All posts by paslilith

About paslilith

I'm a home schooled 9th grade who's using this blog to pretend like it's my choice and not basically the only way to get me an education with my "particulars." What else do you want to know about me? Feminist, non-straight, Agnostic, traumatized, superhuman, blogger (obviously), writer of short fiction, skeptical pursuer of spiritual knowledge, armchair occultist, drawer, (bad) dancer, etc.

Health Curriculum Review – Georgia Virtual High School’s Resource Page

The curriculum I used was not actually Georgia Virtual High School’s official health class. I used a resource offered through their site which pretty much gives the information and assignments without the structure of being in a class. I found it here, and I’m going to be reviewing it today.

The health curriculum is basically what you’d expect out of a “don’t do this, don’t do that” style health curriculum. It basically says the same things you’ve been hearing since kindergarten about how disgusting drug users are and how gross cigarettes are that (somehow) don’t actually discourage anyone who’s interested in doing those things from doing those things. Nothing too revolutionary, exciting, or uplifting here. The class is divided into 7 units, which I want to review and explain individually.

Introduction to Health

This is kind of like your first day of school/class description. If you find mediocre animation that talks kind of annoying, you won’t like the random doctor character that they use on this page. Her voice is annoying, but you can mute it and just read what she says if you want. It goes faster that way.

Rating: N/A

Mental Health

This is your typical, run-of-the-mill, not-at-all profound or particularly useful look at mental health. The course is written (like so many other courses) under the assumption that you’re a “normal teen” with a family that may not be perfect but is overall healthy. Even though the page admits that only 80% of depression is treatable, it offers no sympathy/compassion/hope/basic acknowledgement to people in that unhappy 20% that don’t respond to treatment. It spreads that same, stale message of “if you’re suicidal it’s obviously because of chemical depression because we all know teens can’t ever be in such unsafe living situations or relationships that they feel like death is the only alternative, and we all know there aren’t any other mental health issues that can make a person want to die, and we all know that homophobia, racism, transphobia (especially from parents), and so on and so forth can’t exacerbate existing mental health problems.”

My least favorite thing about this page is that it is only relevant to the normal, well-adjusted “every teen” who might sometimes let stress get the better of her, but is ultimately fine. There are a number of topics that I actually think teenagers need to see dealt with, but that aren’t dealt with here at all.

  • Self-harm. What do you do if you have a problem with it or a friend does. No, really. What do you ACTUALLY do? A friend of mine told the school counselor that one of her close friends was cutting herself, and the counselor just called the girl’s parents immediately. The parents were emotionally abusive, which was the main reason why the girl cut. She ended up in the hospital, ended up more suicidal than before, and then turned to drugs and alcohol and maybe even destructive sex when she learned that she couldn’t get away with cutting anymore. Given that that’s what can happen and that the law doesn’t really protect people from emotionally abusive parents (or most abusive parents for that matter), what do you ACTUALLY do?
  • Parents with mental health disorders. What happens when your parent is basically a sociopath and won’t get help/has gotten help but hasn’t actually changed? What do you do when your parent uses his/her mental disorder as license to treat you horribly?
  • Teens with PTSD. How do you deal with having sexual trauma before you even hit 18? How do you handle all your friends going nuts about sex when you never want to hear or think about it again?
  • Having age-inappropriate things happen to you. When you’ve had sexual violence happen to you before high school even, you are totally isolated. You can’t tell kids your own age without “destroying their innocence” since most of them don’t even know about sex yet. How do you deal with that?
  • How do you convince the messed up legal system to care if someone’s abusing you. How do you actually get results? Is there a real way besides just getting lucky?
  • How does being LGBTQQIAP affect mental health? How does homophobia, transphobia, racism, and so forth affect mental health for teens? What unique resources exist for people who aren’t cis-het?

Rating: 3/10 because at least they’re moderately less victim-blaming than some resources.

Safety and First Aid

I have significantly less to say about this section. I think I would’ve liked it better if any of the videos demonstrating stuff like CPR actually worked, and I had had a chance to really get what it is supposed to look like.

