In light of everything that is going on in the world, my students' efforts to get Ellen DeGeneres to speak to them might seem irrelevant and unimportant. In fact, it might even support the notion that kids are too caught up in pop culture to recognize what is going on around them. While that might be true in part, there is always another side to any story. And in this instance, there are multiple sides to this story. So before anyone rushes to judgment, I would hope they considered the following:
First, you need to understand the class and what we are seeking to accomplish. Prior to studying incredible women from throughout history, I seek to have my students find the incredible person within who has the ability to make their own history. As such, we tackle issues ranging from developing healthy relationships, to healthy self image, increasing awareness of addictions, teen pregnancy and bullying. Why? We need to know who we are at our core, before we can move forward and make healthy choices. If we do not understand who we are and why we make the choices we do, then unhealthy patterns are likely to persist from one generation to the next.
Second, we live in a community with a 21% unemployment rate. We have a high teen pregnancy rate, as well as a high drop out rate. This does not even begin to convey the figures relating to gangs. Still, in the midst of all of this, we seek to emphasize healthy change by bringing in positive female role models who show the young women and men in the class that they can reach beyond their immediate environment to pursue a college education and more. Additionally, there are discussions about coming back to our community to share the knowledge and experience they have gained by helping others.
Third, budget cuts in California. We have yet to come across another class like this at the high school level, and we feel a huge responsibility to keep it alive. We have no budget, and really do rely upon the kindness of strangers to bring in articles and resources, as well as the fundraising efforts of students and staff to sustain ourselves.
Fourth, the students have a voice and they have said they think that Ellen highlights many of the key things that are important to them. From a serious perspective, Ellen is outspoken against bullying, supports equity for all and shows that even people from small towns can make it happen. On a light note, Ellen accomplishes much through humor and dancing.
Is it easy to criticize a young group of students who see a celebrity as being able to convey so many things? Absolutely. But, now that you know the backstory, I would hope that you would appreciate the fact that a group of young individuals are working to make their efforts known on a national level through a campaign to have Ellen "make the break" with them.
And if you do get this, and what I could not say more succinctly, I hope that you would consider withholding judgment from others on things about which you do not fully know or understand, be it in the workforce, within the family or among friends. For while it is easy to criticize and judge, it is much harder to try and understand. Still, I believe the effort is worth it and makes us all better for it.
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