Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 95- Prom

Sometimes our President is a total baller. Sometimes he's even cooler.

Dear Mr. President,

High school proms are an absurd cliche, but, so help me, I loved mine. My best friends and I got dressed up, had a fancy dinner, played like we were really grown-up while we posed for photos with dates who'd be distant memories in a few years, but who were The Loves Of Our Lives at the time. Prom was not without its political drama, either. One of my friends was dating a student from another school, a transgendered boy who caused quite a stir by being the first female elected Prom King at his own school. I remember, at the time, thinking that this would seem so bigoted and backwards by the time we grew up and told our own kids; like the stories of segregation our own parents had from their time in school.

Apparently, our nation isn't quite there yet. Constance McMillen, a Mississippi high school student, was told by her school that she could not bring her girlfriend to prom. The resulting uproar, which included a legal battle and a (social and mainstream) media frenzy, ended with two proms; one for Constance and a dozen other students; one privately organized and funded by the parents of the rest of the school. In this case, while the courts acted as I feel they should have, the legal decision was not what ultimately mattered. The damage to Constance's high school experience was already done. Her school's administration had labeled her an outsider, demonstrating clearly to her peers that she has no place among them.

Plenty of people have a difficult time fitting in. High school is often unpleasant, and high school students are often unkind. The system should not actively work to make it harder to be different. This kind of bigotry has no place in our society, and certainly not in our public schools. There is no saving Constance the humiliation and alienation that will result from the small-mindedness of the adults granted responsibility over her education. Her prom has become a rite of passage that no high school student should ever have to endure. Maybe, years from now, she'll look back on it with a grim satisfaction, appreciating that, in the face of it all, she at least kept her integrity. Even if it will serve her, long term, to have discovered so early in life all the obstacles she will have to overcome and the strength required to do so, I will wish that she might have avoided such character-building. I may not be a parent, or, for that matter, much older than Constance, but I still wish that American children were shielded, a little longer, from suffering the consequences of the appalling ignorance that still exists in this country.

Respectfully yours,


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