Rating: 2/10 for the fact that most of it didn’t even work.

Nutrition

This unit was okay, I guess, but I found it a little frustrating as a vegan who is aware that the health benefits of dairy are greatly exaggerated and the health risks of eating meat are greatly minimized.

Rating: 4/10.

Diseases and Disease Prevention

Meh.

Rating: 5/10.

Substance Abuse

This one made me SO upset. It started off with some b.s. about how people with mental illnesses are probably the ones doing drugs since who else would do something so irrational. That’s some saneist stuff right there. Most of the time, I think it’s actually the “super normal normies” who want to fit in and be cool who do those things, not the people with mental health problems. I think people do those things because people care more about immediate pleasure and gratification than about long-term consequences, not because they’re automatically mentally ill. This class needs to cite its sources…badly.

I thought it was good that it talked about making sure your medications are safe to take together or are safe to take with OTC pills, certain foods/drinks, certain other health conditions, etc. I also thought their advice on how to quit smoking was useful. I didn’t actually know that Nicotine patches just keep you addicted longer. I figured they had some kind of a “slow withdrawal” effect. Cold turkey is actually seriously dangerous with some things, so it was interesting to read that it’s a good way to get off cigarettes.

The alcohol page also talked about how different kinds of alcoholic beverages might have different *amounts* of alcohol in them, so one glass of beer is a different amount than 1 glass of wine.

One thing that bothered me in the alcohol section was the statement that teens who drink are more likely to have had sex than teens who don’t. It also said something about teens participating in “unplanned sex” under the influence. If you’re under the influence of alcohol, you can’t consent to sex. There’s no such thing as “unintentional sex.” You either consented to it or you didn’t. If you didn’t plan on having sex and someone just started having sex with you while you were too drunk to say “no” or give real consent, that’s rape. It’s not a teen mistake. Therefore, we shouldn’t just be shaking our heads all “tsk, look at those irresponsible sluts.” We should be talking about it more fairly than that.

Also, it’s annoying that the curriculum only shared religious programs for getting rid of alcohol addiction. I mean…come on. Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work for Atheists.

Also, if you care about trans issues, the language surrounding the effects of drugs on males versus females might not be your cup of tea.

Rating: 1/10. This ALMOST got 2/10 before the rape culture bullshit happened.

Family Health

Family Health is code for “heteronormative abstinence-only curriculum.” I say “heteronormative” because everything is about “sexual intercourse” and not sex in general. Abstinence is defined as abstaining from “sexual intercourse,” which is going to be awfully confusing when you go on to tell people “oh wait, I forgot to tell you all other kinds of sex also put you at risk for STDs.”

The page on r*pe and sexual assault misses the fact that 1 in 6 men will also be the victims in their lifetime; it’s not just something that happens to women. I think if more of the dude-bro-ish men actually realized this, they might be less reluctant to care about the issue. It’s a bunch of victim-blaming stuff that suggests being drunk/not being assertive enough/etc. are risk factors. No, the risk factor is a rapist being around. A non-rapist won’t take advantage of those things. The page also assumes that all abusers are male, which is wrong. Ugh. Terrible resource! It also conveniently forgets to tell people that only “yes” means “yes” and teach people how not to commit rape rather than just how not to get raped.

I did like part of the page on relationship violence. It talked about how a partner threatening to find someone who will do what they want if you won’t. My ex didn’t like…come right out and say that, but there were a lot of implications, and in the end, I got hit with an ultimatum of “do more or it’s over.” People sided with my ex, so I didn’t realize that could count as abusive. Good info.

There’s also a huge bias toward “waiting until you’re married” so you’ll never have to worry about unwanted pregnancy or STDs. Uhm…do these people think you can’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy or an STD when you’re married? WTF.

Rating: 0/10, screw this.

Biology and God – Confused!

I’ve been using a biology curriculum this semester that was written by a very devout Christian. I think my family picked it because the textbook’s normal and available online and free and divided into manageable bits unlike that densely packed one I had last semester. The thing is…the curriculum has a “have I mentioned I’m Christian today” insert like every couple of days (it’s divided into days) and it’s getting kind of confusing to me.

