Message to activists, Disney: Leave our children alone

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What I learned through third grade became the platform for my education that continues to serve me well.

I learned the alphabet. I learned to write my name – in block letters and cursive – and how to do simple mathematics. I loved getting my hands dirty finger painting and drawing. I glued macaroni to warped records (some of our younger people may need to ask their parents to describe a record) to make a letter holder.

I could hang upside-down on the monkey bars and learned that when you combine yellow and red paint, it creates orange.

I also learned not to eat paste.

I never once was asked if I wanted to be a girl. Like most third graders, I thought girls had cooties, anyway, so why would I want to be one?

The governor’s bill that’s been falsely described as the “Don Say Gay Bill” merely bans any discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. I’m good with that.

A portion of the bill reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

That’s common sense.

First, any sexual orientation conversation should be done at home, not in a classroom. Second, statistics show teachers already have their hands full trying to teach our children science, math and reading. According to Pew Research, American students now rank 24th worldwide in science, trailing countries like Estonia, Macao, Vietnam and Slovenia. In mathematics, we are ranked 39th. And in reading, our children are 24th.

In fairness, 50% of fourth-graders graded below the basic level in 1990, and that number has shrunk to 18% by 2015. That’s a significant improvement.

Eight-year-old children aren’t focused on social issues. They are eager to learn and be entertained. They want to play, get dirty and be mesmerized by the beauty of a butterfly.

Injecting gender identity or sexual orientation doesn’t serve a child’s needs. It feeds the political fodder of adults with a social platform. And there’s no place for that in the classroom.

There’s nothing wrong with an adult being gay or transgender. It’s a choice that I certainly support. But it’s not all right to inject any agenda onto others, especially young and impressionable minds.

Walt Disney World aggressively criticized the bill, saying in an official release: “Florida HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the

legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”

And I thought Walt Disney World was in business to inspire the child in all of us. Just like the classroom, Disney should stick to its business as an amusement park and leave a child’s development to the family. I can easily find a better way to spend $159 for one gate admission at the Magic Kingdom.

When I go to Disney, I want to feel queasy when I get off the Mad Tea Party cups and I want to scream like a child on Space Mountain. It’s supposed to be an escape from reality, a day to laugh, eat too much and leave exhausted. Disney has other ideas.

I can disagree with Disney by not giving them my business. I have to rely on our lawmakers to defend our children’s rights to grow, physically and emotionally, at their rate without influence.

And now I’m off to another important thing I learned in my first four years of schooling – naptime.

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