This is not a topic that I would have even thought to write about on my own. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Until, I was helping my son review for this science test a few days ago. I mean, why would I have even had reason to believe anything about domestic violence would show up in a “Thinking Like A 4th Grade Scientist” packet? Well, it did.
There were a couple of page on Lab Safety. Makes sense. Teach the kids to be safe when conducting experiments in the lab. Most of the rules and explanations sounded fine, until we get to “Horseplay out.” Here’s the entire excerpt of that section:
“Horseplay can lead to chemical spills, accidental fires, broken containers, and damaged equipment. Never throw anything to another person; be careful where you put your hands and arms; and no wrestling, punching, or shoving in the lab. Save that for when you get older and start dating.”
Did you catch that? “Save that for when you get older and start dating.”
Exactly what are they supposed to save for when they get older and start dating? Wrestling? Is this a lewd comment about making-out or some other sort of hanky-panky? Punching or shoving? Why would anyone need to save punching and shoving for dating?? Punching and shoving within a relationship is not a joke, it’s not flirtatious—it’s abuse. And why is the mention of dating even necessary when talking about lab safety for 4th grade science class anyways?
At best, this sentence is meant to be a joke—a very bad and inappropriate joke. At worst, it is trying to somehow justify physical violence within a relationship as acceptable. Either way, no student (not even in high school) should be exposed to this type of rhetoric, especially, not a child as young as fourth grade.
Why am I making such a big deal of this? It’s only one, little sentence, right? Well, the things we say to kids matter. They remember it. They are like little sponges, soaking up information about what we, as adults, say and do. So if they bring home something from school (a trusted source) that nonchalantly jokes about physical violence within a relationship—“when you get older and start dating”—then we are sending a message to our kids that it’s not a big deal, probably even acceptable, and should even be expected. That’s not the message that I want to send to my children.
Don’t get the wrong idea here. I am NOT blaming the school or my son’s teacher. As a teacher myself, I understand that it is totally possible and reasonable to expect that a teacher, or the Board of Education who probably approved the curriculum, has NOT read every single sentence of every textbook or supplemental material packet that is going to be used. They are looking at an overview of the curriculum and trusting that the publisher has taken their due diligence within the writing and printing of materials. It is not until teachers actually start teaching from a particular series that they can fully know how the implementation of that material is working.
We are very fortunate to be in a great district and when I contacted the teacher, he was very understanding and said he didn’t know that sentence was in there until the packets had already gone home and would remove that sentence for future use. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better resolution in this situation.
But I still had to think, what if my son’s teacher wasn’t so understanding and willing to resolve this issue immediately? What if I hadn’t read through my son’s curriculum to find it in the first place? I’m sure there are many districts across the country that do actually use controversial curriculum and probably don’t even care the message it sends to kids. How many other publishers, like the Wild Goose Company—the creator of this ridiculousness—are slipping in controversial remarks or weaving inappropriate undertones into curriculum that are slowly and methodically ingrained into our children as core beliefs?
I don’t know if the teacher would have caught it. I don’t know if other parents caught it. What I do know is that we have the right, and responsibility, as parents to speak up for what we want our kids to be taught, and when something doesn’t seem right, say something.