There’s this implication that if you don’t believe the world was created in 7 days and that the Old Testament is a perfectly accurate representation of everything, you’re just not a believer at all.

Sorry but…what?

I’ll admit I’m not Christian so I’m biased, but isn’t it kind of obvious that God did not actually write the Bible? There were lots of writers, and they were all human beings. I’m not telling people what they should believe in terms of whether or not God inspired that writing. I could get into that if I wanted to, but I’m not going to. For now, I just want to know why people seem to think you have to believe the entirety of it word-for-word to be “truly” Christian when:

a.) The whole Bible has been re-translated dozens of times, and there are some passages that Biblical scholars are more historically confident in than others. I’m pretty sure there is even a part in the NT where it appears like some pages may be missing due to a sort of “time jump.” Given that, there was definitely some human influence on what you can buy at Barnes and Noble in the religious section.

b.) Humans wrote the Bible, and even if humans were inspired, they likely had their own biases going into the work. Specifically, humans back then had no way of knowing about the dinosaurs or the Big Bang. Even if God inspired the Bible, it’s possible that God figured people would be more interested in how man appeared on Earth than about the “big history” of the universe, since ultimately the Bible was written to be read by humans. If God inspired a Bible intended for camels or plankton or sea algae or turtles, the history might look quite different.

c.) Some people say God was like…whispering the words to the people as they wrote them. Even if he was, simple things can happen when you do that. Have you ever tried giving somebody a grocery list and had them come back with wrong stuff? I haven’t, but I saw it enough as a kid that I know it’s a thing. For example, God could have said “your world (the world of humans) is 10,000 years old,” and people could have written down “the world (as in the whole universe) is 10,000 years old.” Slight variations can make a huge difference.

d.) Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of Christianity to live the way Jesus suggests and to have faith in the power of his sacrifice? I guess…I don’t see how dinosaur bones and evolution are a threat to how Jesus asked people to live their lives or to the value of Jesus’s sacrifice. A natural history museum won’t prevent you from loving your neighbor.

e.) I guess I wonder how evolution even really invalidates Genesis at all. I’m not a Christian myself but…couldn’t Adam and Eve be the first modern humans? I know the Bible doesn’t talk about existence prior to them, but people who wrote it likely did not know about life before then and possibly didn’t need that knowledge to understand their own history/the history of mankind at that point.

f.) Don’t Hebrew words all have a lot of meanings beyond just what the word itself means that factor into how you might interpret the Bible? I remember hearing that “Adam” means “man” and “Eve” means “life.” Given that, it could open up a lot of contemplation I’d think.

—-

I’m not trying to offend anybody but…I don’t get why people seem to think that God wrote the Bible or that God had to be the author for it to have any spiritual importance.

If you do want to answer, I’d prefer no conversion attempts or “because the Bible says so!” type answers or “well I’m sorry if you think this is a ‘the Bible says so’ answer, but the Bible says so!” type answers.

Do people actually believe that God authored the Bible and it is therefore all-or-nothing, or is there another reason why believing the Earth is more than 10,000 years old is incompatible with belief for many people?

Stuff that’s different in home schooling.

I was just working on biology late at night (yeah, I know) and thinking about how this experience differs from science class at a regular school. When most people think about the differences between homeschooling and regular schooling, all they can think of is “oh no, socialization!” That said, I came home from seeing a movie with a friend who’s my age and regular-schooled, and then I got inspired to work on biology. Amazing, right?

One of the things I noticed about homeschooling today is that I’m moving through biology curriculum very fast even though I was one of the slowest students in my old science classes. There are a few reasons for this.

1. There is no homework versus schoolwork divide. My curriculum occasionally assigns videos, but mostly just lets me read the materials on my own. That means that instead of spending 45-90 minutes listening to someone lecture or having those rich “discussions” teachers are so fond of where students awkwardly pretend to have read, I just read the stuff and that’s it. Homework time is class time.

2. I can complete one class worth of work in uninterrupted blocks. If I’m on a roll with Biology, I don’t have to pause to go to Algebra. I can keep working on biology until I finish a unit if I want to, so long as I plan it out right.

