adolescence Archives - The Jose Vilson


Why Little Girls Shouldn’t Be Single

by Jose Vilson on May 17, 2010

in Jose

Teaching middle school has taught me at least two things about the thought process of children under 15: they believe they’re too old to be chastised by anyone but their parents (and in some cases, no one at all) and they have control over their own bodies. Part of that is developmental and evolutionary; we look to grow into ourselves, finding the rapid changes disturbing and replying by controlling the smaller parts that haven’t changed. Adolescence is scary, and not enough people know how to handle it delicately.

I do, however, have serious trouble looking at the above video and simply let that go. Many of you have seen this video and probably thought, “Why did this happen? Why do I feel strange about this? What makes this video so different from the other YouTube videos of gyration and bouncy baseline? The dancers are talented, surely, the uniforms look well done, and the replication of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is also remarkable. The energy on the stage seemed as infectious for the audience as for the hundreds of viewers and commenters to this exhibition.

That’s the most interesting thing about infections. People who have infections often jump up in excitement, preoccupied with the curiosity of this infection, but it’s still an infection, in need of a cure. The central point of intrigue is that the video isn’t showing grown women well in control of their sexuality or their lives; it’s showing little girls imitating such women. It’s not only distressing, but also indicative of the values our society holds (or doesn’t) for our young girls and boys.

Pardon me in my conservatism here, but shouldn’t we teach children how to be children until they getting closer to adulthood? For many of our children growing up in hardship, we find their parents groom them into young men and women well before they’re ready, and it often leads to children thinking they’re too grown for reproach or critique in their daily lives. They learn the harshest parts of adulthood without understanding the emotional and the genteel. They curse without understanding who they’ve damned, and retaliate without feeling consequence. They kiss and they’re immediately told they’re no longer “single.”

Children shouldn’t have such the burden of anything above a friendship. That’s where the issues of relationships start.

Furthermore, we see a dose of the sexualization of little girls, whose dance moves and dress emulates full grown women, but they can’t handle such a responsibility. Do they understand what Beyonce means when she asks a suitor to put a ring on it? When she tells her former man, who after several years never asked for any real commitment from her, to go away? In what club will the young ladies in the video pretend to be besides the Boys and Girls Club? Do tea parties and jumping jacks no longer exist for little girls to entertain themselves? Will their parents, who clearly didn’t think these ramifications through, have to pack them a lunch before they get into the club?

Children under a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to bestow titles meant for grown-ups upon themselves. That’s a roll call too many of us can agree with.

Jose, who, according to Mr. McLeod, deserves a bigger audience. Clap for him.


No, Your Skirt IS Too High

by Jose Vilson on June 8, 2009

in Jose




A few weeks ago, when the sun’s heat rapped on my classroom window like it was trying to get away from itself, I noticed a glorious coming out party for some of my female students’ legs. As a male teacher, I’m often put in different predicaments where I’m asked to tread thin lines all the time, and my adolescent girls’ behavior is one of them. On the one end, I’m encouraged to point out things I don’t deem appropriate or fitting for the school culture, and on the other, I’m asked not to say too much to the student directly or be too observant as I might be labeled, irrationally, as some sort of sexual deviant. I’ve run the gamut from girls telling me about their pregnancy to girls telling me they have a crush on me, and in all manners, I’ve learned how to navigate all that. 

But this? This issue was too widespread for me to deal with on my own.

As usual, I stand in front of my classroom door when I see four of my girls walk in. One of them had capris on. No big deal, but still out of uniform. The next girl comes with those trendy sweatpants with some word sweeping across the area between her lower back and her butt. The next girl’s wearing tight jean shorts just above her knees. And the last one decided it was appropriate to wear a skirt about 6 inches above her knees, and equidistant from her pelvic area.

And every time I asked each of them if they thought their dresses of choice were appropriate, they all said successively and succinctly, “No.” Little did they know that I’d already made my judgment. There’s a reason for our school having dress codes and uniform. So when, for example, one of my boys decides to “accidentally” drop a quarter right near girl #4′s dress, I’m not inclined to wack the boy over the head. In all fairness, Girl #4′s not that type of girl and she was wearing (not visible until she lifted up her skirt a few more inches) black shorts. But I didn’t want to take a chance.

Of course, I told the dean, who agreed with my perspective. Girl #4, who didn’t have the cojones to do 1/2 of what she’s up to this year, says, “Mr. Vilson, did you tell The Big Dean about my uniform?” I said, “No, I merely mentioned that he should check for uniforms, and it’s getting a little insane.” She wouldn’t let it go, not even until the next day, and she asked the dean. The dean mentioned exactly what I told him, and she said, “You see, you did blow up my spot!”

That made me fume. If anything, I’ve proven that they could trust me. I’d already spoken to my class about dressing appropriately, but it seems my message didn’t get through to them. I call the dean back and said, “Let me ask you a question: if a girl dressed in that skirt that she wore yesterday …” and before I even finished, he said, “I’m telling you, I’d put her in her place right there. She’d have to take that off. She wouldn’t even dare. I have a daughter now, and God forbid if she ever dressed like that. I’m an animal, I don’t care. When it comes to my daughter, I’ma protect her. And that’s why we keep telling you kids, you need to dress right, and come to school right. You wanna look like some trash in the street or that you’re some sort of prostitute? You’re not. You’re in school.”

I smirk and stare directly at Girl #4, who turned on her signature innocent smile.

“And you know what else? Girls and boys that wear their pants or skirts up to here,” motioning his hands right around where his butt starts, “that usually means they’re selling themselves. Yeah, believe it. It means they’re someone’s play thing. And none of you are that.”

You think I got any other questions after that?

Jose, who’s become a bit conservative when I’ve started teaching …