Knowledge is Power, 2002-03-26, 3:00 p.m.
I just debated with a student. Religious beliefs are keeping him from reading about pregnancy and abortion and birth control and anything sexual. He will not as he doesn't want to fill his mind with anything that could be construed as sin. He feels that learning about it will prompt you to be it. I really don't know what to do. I also teach the student sexual education. In both respects, I'm frustrated.
What if, for example, my beliefs were that I shouldn't have to learn male history? I should only learn about females in history and literature and filling my mind with masculine studies was wrong. That if I did that, I would become like those who do not realize that womyn existed until the 1960's. That perhaps I had a female glorification belief that disallowed the knowledge of anything masculine. For if you learn about it, you become it. How quickly would this be laughed out of the school system? How quickly, even if I had the information to back it up, would teachers tell me to give it up or that I had to know it.
Sexuality is so taboo. We respect when people cannot learn about it because we don't want to get into the discussion. But yet, there are 14 year olds having sex in this province - that is the provincial average. This class is aged 14 to 15. If we don't discuss things that are relevant to their lives then we lose them. Either attention wise or more seriously, life wise. If sexuality is part of life then it should be discussed and read about.
Knowledge, in my mind, is power. I believe however you choose to live your life - religiously, sacrilegiously, in a bucket - you need to be informed of all sides of a story. You need to know the important womyn AND men in history. If your beliefs are enough to keep you from learning something then you should be strong enough in them to learn it. You may not choose something in this lifetime - it may be chosen for you. To not be informed is to not be able to live. As a teacher, I feel my job is, as the saying goes, to fill an empty mind with an open one. I respect beliefs; however, I cannot support them if they involve endorsing ignorance.
This student told me he did not want to fill his mind with thoughts about this topic. That he believed that if he learned about sin he would become a sinner - such as if you hang out with smokers you will become one. I told him I was a non meat eater and that I could be around meat eaters and not eat it; that I could go to places where meat was being served and not have it. That's the conviction of strong beliefs. To continue my example, if I, as a non-meat eater, went only to vegetarian restaurants, ate a strict vegan diet and only supported places that endorsed this, my life would be different. IF it were something I came into late in life, it would have been an informed choice. I would still know about the world around me. If it were something I entered early in life, I would not be informed about the place in which I live. I would not have access to choices to validate my lifestyle or to support it. If I had been born into this lifestyle, I would not know enough to say that my lifestyle is correct. I would not have learned enough to say this is my choice, not the choice of others.
I've lost the fire in this argument. I guess my point is that you can have beliefs. However, they should be informed. Calling on them to not learn about something is not informed.