3. A lot of the random, pointless stuff that takes up class time doesn’t happen for home school students. Imagine how much faster school would go if the teacher didn’t have to beg David to sit down or ask religious Joshua to stop yelling “IN THEORY!!!!” every time she mentioned evolution (in spite of her best efforts to be balanced and offer religious perspectives to appease some of these people). Imagine if lunch didn’t cut into your class period, meaning you had to deal with 10 minutes of everyone anxiously staring at the clock, followed by another five minutes (at least) of “I dismiss you, not the bell,” and then another 5-10 minutes of “settling down” once the class resumes.

4. Going at your own pace is always faster in a way. If you get behind in school, you will not understand the lectures AT ALL and then you’ll have to catch up and THEN re-learn the current material since you were too behind to understand it when it was taught in class. Obviously that’s awful, and it’s nice to avoid it.

Honestly, the part where I’d end up behind and then get NOTHING from the lectures AND have to struggle to catch up was the biggest time-waster in school. Not having to do that saves me an awful lot of time now. I need all the time I can get.

Biology Curriculum and Why????

I’ve been working with this free Biology curriculum (one that actually goes slowly enough for me to understand it), and overall, it’s decent, but there’s stuff I can’t stand about it. The person who wrote it seems convinced that believing the Earth is more than 10,000 years old is completely incompatible with thinking there’s a God. Now granted I don’t know why I’m arguing this point because I’m kind of a misotheist, but I can’t understand/support a system where you start with a basic assumption (that everything in an ancient document is 100% true) and then twist every bit of logic and evidence you find around to support it. They do this – they are seriously convinced that there has to be some other explanation for why the stars are light years away than that things existed more than 10,000 years ago. Supposedly because one guy with a Ph.D. believes it, that must mean all the scientists who don’t believe it are big hacks.

Okay…this would all make some sense to me IF the Bible were actually written by God himself. If God wrote a book and autographed it at the end, I might be inclined to understand people warping their science to fit what it says. The truth is, however, that God did not write the Bible! Humans wrote it! Humans are not perfect, and if humans are capable of being wrong now (as the intelligent design folks are insisting that all evolutionary scientists are), then why is it so impossible to consider that they were wrong back in the B.C.E. years when they wrote that the world was 10,000 years old or whatever it was they wrote? Having been to some lousy churches in my life, I can tell you that humans will say literally ANYTHING they want to and slap “God agrees with me” on it to try to force other people to believe that shit. People will even twist what the Bible says toward any agenda they want. For example, did you know “turn the other cheek” is actually about poor people/slaves/servants/etc refusing to let masters they could not fight back against humiliate them? At church, we were taught it basically means that the kid who defends herself against a violent, abusive teacher is a worse human being than the teacher. Given that people interpret it however they want and people are generally the most fickle and self-serving beings on the planet, WHY are we trusting what humans have written about God just because it’s the most comprehensive document about the Judeo-Christian deity available?

Some of the stuff in there has been backed up as historically accurate I think, and some of it makes sense. For example:

1. The flood actually happened. Whether or not it was because of God or Noah was the only survivor is debatable, but there *was* an actual flood like that.

2. A lot of historical documents back up the stuff about Jesus from what I’ve heard.

3. Given that climate changes over time, maybe there was a garden in the Middle East at one point.

4. There are legit historical figures mentioned in those books like Caesar, and so it’s hard to imagine that it’s just “lies” like some people want to say.

That being said, I do not understand why ONE thing that’s written by humans who though the Earth was flat (ie: that the Earth was 10,000 years old) absolutely has to be true or else it just blows the entire faith to bits. Isn’t it possible that human error could get a few numbers and dates wrong without it ruining the whole system? To me…if you’re going to believe in a God, it seems a little arrogant to assume that something a person (not God) wrote is infallible when it’s supposed to be God that’s infallible and God’s world is demonstrating evidence that doesn’t support the 10,000 years old theory.

Curriculum: WTF?

Does anyone actually just buy a curriculum or download one and actually stick to it all year?

