Sunday, October 12, 2008

A public gay and lesbian school?

I stopped by Ms. Cornelius,s blog today and found this interesting post. Chicago is considering having a public school for gay and lesbian kids. I think that is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

As I've expressed in previous posts, I feel great sympathy for kids with homosexual tendencies who are bullied and harassed by other students because of that. But there are bullies out there who will bully for any reason they can find. If we try to segregate kids based on anything they might be bullied or harassed for, we're going to have to have a lot of different schools. Should we have a special school for fat kids? For skinny kids? For kids with bad acne? I had a very distinct walk, and I got made fun of frequently for it. Should we have a special school for kids who walk funny? We have to learn to live together, and we also have to deal with idiots who want to make fun of us for stupid reasons.

The best way for dealing with students who are determined to harass and bully other students would be to allow and even to demand that public schools not tolerate it. That means it should be easier for us to dismiss the bullies from our schools.

It also seems to me that there are a lot of teenagers who are confused about their sexuality. I suspect that some of the most blatant teenage homophobes might fit into that category. In any case, that's another reason I think setting up a school based on sexual preference shouldn't be done. Some critics of public schools accuse us of promoting homosexuality, and this seems to come pretty close to doing just that. It certainly plays right into the hands of those who blast public schools because, they say, we are promoting a liberal agenda.

There are those who think public schools should be promoting a liberal agenda, and some of them are teachers. Those who are pressuring us from the outside are misguided, and those who actually work in the schools and do so are unethical. The same goes for those teachers who try to promote a conservative agenda. There aren't as many of those as there are on the left, but they are every bit as wrong.

Here's an idea! When it comes to controversial subjects, teach kids as many facts as we can, and encourage them to find facts on their own. Then, allow them to discuss it civilly and respectfully in class with students who disagree with them, and allow them to come to final conclusions on their own.

I think that's actually the way most teachers do it.


Blogger said...

Just as homosexuality is part of human nature, so is bullying; neither of them can be eradicated, and any program that attempts to will fail.

But for the record, I can't believe you would degrade being gay or lesbian by comparing it to having bad acne. That's pitiful, man!

Guess what? Bullies have always existed and they always will. They are also part of human nature. Deal with it.

10/12/2008 3:11 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Andy, huh?!?!?! The only comparison I'm making between being gay and having acne is that they are two things that might make one a target of bullying and harassment. To claim that is degrading gays and lesbians is right in there with the McCain campaign claiming that Obama called Sarah Palin a pig.

10/12/2008 4:16 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

More telling are the comments, blogs and attitudes of public school educators. Did you see the comment before yours about "tolerance training" in public school? 'Nuff said.

Let's just say I'm becoming more and more DIStrustful of public schools and public school educators.

10/12/2008 5:38 PM  
Blogger Cory Harris said...

Mrs. C,

Many teachers already go through a diversity/cultural training course, and the comment made it seem that it was geared towards teachers, not students. Actually, in my district, we had to go through it, and it featured everything from socio-economic status to race. However, sexuality was basically ignored--despite the fact that in any high school hallway the most common insults you hear are "gay," "fag," and "queer," although these are not necessarily directed at homosexual individuals. To many high schoolers (and older, unfortunately), anything that isn't "good" or "normal" is gay. "That assignment was gay." "Stop being gay and come to the game." etc. I personally think teachers should get training in order to deal with these--people are trained to jump at racial comments but society doesn't seem to mind linking disparaging terms with a segment of the population.

The GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) is also a good idea, although those would only work if sponsors are willing to run them and enough students participate.

Slightly off-subject, but I'd be interested to see what the textbooks of the 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's said about African-Americans, and if the hallways of those schools were friendly to racially charged language (before and after segregation). The same way schools accept works of African-American authors with open arms into the curriculum, and have no problem--rightly, I believe--to openly teach tolerance and not focusing on skin, I think in 20 or 40 years we'll look back on this unsubstantiated hatred of gays and slap ourselves on the head. Or at least the majority of us will, as I know there might be a person or two sweeping in now to talk about the vileness of homosexuality.

That said, this school is a bad idea because, as far as I'm concerned, seperate schools in a district should only be designated by what they teach, not who they teach to.

10/12/2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger said...

I think you were trying to argue that separate public schools are a bad idea. I think you were trying to show that this would lead us down a slippery slope.

