Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

I learned the word slut in sixth grade.


This is a post that I didn’t want to write. But then the bravery of everyone in the #YesAllWomen wave came, and I decided that I should speak out too. So, in the standard that I’ve set for myself of reporting my thoughts on news about a week late, here’s my experience:

I learned the word slut in sixth grade. I was a member of the cheerleading squad and we were hated by a group of teachers & administrators for reasons that I’m still unsure of. Maybe it had to do with my coach but it backfired onto us. On school spirit day, my homeroom teacher yelled at me for wearing my uniform… although it was a school tradition and the skirt went down to my knees. She told me that I was giving guys the wrong idea and asked me if I seriously wanted to be one of “those girls”. I spent the rest of the day, and year, completely self-conscious.

One day my water bottle spilled all over my cheerleading bag. I asked my homeroom teacher if I could lay the clothes on her radiator so they could dry by practice. She told me that it would be no problem. I put them down and then went on with my day.

Halfway through the day, I had math class – which was what my homeroom teacher taught. Towards the end of the class, my teacher flipped on me because she didn’t think that I was cleaning up. When I tried to defend myself, she went nuts. She grabbed my clothing from off the radiator and starting showing it to the rest of the class. She said that my shorts were too short and my tank top was too tight. She thought she was being funny. She warned the other girls in class to veer away from dressing like me. Boys may get the wrong idea & it’s self-deprecating. A lady shouldn’t dress sexy. I tried to explain that you have to dress in tight clothing for safety reasons during practice. If someone is falling and their baggy t-shirt gets caught on something, they could get seriously injured. There were no boys in our practice anyways… why does it matter how I dress in front of my squad? Then she used that word for the first time. Oh, so it’s safe to be dressed like a slut? Because that’s what these clothes are… slutty. You’re too young to be a slut. I was ten.

And so you have some context, here’s a super slutty picture that my cousin sent me this morning of myself around that age.



I’d also like to use this photo as proof that I was once tall.

After the slut comment, I ran out of my classroom to see one of the most horrifying sights for a sixth grader – everyone hanging out of their classrooms watching it go down. My teacher yelled so loud that people down the hall heard what was going on. Humiliated, I ran into my geography teacher’s room. She heard it all and urged me to see my guidance counselor. My guidance counselor told me to write a letter to my teacher… just a fake one to get my feelings out. Instead of shredding the letter like I had imagined, my guidance counselor gave it to my teacher. By seventh period, I had to sit at one end of the table with my teacher at the other end and my guidance counselor sitting in between as a moderator. If you think those exercises where each person has to start a sentence with “I feel like…” are fake, let me assure you that they’re very real. Most of this day is a blur to me, but one thing I remember clearly is how this exercise ended. “I feel like you are bullying me” “I feel like you are misunderstanding my intentions. I got upset over your clothing because I think of you like a daughter. I want men to respect you… I only responded the way I would respond to my daughters” “Then I feel seriously bad for your daughters”. End of conversation. I walked away in trouble for disrespecting a teacher and she still teaches at that school.

That’s when I learned that it’s always going to be my fault. When a boy grabs my ass in between classes in eighth grade, it’s my fault for wearing tight pants. When a 40-year old man keeps circling my block on my walk home because he gets off on calling a fourteen year old sexy, it’s my fault for having boobs at a young age. When some dude shoves his hand up my dress in college, it’s my fault for not knowing that you shouldn’t wear dresses to a club. And when some douchebag asshole sexually assaults me, it’s my fault for being drunk.

We really need to stop teaching girls that it’s their fault. Their minds are easily molded and it can cause some serious damage. When victims are able to muster up the courage I never had and actually report their crimes, they should never be asked what they were wearing. Ten year olds shouldn’t learn what a slut is through an authoritative figure. The violent and vile actions that misogynists make should never be looked at as a cause & effect situation revolving around women.

Drops Mic. AT out.