My friend’s college-aged older brother (who is somehow better at lesson planning than her parents) was the one who introduced my family to the idea of homeschooling. He went to all this painstaking effort to pick and choose random stuff from across the internet. Part of that was because of income – they couldn’t afford to just buy the BYU package or whatever. A bigger part of it was just because he thought that he could give her a better “genuine high school experience” than most of those publishers.

My family didn’t think too hard about that. Back when I stopped going to regular school, my family’s expectation was “oh, okay, we’ll find some complete all-in-one set of curriculum-ish things and then we’ll just work through them.”

Here’s about how that went.

Day 1: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $500 for one class? Screw that.

Day 2: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $50 a month and I don’t even get to preview it to make sure it’s good? Screw that!

Day 3: Okay, let’s just mix and match. That’ll work.

Day 4: EVERYTHING I PICKED IS TERRIBLE.

All the syllabuses we tried writing have been scrapped. Nothing has stuck for more than a few weeks. If I had to clump English so far into “units,” here’s what I’d have:

Unit 1: A “Lore” class from Grey School of Wizardry. I know GSW doesn’t really want to be seen as a “curriculum provider” and it isn’t, but the “lore” assignments actually took me through some common core requirements. The first assignment had me studying general themes and literary archetypes. The second one had me comparing myths and legends to each other while learning to apply themes and archetypes to literary analysis. The third assignment involved reading and writing about a myth local to my geographic region. The fourth assignment (which I’m still working on periodically) involved choosing a book that relates somehow to an ancient myth and explaining how they’re similar. I read a young-adult book called Janie: Face to Face for that. I go back to this curriculum every now and then – namely for the short story I’m working on.

Unit 2: Some John Milton from Saylor.org. Mostly all I read about was his life. I didn’t get to read much of his writing before that site started bugging out on me.

Unit 3: A TON of grammar study using a grammar book from Barnes and Noble, plus some review on Purdue Owl about proper citation style. I ended up helping other people revise their essays to familiarize myself with structure. When I was done with that, I took a giant test over grammar and usage.

Unit 4: I read The Giver for free online. Then, I watched the movie. My big “assignment” on the subject was basically a blog response.

Unit 5: A Separate Peace. I’m using a free curriculum from Curriki for that, which contains study guides and such.

Does anyone else actually just make a plan and stick to it 100%?

English curriculum.

Me: *Looks up curriculum for English.*

Curriculum: ANTIGONE!!!!

Me: Read it in 8th grade.

Curriculum: JULIUS CAESAR!!!!

Me: Read it at some point.

Curriculum: ROMEO AND JULIET!!!!

Me; Read it, saw it performed, saw the movie, wrote a paper on it, etc.

Curriculum: RED BADGE OF COURAGE!!!!

Me: I read that in freaking elementary school.

Curriculum: Where the Red Fern Grows????

Me: Seventh grade.

Curriculum: Uh…geez…kid…what do you want? To Kill a Mockingbird? Surely you haven’t read that one!!!!

Me: Summer before 9th grade.

Curriculum: Screw you, Lilly.

Winter Allergies

Khan Academy is great for biology and math. YouTube has some great history lessons, and there’s this other site I don’t remember the name of that’s great for geography. What’s great for health?

WebMD. This is a general summary of the research I did there today.

I’ve been wondering why my “cold” symptoms have lasted for more than 3 weeks. The family bought some of that fancy Claritin with pseudoephedrine that young people aren’t allowed to buy because supposedly people under 18 are MORE LIKELY to use it to produce meth labs than adults are (explain this to me, please) but it hasn’t helped quite enough for me. It has really confused me why I seem to have ALLERGIES in the dead of winter. Rather than wasting my time in some “alcohol is bad” module today, I decided to research winter allergies on WebMD and Prevention.com.

Causes

Air vents are gross and full of dust, mold, dead pieces of bugs, and other sickening things. During the winter time, the furnaces blow hot air into your house or apartment but don’t bother filtering out all the dust, mold, and dead pieces of bugs to keep them from flying into your house and shooting up your nostrils, causing an eruption of mucous and suffering.

