1. Privacy Rights
What it is: The New York Times asked if parents should expect schools to keep them in the loop when a child decides to change their gender identity—and explored what happens when they don’t.
Why it’s a flashpoint: The Times story interviews parents who hold a wide range of political and moral opinions about trans rights and gender identity. These parents felt betrayed by schools who held back details when their child socially transitioned at school. The story also featured teachers who say that their ultimate responsibility is to keep kids safe, and sometimes that means keeping them safe from their own parents. Evolving opinions about best practices in youth gender medicine are coming into direct conflict with the issue of parental rights—an issue that is arguably larger in scope and impacts every family, not just those with a gender-questioning teen. Going forward, the outcome of several upcoming lawsuits will determine how schools handle the privacy of teens who express a desire to transition.
2. YouTube U
What it is: Individuals can now earn college credit through Arizona State University by watching YouTube videos through a newly-launched program called Study Hall.
Why teens are paying attention: Study Hall is a collaboration between YouTube and the Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green. The Greens have been mainstays on YouTube and TikTok for their easy-to-digest, educational content that’s aimed at teens and young adults. According to Mashable, Study Hall is meant to make college more accessible and student debt less onerous for people looking for “high impact educational experiences.” Teens who feel anxious about the college application process or who aren’t able, for various reasons, to pursue study outside of the home may be thinking about this program as an alternative. Application fees are $25 per course, and once coursework is complete, students can opt to pay around $400 for transferable college credits from the course.
3. Arms Up
What it is: Gun violence in 2023 is off to a disturbing start, with some metrics showing the number of mass shootings has outpaced the number of days so far in the year.
Why it’s something teens are talking about: The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an event where four or more people are injured or killed by a gun. Other nonprofits might use different metrics to analyze their data and would disagree with this accounting. But the statistics that depict “more mass shootings than there have been days in the year” and “more guns in this country than there are people” have become powerful memes and talking points, especially with younger people who have grown up with this type of violence seemingly ever-present in the headlines. It’s a huge driver of anxiety, with the American Psychological Association reporting that three in four Americans see gun violence as a significant source of their stress. Speaking to the Associated Press, Rev. Jonathan Lee Walton called out social and spiritual alienation as root causes of this trend, saying, “We are normalizing diseases of despair like loneliness, addiction, and gun violence. Social media, Zoom church, remote work, and virtual reality may be ‘convenient,’ but they are morally anemic substitutes for human connection.”
Song of the Week
“I’m Good (Blue)” by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha: hovering near the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for several weeks now, this song interpolates Eiffel 65’s 1998 song, “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” which was basically a dance track about being sad, or “blue.” This new version is about being happy, or “good”—being down for whatever, and having the best night of your life. There is an explicit version of the song as well as a clean version, but Genius only lists the explicit lyrics, so here those are.
Translation: Arms Up
In an episode of the podcast “Unbelievable” titled “Mass Shootings, Gun Violence and the USA 2nd Amendment,” Shane Claiborne and Kyle Thompson debated how Christians should think about guns.
Thompson’s position is essentially that the issue is not with guns themselves, but with the sinful hearts of those who use guns for mass shootings. He aligns somewhat with C.S. Lewis, who argues in Why I Am Not A Pacifist that it is more just, more moral, and more Christian to actively oppose evil in the world—even when that means using violence to prevent worse violence. Thompson sees Jesus’ comments in Luke 22:36 about buying swords as an endorsement of self-defense, and also of using violence to defend others.
Claiborne agrees that the issue with mass shootings is a heart issue, but argues also that easy access to guns like AK-47s make it too easy for people with heart issues to kill massive amounts of other people. His position has similarities with Martin Luther King Jr., who practiced nonviolence, and said, “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.” Claiborne sees his position as more faithful to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44, when He says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
As Christians, we should know what we believe the Bible teaches and why. But for millions of teens and pre-teens in America, the topic is no longer one for mere theological speculation. The fear of being killed in class is now pervasive. For adults, too, the possibility of dying at the supermarket, or in church, or in any other public place is now one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives—as if our lives weren’t already stressful enough.
We encourage you to listen through this episode of “Unbelievable,” and also to listen to your teens’ hearts on this issue. Although you may not ultimately agree with each other, here are some questions to help get the conversation going:
- When you hear about another mass shooting in America, how does that make you feel?
- Do you think mass shootings are primarily a heart issue or a gun issue? Why?
- Is there anything that we, as a family, can do to be part of the solution?