Parents Not Freaked By Freaking Teens

From The Wall Street Journal

ARGYLE, Texas -- Karen Miller, 53 years old, saw her first "freak dance" four years ago when she was chaperoning a high-school dance attended by her freshman daughter.

One boy was up close to a girl's back, bumping and grinding to the pounding beat of the music.

"I thought, 'That's just dadgum nasty,'" Ms. Miller recalls. "It really had me sick to my stomach."

Ms. Miller took the initiative and broke it up. School employees at the dance seemed oblivious, she says.

They're oblivious no longer. A new resolve by school officials in this booming Dallas suburb to crack down on sexually suggestive dancing -- and skimpy clothing -- has sparked a rancorous debate over what boundaries should be set for teenagers' self-expression. Argyle joins a long list of other schools around the country that have banned the hip-hop inspired dancing known as "grinding" or "freak dancing."

This story sounds remarkably like a replay of a certain 1980s movie, but is apparently the real thing. The video that WSJ provides doesn't look so offensive to me. However, it's only a demonstration and not actual events. (It's worth watching just to hear the monotone NPR-like reporter say words like "freaking.") The school superintendent is insistent.

"This is not just shaking your booty," he said. "This is pelvis-to-pelvis physical contact in the private areas...and then moving around."

To make his point, Mr. Ceyanes held a community meeting and played a video pulled from YouTube demonstrating freak dancing. "I cannot imagine that there is a father in this room who could watch this video and be all right with a young man dancing with his daughter in that fashion," he told the gathering.

Many parents support Mr. Ceyanes's actions. But another vocal faction has been harshly critical of the new superintendent, creating a deep rift in the community. These parents defend the children of Argyle as "good kids," and say they should be trusted to dance and dress the way they want.

Angry, Internet-empowered parents have searched public records to dig up personal details of Mr. Ceyanes's past, blogging spitefully about his divorce and his earlier marriage and fatherhood at the age of 17. In community chat rooms, some people were calling him a hypocrite and a power-crazed autocrat showing too much interest in teenage girls.

Supporters fought back on their own blogs, where one posted pictures of Argyle students in skin-baring clothing culled from MySpace and Facebook pages. "Check your kids profiles," the blogger wrote. "These are some of the pictures your little angels have posted on the World Wide Web." The post was later removed, and the anonymous blogger refused to discuss the matter or give his or her name in an email exchange, citing fears of retaliation. "We had several comments that were extremely threatening," the blogger wrote.

Without judging the propriety of the dancing itself, the laissez-faire attitude of some parents is disturbing. Those who believe their young teenagers "should be trusted to dance and dress the way they want" apparently don't care enough to even find out what is going on.

News Flash for the Parents of Argyle: teenagers, including yours, routinely "want" things that aren't good for them. They even "want" things that are harmful. Your job as a parent is not to simply let them do what they "want." You owe them guidance and boundaries so they can make a good transition to the responsibilities of adulthood. Maybe the freak dancing is not a problem. I haven't seen it so I don't know. But isn't it a good idea to at least open your eyes and look before you decide there is nothing to worry about?

Yes, it's important to give teenagers some degree of freedom so they can learn from their mistakes. It is also true that teenagers who willingly engage in foreplay on the dance floor probably didn't get the right lessons earlier in life. There may not be much you can do once they reach that point - except pray that they avoid the physical and emotional damage that often comes from premature sexual activity.

It's going to be an uphill battle, according to dance experts. In the age of round-the-clock music videos on television, iPods and computers, teenagers are just copying what they see. Grinding has been around for a long time, but it has been getting raunchier as videos keep pushing the envelope. "If you're dancing to a song that says 'shake that, shake that, shake that,' it's kind of hard not to shake that," says Gino Johnson, a Dallas area choreographer and producer specializing in hip hop.

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1 comment:

Donald Douglas said...

Thanksgiving is a blog truce day.

Have a Happy Thankgiving!