I read about families in Israel that settle the West Bank. I am a Jewish person who is horrified by the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel, but I don’t have any good solution, so I’m reticent to pass judgment. Mostly, I just try to do good when I have the opportunity.

I read that Israeli children in the West Bank are so scared from constant war with Palestinians that they sleep with their parents every night.

I think so much about that image. About that life. I think I over identify with traumatized kids because of my own childhood. So I obsess.

California’s governor passed a law that allows children to choose the gender they identify with rather than being assigned. The point of the law is to support transgendered children. The medical community is already supporting these kids and now California schools are too.

The result of the law is, first of all that kids can choose which team they are on, which bathroom they go into, etc. The other result is that school is a battle ground. With hard-core conservatives saying that supporting transgendered kids is against God’s law. Or something like that.

I imagined the scenes in my head, and they reminded me of when I got an abortion in California and I had to walk through protestors to get to the doctor’s office. I was already traumatized that I was having an abortion, and the fact that I was in the middle of a political battleground made it much much more difficult.

But I was an adult. And I can take care of myself.

Kids are different. They go to school, and it’s a battleground, and there are no parents there.

My oldest friend, Sharon, grew up in Israel. She was telling me about going back to visit her parents with her kids.

“There’s an extra room and the bomb shelter, so we can all stay with my parents.”

“A bomb shelter?”

“Yeah. Every house in Israel has a bomb shelter?”

“What??? That’s amazing! Do you have drills, like we have tornado drills?”

“Yeah. But even when it’s not a drill, my mom and dad don’t go into the shelter. The West Bank is about three miles from their house and they don’t think grenades can reach them.”

I can imagine Sharon’s family sitting together, eating dinner while there’s a bomb siren sounding.

We can acclimate to anything. In Israel they acclimate to a constant state of war. In US schools we acclimate to that as well. It’s a curriculum battleground, it’s a gender battleground, it’s an economic battleground, it’s a religious background (Did you know that 13% of teachers are teaching that evolution did not happen?)

In Israel, though, the battleground happens largely at home. At night. When it’s dark. And the kids are with their parents. In the US, our kids are alone, fending for themselves, and I think we underestimate how traumatic that is.

In the US the war is during the day, at school, and kids are in the middle, without the protection of their parents.

I know: A cultural war is not the same as a physical war. And that’s true. But the idea that we send our kids into a public school every day that is a political and cultural battleground makes no sense to me. Just as Sharon’s family doesn’t feel like they are in a war, families that send kids do school do not feel like they are doing anything controversial.

We acclimate to whatever we have to, but in the context of that adaptability it’s important to know what we have to do and what we choose to do. Making choices is what makes us human. Owning those choices is taking ownership of ourselves. And sending kids to school is a choice. There’s no need to adapt to the battleground conditions.

13 replies
  1. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    From the Fox News article:

    Thomasson said parents should consider pulling their children out of California’s public schools.

    “Fortunately, parents can protect their children from the insanity of biological boys in girls’ restrooms and girls’ showers and biological girls in boys’ restrooms and boys’ showers by exiting the dysfunctional, immoral public schools for homeschooling and solid church schools,” he said.
    Perhaps this new law could be a trigger for the mass exodus from public schools you’ve written about previously. At least in an area of CA with a lot of conservative Christians who are offended by the law–Orange County, perhaps?

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      The thing that came to me reading this is that we have evolved in our knowledge as a society over the past 100 years to now know (pretty soundly) what is developmentally appropriate for children’s ages and stages and how school from 100 years ago goes against most bits of this knowledge- sleep, behavior, emotional regulation, rote memorization, play…so on. In that context, to me at least, it’s pretty shocking we aren’t looking at the bigger picture now that we have identified a framework of what children DO need.

  2. Caro
    Caro says:

    My kid is in a coveted G&T program. Each day it feels like war: early rise, long school bus rides, bullies, homework, very long hours, behavior charts, reading & writing in K, etc. WTF? I am so close to pulling my kid out of that place and homeschooling it. It is a choice. But it takes guts and money. I am working on both. It’s getting close.

    • Jana Miller
      Jana Miller says:

      My best advice-start small. Pull your kids now and tell yourself that it’s just until Christmas. And the decide again. I pulled one kid in April, the year we started homeschooling. I figured I couldn’t mess it up with only a month and a half left of school. One is in college, one graduated and had a job waiting for him post college. No regrets except that I didn’t do it sooner.

  3. katie jay
    katie jay says:

    you’re usually so on the money, but you’re really off base about Israel. You start this post blaming Israel and then talk about all the trauma inflicted on Israelis by the Palestinians. And the conclusion you leave your readers with is that Israelis are to blame for their troubles. So Arabs can (and do) live safely and fully (with equal, progressive rights not afforded them anywhere else in the Arab world) in Israel, but Jews cannot live safely in what may becone Palestine? As Golda Meir has said, there will be peace only when the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Jews. Infantilizing Palestinians and holding double standards certainly won’t get them to that point.

    • marta
      marta says:

      You are totally wrong on your interpretation of PT’s words. She’s just referring to the trauma any ordinary Israeli person – jews, mostly, but muslims and christians too – have to live with, day-in, day-out, and how accostumed to it people get. Thus she makes the parallel with people going to (public) school and having to “adapt” to trauma.

      I think the parallel is wrong in many aspects, but it is not a condemnation of Palestinians nor of Israelis…

    • Vanessa Walters
      Vanessa Walters says:

      Katie Jay, that Golda Meir quote is extremely ignorant. Ignorance and racist stereotypes will definitely not bring peace. Please can you give Penelope some artistic licence, recognise the main thrust of her dodgily crafted argument and keep it moving?

  4. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    “The other result is that school is a battle ground.”

    Of course. Politics is civil war by other means.

    The danger of homeschooling is that parents are taking their children out of the war zone. They get to peaceably raise their children on their own far from the grunting artillery of the culture wars.

    But what will the politicians and activists do then, poor things?

  5. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    I take it your own school experience was traumatic? I’m sorry, it sounds like a lot of things in your life were traumatic. You’re doing a pretty good job all things considered although your comments about drinking have concerned me.

    I found that becoming a parents stirs up all sorts of childhood and emotional issues. I guess we are trying to sort through the things that our parents did wrong so we can try to do them better.

  6. Moses
    Moses says:

    about California governor enacting that allows a child to choose which gender they identify with. Recently there a someone in Kenya who went to court to have her high school certificate gender changed. She won the case. Her name also was changed from Andrew to Audrey because that is what she wanted. I did not know whether to refer to “her” or “him” because this is Africa and things are really different.

  7. kristen
    kristen says:

    I just started homeschooling my 6th grader this year and I was recently with a group of women who also have 6th grade boys whom I’ve known for years. They were complaining about how moody their boys were and how they were starting to have a bad attitude. I haven’t seen that AT ALL in my son, he is a joy to be around. I thought at the time that their boys are being traumatized and this is how it is showing up. Glad to see you agree.

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