In a recent Huff Post Travel blog, a woman tells of being searched by Vermont border guards who disapproved of her sexy underwear and looked "scathingly" at the condoms they discovered in one of her bags. About a week later in the airport at Montreal, she was detained for several hours and insulted by customs officials for travelling with a married man. A few days after that she was detained at an Aruban airport and again interrogated by customs officials. By then it dawned on her that she'd been blacklisted across a security network spanning several cities for the condoms and travelling with a married man.
A young couple I work with recently told me how they'd been humiliated by a New York State trooper while on a picnic at Bear Mountain. He noticed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc by the food on their blanket and dumped it on the grass. Then he searched their belongings, found condoms and demanded to see proof they were married. When they were unable to provide it, he launched into a diatribe, accused them of immoral behavior and told them they were lucky he didn't arrest them.
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A psychology professor speaking at a recent conference on marriage and family therapy suddenly launched into a rant on Anthony Weiner's sexually suggestive links on Twitter. The professor rambled on for a good three minutes, shocking even the most conservative members of her audience, all members in good standing of the American Psychological Association.
Another couple I work with told me of their daughter, a lovely 15-year-old, who quoted erotic passages from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in her high school literature class. Her teacher was shocked and sent her to the school principle who told her she'd be suspended for three days and the supension would be recorded in her school transcript. The girl's father, a lawyer, was quick to remind the school principle of his daughter's first amendment rights and he quickly backed down.
More troubling than the above is the recent decision by New York City educators to ban controversial subjects from New York City school tests, their rational being that the banned topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students." Among the full list of 50 banned topics, these well intentioned censors saw fit to include: dinosaurs, aliens, birthdays, bodily functions, death and disease, divorce, halloween, loss of employment, movies, rap music,terrorism, sex, slavery, vermin (rats and roaches), war, bloodshed, witchcraft and sorcery. Imagine Max, the delightful young boy in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, taking an essay exam in a New York City classroom, prevented from using any of these topics as he tries to describe his adventures on the Island of Malicious Beasts in Sendak's story.
By far the most troubling of these scenarios is the manner in which Mattel's line of American Girl dolls is now being marketed to little girls. Since being acquired by Mattel in 1998, the American Girl collection, originally owned by the Pleasant Company founded by former schoolteacher Pleasant T. Rowland, was gradually phased out and archived, which is the doll industry eupehemism for buried on a nice farm.
The original collection created by Rowland in 1986 consisted of inspiring historical figures: A Scandinavian farmsteader Kirsten; a Victorian aristocrat Samantha; a World War II patriot Molly; Felicity, a tomboy from colonial days; and Addie who courageously escapes from slavery on the eve of the Civil War.
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Each doll had a story in which the heroine faces a major life challenge that she overcomes and then grows stronger as a consequence. Mary Ann McGrath, professor of marketing at Loyola University, describes the original American Girl dolls as " ... stories from history ... about strong girls facing crises like slavery and the depression in strong ways." Keep reading ...
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