Rhino is taking “Career Planning,” a class required for officially graduating from her ISHS (which she has to do by the end of July, or she can’t do City Year). First of all, Rhino took an equally stupid class on career planning in 8th grade. This class is even worse because it includes a textbook that tells readers not to be friends with overweight people. You think I am kidding, but I am not. It also offers exercises in “values clarification” that offered choices that the text deems to be morally equivalent, but are not. Rhino wrote a response to all of this and sent to it her teacher, who forwarded it to the principal of the Independent Study High School. With Rhino’s permission, I have copied her letter below:
I have spent many hours, days, and years thinking about and defining my values. They are well-established and I am very confident about them. I learned nothing more about them in this lesson. I think many people could have benefited from the section about “hard choices” if they had been more realistic and not asked us to pass judgment on other people. For example, I resented being asked which person “I would least admire.” I did not admire any of the choices that the people provided as examples were making. However, without knowing these people I cannot tell you based off a single action whom I admire least as a person. Every person makes mistakes or has less than admirable qualities about them, but it is not appropriate to pass judgment on them just because we disagree. In addition, the “I would prefer to” section made me truly uncomfortable. Tell me when I would ever have to choose between having an affair (and betraying a person to whom I have made sacred vows) and risking arrest standing up for my values? These are not comparable, and I found it absurd that they were placed next to each other. What value is having an affair supposed to represent? I understand that this exercise was meant to be exaggerated, but I feel like that made it entirely pointless and unhelpful. In the future you might consider using examples that are actual realistic hard choices that require some real thought and thus development of values.
I did not learn anything about myself from this unit, and I am not going to make something up just to fill this space. I value honesty quite highly, and I will not sacrifice it for a grade. I would, however, like to use this space to comment upon Campbell’s book. I find the entire book quite classist. Not everyone has wealth or even a supportive family. The “assets” listed in this book suggest that the people reading it have at least one or both of these things. I find this ridiculous in the sense that people who have these things are not the ones who truly need this class. They will be just fine without it. The children who lack these listed “assets” are the ones who need more guidance and alternatives to help them through it. The national dropout crisis isn’t happening because middle class children aren’t being provided with enough guidance and opportunities. Just something to think about. I would also like to jump ahead a bit to the next unit where we are asked to read the next chapter in Campbell’s book. I am going to try to remain calm as I explain the deeply disturbing content that it contains. The book explains that we are most like the people we surround ourselves with. This is true. But instead of focusing on the positive, such as saying “stay with people who do well in school, share your values, are kind and loving people” Campbell takes it upon himself to list who losers are. I find this in and of itself strange, but then he goes on to list “overweight and unfit” as qualifications for loserdom. I demand an explanation for how in the world this is appropriate to have in school distributed material. I know this is a freshman level course, so my question to you is how dare you tell 14-year-olds in the most vulnerable time of their lives that being fat makes them a loser? In what universe did you think that was okay? Everyday kids are bombarded with messages that being overweight is bad. The one place they are supposed to be safe from these hateful messages is from teachers and school administration. That is why I sat through countless anti-bullying assemblies throughout my life. We were told we could always go to a teacher for help even when no one else would listen. So for a teacher to use this book is inappropriate beyond all rational belief. Later Campbell takes it a step further by saying that “many people forego much of their natural attractiveness by being overweight.” Again with telling 14-year-old girls that they aren’t pretty if they’re fat. Very nice. They list weight as a something people have complete control over but that’s not true. Some people are just naturally heavier than others, and how could yo possibly allow freshmen to read something that tells them that this makes them less attractive than other people. I am so ashamed of ISHS right now, you have no idea.