A Daily Disgust Hero: 5th Grader Kameron Slade

Kameron Slade is a 5th grade student in Queens, New York, who wrote a well thought out, articulate, and cogent speech in support of same-sex marriage.  With this speech, Kameron won his classroom speech competition, earning him the right to present his speech to the whole school.  The school’s principal, fearful of controversy, let young Kameron know that he would have to write a new speech about a new topic in order to speak in front of the school.

As an teacher, I must admit that at times it seems easier to avoid controversial issues in the classroom.  I am amazed, however, at the maturity and thoughtfulness of my students when classroom discussion does lead to difficult topics.  As Kameron points out, kids will certainly be exposed to these “difficult” topics in their lives, we do them a disservice if we try to hide them:

I think adults must realize that as children get older, they become aware of these mature issues that are going on in the world. If children read or watch the news, they can learn about things like same-gender marriage, so what’s the point in trying to hide it?

I am reminded of a passage from my studies of social studies education that has stuck with me like no other.  It comes from a piece written by Alan F. Griffin in 1942 comparing education within democratic and authoritarian societies.

In the United States, we tend to concern ourselves much less about the specific content of a child’s initial belief than about his ability to modify these beliefs appropriately later on.

In other words, we should not be interested in telling students what to think, but rather giving them the tools to think for themselves.  If we teach them that there are topics that we really just shouldn’t talk about in school, how will they ever learn the critical thinking skills that our country so desperately need right now?

Thank you, Kameron, for your insights and for reminding us that as educators we need to treat you and your peers with intellectual honesty.

Video via ThinkProgress and NY1.  I found it through Gawker.

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