Solutions

1. If you aren’t traumatized from bad experiences with needles as a child, get an allergy shot.

2. Otherwise, you can shell out $200 on an air purifier that gets some of the bug bits and dust out of the air.

3. You can also get a dehumidifier which gets the air less damp, preventing mold growth.

4. Supposedly, washing your sheets in HOT HOT HOT HOT water is helpful. Only problem with that is, I like washing things on cold to protect the environment.

5. Showering at night supposedly helps get dust and pollen from outside off of you.

6. Taking allergy pills before bed is important, even if the box says just once every 24 hours.

TL:DR;

Allergies aren’t just something people get in the spring. I’m most likely not dying from a wasting disease. Thank you, self-directed health class.

“A is for Abstinence” Reaction Essay

Honestly, I don’t really get the obsession a lot of people my age have with sex. I guess it doesn’t really fascinate me or seem like the world’s most important thing. That being said, I am getting really tired of BOTH kinds of sex ed. The kind that pushes abstinence as the only acceptable option just ignores the fact that there’s an overwhelming amount of pressure both from your peers and from your body to have sex, and that you need to know how to do it safely. It also ignores the fact that teens won’t be teens forever, and the possibility of STIs, non-consensual experiences, coercion, pregnancy, and that supercharged heartbreak you’re supposed to experience if you feel like you’ve given something up to someone who doesn’t value it like you hoped do NOT disappear when you turn 18 or when you get married. Wedding rings are not magic, and neither are the candles on an 18-year-old’s birthday cake. On the flip-side, I’m not really digging most of what sex-positive sex-ed has to offer. A lot of it seems to suggest the following things:

1. Literally 100% of people like sex and 100% of teens are just horny sex machines.

2. Sex is inevitable for all human beings. This erases the asexual experience completely.

Instead of making an abstinence list, I decided to watch Laci Green’s “A is for Abstinence” video today. She makes some good points (mostly the same neo-liberal “let’s stop shaming sex” argument I’ve seen a billion times on Tumblr, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today). I wanted to react specifically to some of her points to reflect on what I’ve been taught/learned in the past.

Laci Green mentioned how people usually learn about STDs in school. She correctly reports that health textbooks tend to show the grossest, most terrifying pictures of diseases and infections available. I remember once looking at this health textbook where a person’s back looked like a freaking pizza. If you actually bothered to read the caption, you’d know that whatever it was he was sick with was something that didn’t get THAT BAD unless it went untreated for 10+ years. In other words, if that guy had gotten the same disease but gone into a clinic to have it treated ten years sooner, NONE OF THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED.

The idea presented in health textbooks is that your life is pretty much over once you’ve contracted an STD. Most STDs can be cured or at least treated, so it ends up looking like a lot of fear-mongering. Any disease can be made terrifying with the right extreme image. Heck, skin tags are 100% harmless and fairly easy to remove, but you can find some DISGUSTING pictures of them on Google Image search.

I disagree with the assessment that “look at this disgusting thing” type education is all about shaming people for having sex. I’ve actually noticed that a LOT of things are taught about that way. My guess is that whoever chooses the pictures for health textbooks has the mind of a 13-year-old boy and is sitting there plotting ways to ruin peoples’ lunch. Have you ever received education about Gingivitus? It kind of goes like this:

Kid Dentist: YOU BETTER BRUSH YOUR TEETH TWICE A DAY AND FLOSS AND DON’T EAT SUGAR BECAUSE IF YOU DO, YOU’LL GET GUM DISEASE AND YOUR GUMS WILL TURN RED LIKE THE SINFUL SPIRIT OF SATAN AND BLEED ALL OVER YOUR SHOES!!!!

Adult Dentist: Ah, that’s just a little gum disease. Take this mouth wash and go home. We probably want to schedule you for a cleaning, but don’t lose sleep over it or anything.

A similar thing happens in driver’s ed. Nobody seems to think that driving can be effectively taught to teenagers without us having to see at least 4 horrifically mangled bodies on the side of the road with doom-saying captions about how driving will DEFINITELY make you dead, so do it safely (not that they bother telling you how to do it safely rather than just yelling at you pointlessly).

