Our theater department did an amazing job with The Laramie Project over the past two weeks. In North Texas (more specifically, Wichita Falls–the BUCKLE on the Bible Belt) tolerance is often equivalent to EVIL. Our director invited several people from the community to take part in a panel after each show was done. The panels included educators, community leaders, ministers and gay and lesbian activists from the community. Last night the minister on the panel made some great points about judgmental people and how often they give Christianity a bad name. It’s one of the first times I’ve seen a group of kids who weren’t in the newsroom talk openly about religion and tolerance without it turning into a heated debate that dissolved into name calling and hurt feelings. We have discussions about these topics all the time in the newsroom. Really, the KIDS have the discussions. If I get involved, it’s almost always as devil’s advocate. I want my students to be able to defend their positions effectively without tearing apart the other person. I live in fear that some kid’s going to tape me saying something along the lines of “War?! Who cares about the war. I want to know if Britney Spears is pregnant again or not.” Because I do say things like that…often…to get the kids used to LISTENING and to get them questioning authority. If they let the comment pass, I give them a hard time, but they don’t usually let it pass. They make me proud. Even in this drug testing, no trans-fats, bus evacuation trained time for teenagers, the kids in my class STILL speak their minds. If we’re not careful, that’s going to change. If it does, that Scott Westerfeld created Ugly world is going to be a real thing. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. 

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