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I'm a reasonably good writer with an Internet connection. I'm rather opinionated on certain topics. I live in a town whose primary function is as a rest stop at the intersection of two interstate highways. I have too many radios! All postings in this blog are Creative Commons The Fuddler. Non-comm, attrib, no derivs.


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JANUARY 26, 2011 9:09PM

A call for rationality and fairness

Rate: 11 Flag

This posting deals with human sexuality. It may not be work-safe.

(I began this article as a comment to another blogger's posting. I decided to make it a full-length posting because I wanted to go into more detail than a comment would reasonably allow.)

Years ago on Bill Maher's excellent talk show “Politically Incorrect”, one of that evening's guests, Reverend Jerry Falwell, remarked that there was an epidemic of oral sex in American middle schools. In response to this burst of hyperbole, Maher quipped “I have got to re-enroll!”. The audience cracked up.

No one was laughing when news media in and around Oakland, California reported recently on a sex scandal at Markham Elementary School. But this time it's not about a 34-year-old teacher's illicit affair with a 13-year-old student of hers. The incident under discussion here involves two second-grade students who reportedly had oral sex with one another.

Naturally, hearing the news of this incident made my jaw damn near hit the floor. Even though I learned the “F”-word and what it stood for from my sixth-grade classmates, even though we told each other dirty jokes whenever we got the chance, the idea of a boy and a girl only two years into their grade school education engaging in patently adult behavior simply did not make any logical sense. I mean, where'd they even get the idea from? When I was their age, the very idea of putting one's mouth “down there” was considered too gross to even think about let alone do.

The discussion surrounding the matter has been spirited, to say the least, both in the local media and in this very forum. Words like “horrible situation for the kids” and “loss of innocence” are being tossed around. Irate parents are understandably calling for heads to roll. The usual suspects, Internet porn, sex on TV, sex in movies and so on, are being rounded up.

To all this I just want to say, hold it. Take a deep breath. No, what happened is not acceptable by any stretch. But unless there's evidence of coercion or other criminal activity, what we may have here is just one version (if a misguided one) of the kind of sexual self-discovery which children have been engaging in ever since kids started playing “Doctor”.

To further illustrate my point, when I was just a little younger than the kids involved in this case, there was no Internet and therefore no Internet pornography. For that matter there was no porn of any kind to be found in my folks' home. There was no sex on TV. At the time, even married couples were shown sleeping in separate beds. Movies were nearly all “for general audiences”; the Motion Picture Association of America had yet to issue its first PG-13, R or NC-17 certificate for a movie. I recall that about that time in my life, it was not at all uncommon for boys and girls to catch glimpses of one's siblings of the opposite sex in the altogether during a typical week. This inevitably led to heated discussions in which we speculated as to why boys and girls were built so differently. Among the conclusions that we reached were that it probably had to do with the ability to wear party dresses, or that it was much more fun to have a directable urine stream with which one could decorate an otherwise uninteresting snow bank. If anyone did anything inappropriate, I didn't hear of it. And, like a lot of young boys, I discovered completely by accident that touching myself in certain places and in certain ways felt really, really good. Despite all this, I grew up to be as sexually well-adjusted as (or at least no more maladjusted than) most members of my generation.

Was the Markham School incident evidence of a breakdown in discipline? It certainly was, not unlike those instances in which a lot of us cut classes and sneaked out of school or conspired to cheat on tests when we were students. Who should get the blame? If someone wasn't doing their job, by all means, lower the boom on them. What I'm afraid might happen though, is that the school administration may go well beyond appropriate remedies in the interest of saving face and placating angry parents as well as the odd politician. Otherwise conscientious teachers who have to shoulder ever-increasing work loads while making do with ever-shrinking resources could be made to take the hit.

The two kids at issue here must learn that doing what they did where they did it is not acceptable behavior. What also concerns me is that the humiliation which they've no doubt suffered could be compounded by punishments which end up making them believe that any kind of sex is wrong or harmful, or that their classmates might be issued a similar message. In the prevailing emotional climate surrounding this affair, opportunistic religious-right types could easily strong-arm the local school board into giving them control and authority which they in no way deserve.

If there is any credible evidence that either one of these kids engaged in this kind of behavior because he or she was molested by an adult or an older student, then that possibility must be very promptly and very thoroughly investigated. If the kids imitated something which they saw their parents or other adults watching, then those people need to keep that kind of material under strict lock and key and only watch it when the kids aren't around; adult web sites must be blocked on any computers that these kids might use. And if the kids were imitating something they saw some adults actually doing, then those adults need to keep the damn bedroom door shut.

When all this is over, I sincerely hope that logic prevails, that discipline and confidence are restored, and that these kids and their classmates are ultimately given the facts and the tools they need to develop healthy sex lives as adults.


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Thanks for taking a very emotional issue and applying some clear and logical analysis to it. This situation isn't the end of the world. It can be handled. As long was we don't succumb to hysteria.
Something tells me this is going to turn into the proverbial "witch hunt" like the McMartin Preschool Incident
I wonder how much of this was caused by natural curiosity of kids rather than any deep-seeded influence of outside media. Part of the problem for me is that our society seems obsessed with sex and obsessed with keeping people away from sex, so much that I often think it makes it even more possible that young people are going to rebel and go against societal norms.
Congrats on the EP! I hope that putting this on the front page will generate some good discussion.
When I was like seven and eight I used to play I'll show you mine if you will show me yours with the two little neighbor girls. It went to I touch yours, you touch mine. I remember getting caught and mom was furious and dad thought it was funny. We were still allowed to play with the neighbor girls afterwords just told not to take our clothes off. Things are changing they always do and some changes can seem unbelievably confusing but what we don't need are religious assholes and politicians getting in the middle of these situations. Find out why and what happened and do the right thing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
I completely agree. As a teacher, I keep wondering what relaly happened, and what might happen to that teacher's job. This is an excellent piece.
Actually, according to our psychiatrist, when an incident at my school which was almost identical to this one, there is no reason to be alarmed. This isn't adherent behavior at all. Calm down.
Sorry, but "horrible situation" and "loss of innocence" still apply, in my opinion. It wasn't a "what do you have?" situation between young children, it was oral sex! In school! By second graders!
That is nowhere near any healthy sexual self-discovery I've heard of.
There is ONE thing about playing doctor in the shadows of bushes but a COMPLETELY different thing when it happens in a public school.
Good grief! I have far from a narrow mind and even this shocked anad pissed the hell out of me
I predict "they" will punish the parents. As far as the little kids goes - it will become part of their permanent record.
At least those kids didn't take photos and post them on Facebook and/or send them out via cell phone. THEN they would have had to register as sex offenders.

Actually, this could have been worse. At least one of those 2nd graders wasn't caught doing this with someone much older.
Well written and thought out. I also wrote on this topic for OS. You make some good points. As a former teacher and mental health journalist, I do somewhat disagree with some of your conclusions. The type of sexual discovery that you describe that you were exposed to as a child is quite different from what these children were engaged in. It's hard for me to imagine that these children have not either been molested or exposed to material way beyond their years. Children rarely engage in this overt type of sexual acting out without some personal knowledge of the act itself. Not many second graders are even aware of this sexual act. Secondly, as a former teacher, I agree that teachers today are incapable of meeting the incredible number of needs of the children they find in their classes. However, one of the first jobs of a school and a teacher, at a minimum, is to ensure the safety of their students. I'm afraid this school and this teacher failed that test. Again, I think your post is excellent and presents a view of the story through another lens. Glad you posted it.