In other words, there’s a grossness trend in teaching literally ANYTHING people are possibly scared of.

The one thing she said that I don’t really like is the part about how it’s okay to not be “ready.” She’s totally right that you don’t have to be ready, but readiness isn’t the only model for understanding sexual disinterest in my opinion. I think talking about not being “ready” for sex can have some troubling connotations – like that the loser who’s pressuring you for it is “ready” whereas you’re immature/somehow childish compared to that person. You might just not want it, not be interested, be asexual, have been through sexual violence, etc. People can’t assume it’s this inevitable thing that you’re either “ready for” or planning to postpone. It’s not like debt where you have to do it eventually to make the big, scary number go away.

The Giver: Book Versus Movie

This is my awesome reading/viewing response.

I read The Giver a few days ago, mostly because I’m one of the only 9th graders ever who hasn’t read it. Basically, this book is your typical totalitarian government story that gets assigned to you in school. The best dystopian literature, in my opinion, exaggerates things that are wrong with our society in order to hi-light injustice and call for change. The Hunger Games deals with the unequal distribution of wealth and the exploitation of lower-class people. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy deals with beauty standards, involuntary psychiatry (think about the lesions), and the way that emotional numbing leads to self-harm.

The Giver falls into a different category of dystopian novels – a category wherein the writer creates a society that could never happen to illustrate how great our present society is. Much like the society in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the society in The Giver watches peoples’ every move and chooses peoples’ lifetime occupations for them. In both novels, love is forbidden and sex is no longer a thing. In both novels, the reader is expected to suspend disbelief and accept that the inquisitive, brooding young male hero is literally the first person to ever forget his Don’t Have Sex drug or to question why we don’t have love anymore. Both novels end in a similar way, with the hero running off into the sunset and hoping that someday his friends will join him.

If you think that’s tiresome, wait until you see the movie version of The Giver. Because no good dystopian film would be complete without a forced, horribly forbidden heterosexual teen romance, the movie-verse gives people their career assignments at sixteen instead of twelve. Instead of just having a wet dream about Fiona getting naked in an old person’s bathtub, Jonas actually kisses her (much to the shock of all the people who are like “what are they doing? We don’t understand!!!!”) and eventually convinces her to fall in love with him, despite her initial discomfort with the idea (more on that later).

The world is also changed so that instead of living in an Abnegation-style world (think Divergent), they have this bizarre, out of place futuristic technology like hologram computers and injection buttons in their homes. There is also a Big Bad village elder who has the same hair and general demeanor as the District 13 president in The Hunger Games. By the end of the film, Jonas actually manages to save everybody and we even see the world regain its color like it did in those Skittles commercials they played when I was little.

Fighter drones, blatant rip-offs of Hunger Games peacekeepers, and generic futuristic technology aside, the movie version of The Giver frustrated me for similar reasons that the book did.

1. It’s another example of “society hates your heterosexual love.” There are actually people in relationships that society sees as an illness and wants to “cure,” but it’s apparently more box-office-worthy if the people are straight.

2. The random baby-killing thing is such an obvious pro-life reference, oh my god.

3. The biological determinism. It seems like because the “family unit” is not biologically related to Jonas, we are supposed to see it as a totally “fake” family, whereas the baby who probably has the same birth mother as Jonas is supposed to be his “real” brother.

4. The whole “the government wants to euthanize your grandmother” thing that miraculously predates the Obama Care debate.

5. The fact that all the horrible memories are of war. Ugh. It bothers me so much that none of them are of things like rape, genocide, racism, human trafficking, etc. I know that can’t be in a book for children supposedly, but if you want a reason why sexual desire would be suppressed – look no farther than the out-of-control problem that is sexual violence (and face it, it’s totally out of control, police don’t care half the time and can be convinced to drop the whole case despite multiple eyewitness accounts if your mom vouches for the abusers, trust me I know). None of Jonas’s experiences make it really obvious why emotion itself is feared, but the writer could have made a stronger case for that.

