Monday, August 17, 2015

The New Victorians

This train of thought began with a book I read, and decolletage. In this YA novel, set in the 1800s, it was fashionable and acceptable for women to show off their cleavage in a way that the later generation (the Victorians) would find shocking and immodest. My husband and I had a great conversation about shifting public moral standards and a few incidents that followed the discussion made me realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In what seems like today's "anything goes" society, there are still some taboo topics, especially in schools.


Please, please, PLEASE do not let this paragraph suggest that I am a card-carrying member of the NRA, or that I am a fan of firearms. Just read my examples to understand why I feel that sometimes we go overboard with our actions.
  • There is a teacher at my school who forbids her students from saying the word "gun". They aren't allowed to say it at all. If they need to reference it, they have to spell it.
  • There have also been many cases of schools suspending students for infractions relating to guns that appear to be over-reactions: chewing food into gun shapes, pointing hands like a gun, and even refusing to use a student's sign-language name because part of it resembles a gun shape. 
  • When I first started to incorporate Minecraft into my school program, the first concern that arose was about the level of violence and it always seemed to comfort some adults when I'd say "there are no guns in Minecraft".
  • I didn't even realize that in my neighbourhood, there is a program that encourages youth to hand in any sort of weaponry to the police station in exchange for a more "appropriate" toy - and this includes the brightly coloured, plastic super-soakers (which are no longer called "water guns" on the packages). (Note: I couldn't find a reference to this in Toronto and linked to an American example instead.) 
  • My daughter's cosplay outfit is challenging to assemble this year, as Fan Expo Canada regulations state that people in costume cannot bring replica guns with them, and her character of choice this year is Zoe from the zombie shooter game Left 4 Dead. I totally understand the reason for the rules - no one wants someone with a real gun to enter a crowded space and start shooting - but my girl's desire for attention to detail is just going to have to live with an absent and/or inaccurate weapon accessory for her costume.
Usually it's difficult for me to articulate how my views and opinions are formed, but on this subject I can point to a specific book that I read while in teachers' college that made a huge impact on my attitude towards children's violent play. Who's Calling the Shots by Nancy Carlsson-Page and Diane Levin provided a great balance for me in terms of dealing with students. 


Once again, I'm not a tobacco lobbyist, but I think that our zeal to exterminate smoking has lead to some fascinating situations.
  • In a graphic novel that describes the space race in the 1960s, the author was under a great deal of pressure to exclude scenes of the scientists smoking as they worked.
  • My students in the past had some difficulty making their health comics with digital tools of their choice because he fantastic kids' online tool, Bitstrips for Schools, does not have cigarettes as objects to be added to any scenes.
  • Popeye candy sticks used to be candy cigarettes but changed their name so they wouldn't encourage children to smoke.
  • Santa Claus rarely appears in any illustrations smoking his pipe anymore.
Smoking is a nasty habit with significant health risks for smokers and people exposed to second-hand smoke. It's just, amusing I guess can be the word, to see how enthusiastic some can become in our goal to exterminate the practice, to the extent that historical smoking needs to be "whitewashed".

I myself am not 100% clear of the purpose of my mini-rant - maybe it's a knee-jerk reaction to folks who claim that a particular object or practice will lead to the ruin of society as we know it (e.g. comic books, watching TV, playing video games, shaving, dressing in certain ways, etc.) Whatever my rationale might be, I think it's important to be able to have conversations about these "taboo topics" because that can lead to increased understanding. 

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