Teaching Our Children to See Both Sides

By, Amanda Ciani Berlingeri

Love or hate, which would you want for your children to learn? If our youth is the future of humanity, then why not teach them at a young age to respect the rights of others no matter what their background may be?

These questions amongst others were asked on Thursday, March 6th 2014, in the Celis Building of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, at a workshop called Embracing the ‘Other’ Within Through Children’s Banned Books. This three- hour active discussion involved around 40 people from the university’s community.

During this exchange of opinions presented by students, faculty and a few local members of the community, the question arose of whether or not teachers should be allowed to present books that portray the theme of sexuality within them.

Audience members participating in an evaluation of banned children’s books.

Audience members participating in an evaluation of banned children’s books.

While some of the audience members were hesitant to answer, Gregorio Vargas, a current UPRM student, briefly answered a few questions about the thoughts on the topic while the banned children’s book, “Long Live Princess Smarty Pants”.

Vargas believes that teachers should be able to present such books in the classroom in order to open up the view of little children earlier on in life instead of having them learn just from what their parents and the media say, which could be a biased view on the topic. “If we allow for children to be open towards difference while they are young, it could help change their behaviors towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, and transgender community later on in life,” he added.

The facilitators of this event, Nancy Vicente, Maribel Acosta, Katrin Beinroth, Elenita Irizarry, and Prisca Rodriguez,asked workshop participants about their experience during elementary, middle, or high school, regarding the LGBTT community and how it was handled by professors, administrators, and students. The facilitators gave the audience 10 minutes to write down the answers. At the very end of the discussion, after a group activity where the audience was split up into group to evaluate children’s books based on our opinions of whether or not they should be allowed to be a part of the curriculum for younger students, the audience shared their answers.

One student who spoke under the condition of anonymity said that he never felt accepted in his schools and that he wished that people would not be so closed-minded about the way they think. He said if people would have been exposed to this lifestyle earlier in life maybe they would not treat people like him differently.

This self-motivated dialog took place for approximately 15 minutes and only a few participants shared their stories, but everyone did agree that they believe things would be different if children were exposed to diverse sexual preferences and gender equality at a young age.

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