6. The fact that ultimately the big moral is “just do the Christian conservative family and monogamy thing or else society will descend into loveless chaos.”

I guess I’m not quite sure why this book (and possibly movie) is so popular.

Relevant materials aka: what is up with health curriculum?

Okay, so the reason why I’m still on about health class is because I tend to go through periods where I mostly work on one thing, then another. Health is always the thing I drop and grudgingly come back to. Why? Because all the free lesson-plans and curriculum (and even some premium ones) are freaking insulting. I know that health education is a really seriously important part of high school, and at the same time I’m just really frustrated with some of the topics.

  1. Drugs and Alcohol – I know this is an important topic, but how many people does this “don’t drink or do drugs, ever” thing actually dissuade? Zero? Yeah, I thought so. Most kids have had it pounded into their heads from kindergarten that alcohol is bad and that evil children will eventually try to peer pressure you into it and you have to say “no.” What they don’t teach you is that the kids who do those things aren’t going to be some weirdo malcontents who are actually complete losers whom nobody likes. Actually…they’re more like the same as you and me and everybody, and they’re everywhere, and once you reach about age 13-15 you find that there are kids who can’t have fun without all this stuff and that makes it impossible for them to have fun with YOU if you don’t do that stuff.
  2. Sex – What a freaking worthless waste of time. For one thing, most curriculum guides suggest this abstinence-only thing which…I don’t really care from a personal standpoint because I don’t really want to be doing things like that, but teenagers aren’t going to be teenagers forever and we need practical information we can actually use whenever it’s needed. Also, we need a LOT more advice about how to navigate consent, how to be sensitive to peoples’ sexual trauma triggers (a lot of teenagers are horrible at that – if you’ve been traumatized you pretty much can’t talk to anyone), and how to just overall be a decent human being. Oh and talking about the double-standards and pressure to be “manly” by “getting some” or to walk the line between being a “prude” and being a “slut” might be nice, although students don’t actually feel enough of a genuine connection to their teachers to listen anyway. We also need to be way more queer-inclusive.
  3. Mental health – Honestly, I can’t stand these units. They all have these horrible messages of “just go to psychiatry or therapy and presto, problem solved!” There’s no education about how some psychiatrists will load you up on medications your family can’t afford until you’re a teenage addict (essentially) and keep needing to go back for more. There’s no discussion of how therapy can be soft-core evangelism for a specific idea of what “normal” means, or how much therapists can literally manipulate you into thinking how they want you to rather than actually helping you address your problems. Personally I hate therapy and I am so sick of my psychiatrist. He reminds others of Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon a Time. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Nutrition – Full of outdated misinformation and very non-inclusive of veganism.
  5. STI/HIV/AIDS/etc – Useful info, but tends to have this fear-mongering “infected people are lepers who obviously did something super evil and couldn’t possibly have inherited it or gotten it by mistake” message behind it. I don’t have one, but I wonder what a kid who did would feel like listening to some of this b.s. or reading it.
  6. Exercise – Yeah not inclusive of a lot of disabilities/chronic pain/etc and kinda boring/stuff most people already know by the time they get to high school.

This is part of what confuses me greatly about public school is that I wasn’t exactly the most perfect student on the planet while there, but then when I look at what public schools are covering it’s like…wait…what? Really? REALLY.

For health, I’ve mostly been researching things that pertain to my own health instead of just stuff that is supposed to be important for teenagers. Here are some examples of things I’ve looked into for each of those categories:

  1. Drugs and Alcohol – I watched a movie about how those things were affecting a character’s life and wrote a reaction paper. I also did some modules on some .gov site.
  2. Sex – I already have the gist down pretty well, so I’ve mostly been researching feminist theories about consent/respect/mutuality/pressure on teens/purity balls/cultural implications/etc.
  3. Mental health – I like reading both the normal medical stuff and the critical anti-psychiatry stuff, then trying to form my own opinions.
  4. Nutrition – I get it from sources that are friendly to my diet.
  5. STI/HIV/AIDS/etc – I already learned about this last year, so I’m good.
  6. Exercise – I have a program for that.

So yeah -__-.