Monday, April 28, 2014

Not A Teen Mom

My friend Esme is ageless. At least, that's the only explanation I can think of. At age ten her sister, Bridgette, was born. For those of you who don't know, ten year olds are scrawny creatures about four feet tall. Yet somehow Esme got mistaken for Bridgette's mother.
Okay, I understand that there are a few freak cases where ten year olds have given birth. But that's not normal, people. Fourth graders are just in the beginning stages of puberty. They shouldn't be having kids. They shouldn't get glares from people at the grocery store for being a "teen" mom.
Even if a teen girl does have a baby, don't you think she's seen enough glares that she doesn't need any from you? Besides, you have no idea how she acquired that child. Pregnancy does not equal promiscuity.  In-wedlock pregnancies are certainly ideal, but in a country where over 40% of babies are born to unmarried parents, why is there so much stigma about being an unwed teen mother?
Okay, rant over. Now let's fast forward a few years. Esme is fifteen and Bridgette is in kindergarten. She and her mom go to check Bridgette out of school. Esme's wearing Bridgette's backpack for her. The office secretary takes one look at them and asks her mom, "Are you checking your daughter in? What class?"
Age ten: Baby mama. Age fifteen: Sixth grader.
Now she's sixteen. Over Spring Break, Esme, Bridgette, and their dad (notice the mom is missing here) went to a park and cuddled baby chicks. The events people wanted to take their picture to put online as an advertisement. The photographer asked Bridgette, "Will you go stand by your mom and dad?"
Their dad is fifty one. Even if she were some twenty one year old stepmother, that's a huge gap. Why are adults so off-kilter about guessing young people's ages? I'm tempted to blame the media, as teenagers are usually portrayed by actors in their mid to late twenties, giving adults a warped perception of what we actually look like. But shouldn't adults know what teenagers look like from life? Even if they don't have teenaged children, even if they don't work with teenagers everyday, even if they don't volunteer with church youth groups, surely they've seen a few. Don't they have neighbors and nieces and nephews?
Don't jump to conclusions when you see a young woman with her "daughter" or "husband". You never know until you ask, and if it's not important enough to ask about, then it's not important enough to know.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adults Who Care

In a world where millions of children are exploited each year, it's nice to know that a few adults are willing to go out and make a difference. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Acting Their Age

I've ranted before about book adaptations where teen characters are played actors in their twenties. After seeing the trailer for The Giver, staring twenty four year old Brenton Thwaites, I'm tempted to go at it again. But you've heard me already. Instead, I've decided to highlight some young people who act their age. This list consists entirely of movie adaptations, retelling, and remakes. If you want to know some other teen stars, go here.
1. Zachary Gordon

The Wimpy Kid movies aren't phenomenal by any means. They aren't meant to be. They're goofy and lighthearted. Best of all, they stare Zachary Gordon. Now sixteen, the first one was released when he was twelve, exactly the same age as Greg Heffley in the books. He's just as shrimpy and wimpy as the character he portrays.
Middle schoolers aren't featured in as many books as high schoolers. Probably because middle school is the armpit of life and no one wants to remember it.

2. Ansel Elgort

Ansel Elgort is nineteen, not currently a teenager, but he made this list because he's close in age to the characters he portrays. A lot closer than his costars. In Divergent, Ansel has a relatively small role as 16 year old Caleb, brother of 16 year old Tris. Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris, is 22. Theo James, age 28, plays her 18 year old love interest.
In The Fault in Our Stars, which will be released this June, Ansel and Shailene will once again costar as 16 year old lovers Augustus and Hazel.
Don't get me wrong, I love Shailene. To play Hazel she cut off her long hair and donated it. She could've simply worn a wig but she wanted to make a difference in the world. Now some lucky girl out there will get Shailene Woodley hair. Not to mention she stars in adaptations of books I love. I just wish she were a little younger.

