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 How Young is too Young? 
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The other day in class we were discussing Mathew Shepard and "The Laramie Project." Many people discussed how if they were going to be teaching very young students in elementary school they would not discuss the "gay issue" with the students because they would not understand it and it is not appropriate at that age. I was thinking back to a similar situation that happened to me and my family when I was only in the first or second grade. My uncle is also gay and he was in a bar one night, just minding his own business, and he was there with a couple friends from work. My uncle went to the bathroom at one point in the night and then four other guys came in after him and continued to beat him up because he was gay. I remember my family having to go and visit him in the hospital because they were not sure if he would make it much longer. My parents made a decision that they would share what happened to my uncle with me if I began to ask questions, which being that young of course I did. My parents decision to be open with me at such a young age has proven that these situations can be learning tools of tolerance and understanding. I do not believe that I was too young to learn about such controversial issues because my parents taught me tolerance of diversities before society could change them to be something opposite, so I believe that is would be appropriate to discuss those issues in an elementary classroom.

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Amanda Jill Roberts


Fri Mar 30, 2007 8:53 am
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That experience is worth a great deal more than all of the theoretical guessing that we could have done in discussion. It's terrible that this happened, but it has no doubt given you a great deal of insight in to the ability of young children to understand difficult subjects.

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Matthew Pickard


Tue Apr 03, 2007 1:38 pm
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It is definitely a difficult subject and should be taught to children. I still think that the Elementary level in school is too young for this to be discussed. If the parents want to talk to their kids about this, they should do that. I do not feel, however, it is the school's responsibility to bring up this subject at that age.


Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:25 pm
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I think that this experience surely has impacted your beliefs and ideas about tolerance and diversity. Thanks for sharing this story. Do you feel that learning this at a young age impacted you negatively at all?
I think we underestimate what children are capable of, once again. I do not think that a lesson plan or presentation is necessary to present this kind of controversial information with young children. However, I do think that as these topics do come up in the classroom (something they saw on the news, another student having 2 mommies or 2 daddies, ect), we need to be prepared to deal with them appropriately. While we may not personally choose to initiate discussions on issues of sexuality, or hate crimes, I think that we also cannot ignore children if they begin to ask questions. I would argue that as teachers we are capable of giving children appropriate and satisfying answers without going into great depth or discussing concepts that would seem abstract to a child. I would worry most about the parents of my students. Their beliefs would likely create greater barriers in having open communication with students about matters such as this. How do we deal with that? Or should we? What would you do if you were a parent confronted with a topic such as discrimination, particularly about sexual orientation?

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Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:42 am
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I think if I were a parent and my child started to ask me questions then I would sit them down and explain everything to them. I would tell them they have a right to their own opinion but at the same time that they should not persecute anyone else because of that persons belief. When teaching, I am teaching high school so most (not all) students would have already been exposed to these topics. I want to tell every student in my class that it is fine for them to have their own opinion but they are not allowed in my classroom to say hateful things about other students or ways of life. I don't feel that is being overly mean I just don't want anyone to have their beliefs trampled on by someone else who does not understand, or disagrees with their way of life.


Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:03 pm
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I am all for explaining acceptance at a young age, especially here in the south east. It is best to imbed these acceptance values into students while they are young before thier parents and/or community can imbed hate or ignorance.

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Robert Chase Glenn


Sat Apr 14, 2007 12:37 pm
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I definately think that elementary students can understand what is going on with issues of homosexuality, hate, and people's right to live. I think they might not understand the complexity of it, but in many ways they might understand it better than adults. I know this is a weird example but if you have seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine. They are sitting at the dinner table and the uncle has just come back from the hospital where he had tried to commit suicide because his gay lover left him. The girl who is 8, Olive, she asks her uncle why he has bandages on his wrists and he starts to explain to her why. The father gets angry and tells him to stop, but the mother says its fine and tells him that she will find out one day anyways. The little girl asks simple questions that are extremely deep, like "why did you want to kill yourself?" which leads to more discussion and the issue of him being homosexual comes out. She passes it off as not a big deal and seems to understand that he was hurt because of a relationship. I truly think children can understand and being to gain that tolerance at a young age, and if we allow that in the classroom the world will begin to be more tolerant.

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Sat Apr 14, 2007 1:27 pm
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and that movie is awesome. as i have mentioned several times, every summer for the last 6 years i have been a camp counselor, usually with 6-8 year old boys. they call each other gay and other great words like that. they have a very loose idea of what it means to be gay but they love the word. instead of just telling them not to use the word, i always tried to teach them why they shouldnt use the word. sometimes you learn pretty quick that they have already learned hatred from family/media/friends but it is SO easy to undo at that age. we have got to stop being so timid about offending or overstepping our boundaries. hatred is not okay so why do we pretend that it is not our place to step in when we need to?

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Samuel Reeve Kirkpatrick


Sun Apr 15, 2007 4:39 pm
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I agree with you Sam that so much of what kids learn comes from family and the media and that is the hard part when it comes to teaching these kids. If you don't care about overstepping boundaries and offending people, then the chances are that you might not have a secure job anymore, especially when it comes to discussing the topic of homosexuality. Now I agree that people should not just be timid and back down, but I think at times we need to know when to offer our opinions and experiences and many times people may not agree with us at all. That is where the problems begin.

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Amanda Jill Roberts


Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:52 pm
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