Saturday, February 10, 2018

"Just a girl who can't say 'no'?"

Last night, just as I was about to retire for the evening, I saw a news article that piqued my interest.  It was posted by one of my ex Mormon friends who works as a teacher in New England, but obviously has some ties to Utah.

Utah schools... putting young girls in a "turrible fix"...

Valentine's Day is approaching, and for some people, that means parties, dances, romantic dinners, cards, and candy.  I remember when I was growing up, Valentine's Day generally sucked on many levels.  I never had any boyfriends and most of the cards I got either came from my mom or were forced exchanges in school.  When I got to high school, it was even worse.  At the end of the day, there was a list read on the school's PA system summoning all the girls who got flowers to come pick them up in the office.  Of course, my name was never on that list.  I do remember someone giving me a carnation once, though.  I think it was a female friend who did it.

One thing I never had to contend with, though, were forced dances.  For one thing, we mostly didn't have dances during the sixth grade, although I do remember one horrifying exception that left me in tears.  For another thing, back in the 80s, people didn't care so much about kids hurting each others' feelings.  Kids were mostly left to work things out among themselves.  For the most part, I think that's the best thing to do-- although given the current climate of violence in school, maybe I'm wrong about that.

The news article my friend shared was about a sixth grade girl in Utah who told her mother about an upcoming Valentine's Day dance that is to be held at her school, Kanesville Elementary.  The girl's mother, Natalie Richard, was surprised when her daughter explained that if a boy asks her to dance, she's not allowed to turn him down.  Frankly, I'm surprised about that, too.

Richards took her concerns to her daughter's principal, who told her that they'd had this rule for a long time and no one had ever complained about it.  It's supposed teach kids to be "inclusive".   Lane Findlay, of the Weber School District, confirms that the rule is real.

“Please be respectful, be polite," Findlay said. "We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance."

While I think I get the reasoning behind the rule-- we want to encourage kids to be nice to each other-- I also think it's wrong to force that interaction and response.  Moreover, I think compelling kids to dance on request is a bad idea.  It sends a bad message, especially to girls, that they have to give in to boys.

Not every child-- especially not every boy-- enjoys dancing.  I know my husband hates to dance and won't willingly, even though he's one of the kindest people I've ever known.  But just because my husband doesn't like to dance, that doesn't mean he wouldn't enjoy watching other people dance or just socializing with friends at a dance.  I imagine it's the same for many kids.  At age eleven, kids tend to be kind of awkward around the other sex, anyway.  That's about the time when boys and girls start to notice each other.

Richard says “Sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say 'yes.' Sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say 'no,'"

Richard naturally sees this from the perspective of a female with a female child.  She's concerned about things like date rape, which can become an issue later down the road, and girls feeling like they have to accept advances from boys.  But I think this is a problem for boys, too.  It sounds like the people at this school have the idea that boys should always be the ones who make the first move.

Personally, I would rather someone interact with me because they want to, not because someone has compelled them to.  In the long run, it's a lot kinder to turn someone down than offer them a "sympathy dance".  Moreover, being forced to be "kind and inclusive" can also cause misunderstandings.  Not everyone is going to like everyone else.  Sometimes kids develop crushes on peers who don't return those feelings.  It's a sad fact of life.  So if we make two kids dance together and one of them likes the other more, that can lead to hurt feelings when the kid with a crush realizes that the other kid was "just being polite".  Hurt feelings happen to everyone, but there's no reason to create scenarios that will provoke them.

Findlay says (grammatically incorrectly, I might add), "If there is an issue, if there’s students that are uncomfortable or have a problem with another student, I mean that’s certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents,"

But won't that cause even more embarrassment?  Why bring parents and school officials into simple interpersonal reactions between kids?  Isn't this the time in their lives when young people should be learning how to interact independently with their peers?  

Richard was also concerned that other parents did not seem to be aware of this rule, which remains in place even after Richard talked to the principal.  She recommended "permission slips" that detail the rule so that parents can discuss it with their children.  Frankly, I think they ought to just let kids be kids and allow them to interact organically.  I also think that school dances in sixth grade are kind of lame.