3. Hailee Steinfeld

I was so happy to see Hailee Steinfeld-currently seventeen-portray Juliet in the 2013 adaptation of Shakespeare's most famous love story. Romeo and Juliet is about young love but Juliet often gets aged up. She's also Petra in Ender's Game. Petra's exact age isn't stated in the book, though she's implied to below twelve. All the characters are young children. Finding young actors who could portray Petra and the rest kept the book in Development Purgatory for several decades.
At fourteen, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Mattie Ross in True Grit. Mattie's age? Fourteen. Perfect.

4. Elle Fanning

Elle Fanning is sixteen. Princess Aurora is sixteen in every folk version, movie, and ballet that I know of, along with most novelizations. Yeah, I have a slight Sleeping Beauty obsession. Brenton Thwaites is here again, this time as Prince Phillip. His age is never defined except that he's older than Aurora. I'll let this one slide.

5. Callan McAullife

You know him from Flipped and I Am Number Four. Like Ansel, he's nineteen, but his birthday was very recent. At fifteen he played eighth grader Bryce in Flipped. A year later he played Sam, a high school aged conspiracy theorist, in I Am Number Four

5 & 6. Willow Shields and Amandla Stenberg

Willow's a decade younger than Jennifer Lawerence, who plays her sixteen year old sister Katniss in the Hunger Games movies. Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, Gale and Peeta respectively, are also in their twenties. I couldn't have picked a more perfect Primrose. Now thirteen (Prim's age in the final book) she took on the role at eleven, giving her plenty of room to grow without losing the sweet, innocent look.
And while we're at it, who can forget Amandla Stenberg, who played twelve year old Rue at thirteen?

Monday, April 14, 2014

How School Changes the Way You Think

You can't deny that school affects the way you think. But is it always for the better?

1. This, Not That

In school, you're expected to know and use proper terminology. Your geography teacher expects you to know the difference between race and ethnicity, your language teacher wants you to know about similes and metaphors, and science-oh, science. There's weight and mass, speed and velocity, acceleration and free fall. These terms get drilled into your head and they don't go away. That would be fine if you only need them for tests, but someday you'll get into an argument about racism. If you correct someone for saying ethnicity when they mean race you sound snobbish. And probably racist. I flinch every time I see an ad for Weight Watchers. They should call themselves Mass Measurers. I grit my teeth when someone who thinks very highly of themselves announces that they shall now use a metaphor-only for it to be a simile.

2. Citation Needed

Science fair has permenantly altered my brain. I can't say anything simple like "Studies show that plants are more likely to freeze in low lying areas" without saying where I learned that. And it all has to be cited in proper MLA format. It's not just science. If I'm writing an essay for history or English I have to include my sources and evaluate how and why they're reputable.
Oddly enough, this works against me in school. Teachers like to talk like this:
"Studies show that students who use their planners are more successful."
"This university figured out that students who take one page of notes daily score higher on tests."
"I read this article about how getting eight hours of sleep helps you pay attention in class."
I want to scream, Where did you read this? You say this came from a university? Which one? Name the professor. Tell me what field they work in, their social and political background, tell me so I can search for bias. Who funded this experiment? What age, race, nationality, and gender were the participants? How many trials did they do? What motivated them to do this experiment in the first place? Why does science spend so much time confirming what the rest of us already know? 
Because according to what I've learned in school, this crap is actually important.

3. Your Warped Sense of Time

Back in January, some of my family members made resolutions for the New Year. I'm confused. Years start in August. Everyone knows that. I know that just like I know waking up at 6:30 is a good idea, 10:40 is lunchtime, days of the week disappear in the summer, and it's perfectly logical for a class to end at 12:51 instead of 1:00 or 12:50.

4. Everything You Every Knew Was a Lie

Do you think Marie Antoinette shouted "Let them eat cake?" And Paul Revere announced "The British are coming?" Misquotes, both of them. The real facts don't mess with popular beliefs. I wish they'd meet in the middle sometimes.
Again, in school they act like all this crap is important.

