I love that my graduate students have challenged, tackled and addressed controversial issues this semester. Our focus on digital citizenship has addressed issues of intolerance week after week. I find myself challenging my beliefs and asking questions that I never even thought of when I first started teaching.
My transformation started this fall when the freshmen from Rutgers, Tyler Clementi took his own life. I took it personally. I did not know Tyler, but his suicide made me determined to focus on a solution. Tyler Clementi could be my son, your son. He was a brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, and most importantly, a human being. This perspective launched me into uncharted territory. I am the mother of a son. What if this was my son? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can I make a difference?
The world responded and It Gets Better Project had people across the world stepping up and pledging to speak up against intolerance. Celebrities posted their own stories and words of encouragement. As our semester is coming to a close, I’m still concerned that I haven’t done enough. Why do children and teens have to wait for it to get better? Why can’t we make it better now?
Recently, the controversy around the J.Crew designer and her five year old son wearing neon pink nail polish hit the news. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. It made me dig deep. My four year old is all about dinosaurs, but what would I do if he was interested in tiaras? I kept coming back to the same questions: why would it matter? Children need the opportunity to play and explore different roles – that’s what growing up is all about. In middle school, adolescents try on new personas daily. We support young adolescents as they figure out who they are socially, emotionally, physically, intellectual and morally. Why are we not doing this in all phases of a child’s development? What do we need to do as a society to change how we view others and accept individual differences? Doesn’t everyone want to celebrate what makes us unique? I certainly do! I’m not waiting, I pledge to make a difference now.