The one time we had a school dance when I was in sixth grade, it was held during the school day, so it wasn't optional.  I remember it being an exercise in humiliation for me.  It probably was for other kids, too.  We have our whole lives to be mortified.  Why start this crap in sixth grade?

"Please pick me!  Please Julia!"  Let's hear it for the Lord of the Ladies.


  1. I think the policy is terrible.

    We didn't have dances until seventh grade. and even then , mostly the boys stood on one side of the room and the girls stood on the other. By the time I was in eighth grade, some of the African-American boys asked me to dance because I danced similarly to the way they did. Matthew danced with the African American girls for the same reason.

    The idea that if two kids aren't fond enough of one another to dance together, or if the girl doesn't want to dance with a boy for whatever reason, someone should involve parents, is perfectly ludicrous.

    1. We had dances in 7th grade. They were on Friday nights. I just remember having one in sixth grade during the school day. Those were tough years anyway. I would not want to be twelve or thirteen again for anything.

  2. That is preposterous. Kids have to learn with disappointment and rejection. We can not coddle them and lead them to believe that they win every time. It is also dangerous to teach young women that you have to say yes to a man every time. It is super dangerous to teach our young men that women have to accept their advances. The fact of life is don't win every time, hell you don't even win most of the time.

    This is what is wrong with this generation, everyone expects a trophy, everyone expects to win. That's just not how it works. I was always the chubby one with with the hot chick as my best friend. It was often difficult and caused me a lot of pain. It did some damage to my self-esteem, but I learned how to deal with life. I figured out how to stop being a doormat for the girls and the boys in my life. I learned what true friendship is and what love really feels like. I made mistakes and I was caused pain, but I am better for my experiences.

    I am raising a boy. I don't enjoy watching him struggle with rejection and disappointment, but these are lessons he has to learn so he can be a functioning adult. I also don't want him to learn that girls have to do whatever he says. He needs to know No means No. He has to respect women. What year is this anyway? Sometimes I feel like we are living in an alternate universe and the world is upside down.

    I say take your lumps and move on, you'll be better for it in the long run.

  3. My mom said that at one junior high school she attended, any boy or girl who didn't find someone to dance with had to dance in a small circle with other kids and one of the teachers who had dance duty. (They couldn't really slow-dance in that style and with teachers, so it was the no-touching kind of dancing in the circles.) The dances were during the school day, and kids had the option of staying outside and playing basketball or cards or whatever or doing nothing, but if they went inside to the dance, they got to sit out two only dances (they were given two tickets for dances to sit out). After that, it was either find someone to dance with or join a teacher circle. My mom said both boys and girls were grabbing anyone they could find so they didn't have to dance in teacher circles.

    It seems to me like a whole lot of trouble to go to just to get kids to dance, but the principal said it was pointless to go to the trouble of letting kids out of class for a couple of hours to decorate the gymnasium and cancel an hour and fifteen minutes of instruction time for the dance itself if the kids were just going to stand as though they were glued to the walls.

    It seems a little extreme to me, but my mom says she remembers enjoying the dances at that school more than she did at the school in Minot the year before, where no one would ask anyone to dance, and the girls and boys basically stared each other down from opposite sides of the gym.

    1. I bet the dancing circles were no picnic for the teachers, either.

    2. You wouldn't catch me teaching at a school that had such a policy.

  4. I'm with Richard on this. It sends the wrong message to both females and males. It is not a good policy.

    1. For some reason, my more conservative friends have argued that this policy isn't out of line. They bring up the fact that we all had to learn how to square dance in school. But we were older for that and it was clearly for a class. This seems to be more of a social thing... maybe to teach kids how to act at a school dance?

      Ugh... I'm glad those years are over for me!

    2. Agreed. They couldn't pay me enough to go through all that again.


Comments on older posts will be moderated.