5. Getting Along

All aboard the fallacy bandwagon!
My English class is in the middle of our argument unit and I've lost the ability to take anyone seriously. When I read the newspaper, I automatically reach for a pen to mark logical fallacies. And when I try arguing with someone in anything less than a formal debate-"Mom, your argument fails because you rely solely on ethos appeal and ad hominem attacks." My class has started calling out our teacher on hers. "That's a hasty generalization, Ms. Thompson! Your slippery slope threat won't work on us. Oh no, we're staying off this bandwagon."
She loves it. The rest of the world? Yeah, no. This ties into #1. If you want to have a normal conversation with anyone, don't get an education.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We Have Rights

Some of you may recall I post I did a few months back on sexual predators. Ms. Jarrell, the math teacher at my school who raped a girl, finally got her sentence. And it's...drumroll please, eighteen months probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $900 dollar fine.
For rape. I know students who do more service than that just to look good on college applications. What's the cost of rape? Apparently less than a good quality computer. She doesn't even have to register as a sex offender.
And what is Jarrell doing about this? Whining. She told newspapers, "I lost my teaching license and that was something I worked really hard for and I've been punished throughout the year with different things."
You poor baby. You worked hard for that teaching license? Really, really hard? Then maybe you shouldn't have thrown it away. Try not to rape anyone at your next job.
Wait, what's that you say? You didn't do anything wrong, Jarrell? This is just two young women falling in love? Let me explain sex to you. There are two different types:
1. Consensual
2. Rape
If a person in a position of authority has sex with a person with less control than they do, it is no way consensual. Rape is trickier to define with female on female sex, you say? No. It's not.
Jarrell said she never planned on having sex with her victim, at least, not until she turned eighteen. Jailbait wait. She just wrote her a note saying she could treat her "better" than her current girlfriend, she just swapped phone numbers, and she just gave the girl her address. Things just escalated from there. So of course she's not responsible.
Swapping phone numbers and passing notes are the things high schoolers should do with other high schoolers. Our teachers should yell at us for planning dates in class. Jarrell started it and she is the only one responsible.
After crying for a while, she goes on to say,
 "I'll never be in a school again like that. I don't even know if I can go on field trips with my nieces' or nephews' or kids' schools and that's really hard for me. I feel like it was a big deal for me to lose that."
Yeah, and we lost one of our competent math teachers. We lost that innocent idea that teachers are adults we can trust.
Every student, male or female, straight or not, has the right to sexual safety in school. Sure would be nice if we had the same kind of safety everywhere else, but that won't happen, so can we at least get it here? And every teacher, male or female, straight or not, needs to understand this.
We are your students. Not your playthings.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Children Can See This

A few days ago, MSN featured an article on the nonexistence of the tooth fairy. MSN is the 31st most popular website. Millions of children use it as a homepage. When a child who still believes in the tooth fairy sees this they'll want to click on it. And the first paragraph goes like this:
On the occasion of National Tooth Fairy Day (yes, there is such a thing), I received not one but two studies showing that the tiny sprite is taking a bigger bite out of parents' wallets.
It always upsets me when newspapers runs disputing the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But at least print media can fall back on that, "Oh, surely children don't read newspapers nowadays" excuse. How many children don't use the Internet?
Another problem with this article: all the information comes from adults and, as we all know, humans lose the ability to see fairies when that last tooth falls out. The same applies to images captured on camera.
If this looks like a picture of a little girl sleeping in a green room, your childhood has deserted you. Feel bad. Feel very bad.
Duh. Whether or not you believe in fairies is a personal thing, but let children have their fantasies. Remember, whatever you say on the Internet, they can see it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lia Wants You to Listen

I love this not just because it discusses a child's right to live, but because a child is the one speaking. Lia's twelve. Yes, she may be slightly idealistic, but she's also unashamed to talk about rape, depression, and choice. I will never stop admiring people who can speak with confidence. She stands by her words.