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The Changing Reality

Posted by Jeremie Bateman // January 29th 2014 // 30 Days of Love // no comments

DAY 12: Same Place, New Times

30DoL_12_Changing_TimesMy cousin is a high school junior. My 10 year high school reunion was a few months ago. When I go home for family gatherings, sometimes we chat about teachers we have in common, or a classmate of mine who is now working at the school. We talk about how things have changed in course offerings, the renovations in the building, the new 8-period schedule with shorter lunch periods that I still don’t understand.

But what we haven’t talked about, and what I’ve been thinking about in light of today’s post about changing demographics and the Multicultural Sharing Project over at Standing on the Side of Love, is how much has changed when I think about identity, demographics and inclusion. The experience at that school is so vastly different in many ways, though I suspect eerily similar in others. I’m thinking about things that I might want to chat about with my cousin the next time we talk:

  • It was absolutely not ok to be “out” as gay, lesbian or bisexual when I was at that school. Transgender was not even a word that people would recognize.  Are students more comfortable being out? Or just more comfortable with the idea of LGBT people?  There’s a gay-straight alliance now, some of the more anti-gay staffers have retired or left, and a gay elementary school teacher was also the much beloved drama director for a number of years. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into LGBT students feeling safe at school.
  • I could count the Youth of Color on one hand. I know that’s changed. It was starting to shift right as I graduated, with the White students being mostly locals and the Youth of Color being predominantly transfer students who had moved into the community with a parent, a grandparent or an aunt or uncle from somewhere else. I remember it setting up this awful dynamic of who was “from here” and who wasn’t. Is it still like that? Or has it given you the opportunity to learn from one another in new ways? And are all the teachers still White?
  • We never talked about ability or mental health. Is it something you talk about now? Can students with different needs participate in the life of the school?

I hope my cousin and I get to have this conversation. Maybe I’ll invite our parents and our grandfather to it, too. We all grew up in the same community and went to the same school, but I suspect that even with the location constantly, our experiences will be vastly, vastly different.

If you had a conversation with someone who experienced the same school or same community as a teenager, 10 years before or after you, what changes would you be curious about?

And what about our congregations? I encourage you to check out the questions on diversity and multiculturalism that SSL has put out for today and reflect on them.

About the Author

Jeremie Bateman is the Leadership Development Associate in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the UUA. He can be reached at jbateman@uua.org.
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