thought is scary, frankly. You might has well throw your kids into a war zone. Literally. I think they would have a better chance of coming out unharmed.

There was a point in the movie where the principal was approached by the girl's mother. She said, basically, that this is normal and that her daughter needs to learn to deal with this to prepare for life.

Big flaw in that, however. Life isn't like that. High school is. I grew up in a public school, and I've been in the "real world" for some time now, and there is just no comparison. The ways people picked on me and were mean to me in high school are downright horrific compared to anything I've experienced since, and what I experienced in high school was rather tame to what some of these girls are experiencing.

Right now, we're safe. We homeschool. But that won't last forever. My wife and I would like to have our children enrolled in a school starting in the ninth grade. But this movie shows us just how dangerous that could turn out to be. We are trying to plan ahead, hoping to enroll them in private school instead where this type of behavior is not tolerated. At least not to the extent it is in public schools.

I'll admit, however, that locking them up in our house until they are, oh, twenty-one sounds awfully appealing at the moment. Of course, that can't happen. But as parents, we are responsible to ensure our children grow up not only well-educated, but emotionally secure and strong, ready to face the world. I'm not sure that requires throwing them into a war zone.

Note: This post is not intended to suggest that public school systems are bad. I mean, I came out relatively unscathed. It is more a point of awareness. If you have children in any school, public or private, be involved. Be an advocate for your child. Don't brush off the social issues they are facing. Make sure they are hooked into a strong and supportive peer group. Were it not for my peers, my high school experience could have been entirely different.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Middle school was bruetal for me.

One of the girls in my class broke her glasses and didn't want to tell her mom she did, so she said I broke them. The whole class ganged up on me and called my house everyday making calls saying I broke them and needed to pay. Or did some other prank phone call to the point where my parents considered changing our phone number.

Rumors spread like wildfire and people you thought were your friends turned on you the next day for no apparnt reason.

I got picked on over everything. What I wore to school, what color my shoelaces were, what pogs I had, what pogs I didn't have, what I had for snacks, what my haircut was, my yearbook picture, what I wore on picture day...everything.

The back biting was incredible.

I'd say it started in 4th grade. By 8th grade it was signicantly reduced. When I was in 7th grade my parents were about one snide remark away from putting me in a private school.

By 9th grade everything was fine and I had several great friends while everyone else left me alone.