I think you did a poor job because a kid being bullied for being gay is not the same thing as a kid being bullied for having acne. (Which is nothing like the nuanced attack Obama cleverly set out against Palin.)

And you completely ignored my actual argument. Bullies are a normal part of society, just like gays, just like kids with bad acne. We cannot fix them or change them anymore than we can change kids from being gay. Why won't people accept that?

10/12/2008 9:38 PM  
Blogger Cory Harris said...

Well, Andy, I'm glad we have the same amount of racial lynchings we had in the first and middle portion of the 20th century. Hate groups are a normal part of society, right? Might as well let it go.

I guess all those Irish immigrants who came over 100 years ago who were forced into ghettos and faced with signs and prejudices and couldn't get jobs are under the same persecution as the were in the last century? Glad nothing changed.

I guess if you remove the two bullies from a classroom who are picking on a pair of other kids, then two more bullies are going to spring up like heads from the Hydra and continue to torment the kids. Because nothing can be done.

Yeah, bullies will always exist. But there are things that can be done to reduce their numbers and temper their influence. It's not a static ratio that for every so and so number of kids, there will be "x" number of bullies. Some schools don't have a big problem. Some schools do.

Again, I don't believe in the school geared for homosexuals. But I do think individuals can get a lot out of their public education at any school if the staff and administration have the power and the will to do what they can about bullies or blindly intolerant people.

10/13/2008 6:42 AM  
Blogger Ray the Very Hairy said...

I'm with Cory on this one. I think the reason bullying continues to be an issue in our schools and society is our ongoing embrace of the "might makes right" mentality. Kids pick up weapons and take them to school because they've learned at some level that firearms make them more powerful. Schools (and societies) that give bullies a pass reinforce this message.

The importance of brute strength is also underscored by the fact that being smart comes with very few overt rewards in high school, especially compared with the aclaim showered on our athletes.

To the point of the blog post: a separate school is horrible idea. It will become just another social ghetto and will in no way help reduce the mental, phyiscal and emotional violence committed by bullies.

10/13/2008 7:05 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"We cannot fix them or change them anymore than we can change kids from being gay. Why won't people accept that?"

Neither can we cure cancer. This is a ludicrous argument. We absolutely should attempt to curb bullying, just as we should strive to eliminate racism. Even if we don't think it will ever be completely possible.

The harder questions will come if we can change homosexuals. What if we *could* "cure" homosexuality? Should we? Suppose even that it would be free to do so, piggybacked on something viewed universally good, like eliminating crippling birth defects.

I suspect not, but likely for very different reasons than you would.

10/13/2008 7:33 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"is our ongoing embrace of the "might makes right" mentality"

Incidentally, Ray, though I understand where you're coming from, you're expressing a pretty limited view of bullying with the emphasis on physical power. Bullying's not a physical act, but a social one (if you compare male to female bullying, you'll understand what I mean).

To the subject of the post, the Harvey Milk school in NYC operates, and is essentially a ghetto, even though the school itself actually is better than most of the public schools (I've heard reports that some parents try to get their kids in there because of the academics). I don't think it helps the students once they walk outside the school walls.

10/13/2008 7:39 AM  
Blogger said...

I said I accept that bullying, like other things, is part of human nature; I did not say let it go. You said that. I want to be clear on my statement.

And you know, I agree that having a separate school is a bad idea, and I also agree that bullies are a problem. I don't like what they do anymore than you all.

Looking through the several thousand years of written history, we will find that there have always been bullies and gays (and other groups). Gee, seems to me these types of humans have always been around. I accept the fact that it's part of our nature. I don't like it, but I won't deny it.

Maybe it's part of our primitive nature, a gene that uses aggression to survive -- unlike cancer, that is outside of us and attaches itself and kill us. (That was a stupid counter-argument.)

After all, we only hate bullies when they're not on our side.

Bullying is misdirected aggression. Give it a good outlet and the "problem" goes away.

But, yeah, I do agree. Don't make separate schools for kids.

10/13/2008 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The school would be a "gay-positive" one, not one FOR only GLBT students!

I am a non-gay ally who has been active in the fight for GLBT civil rights for well over 20 years. I have been a public school teacher for 25 years.

I would LOVE to be part of a faculty at such a school as the one proposed. And yet, I would feel that somehow I was needed more elsewhere (martyr complex?).

But putting myself back in the place of being a student, I would have loved to attend a school such as this, as long as it had all the college-prep courses I needed. The atmosphere would have been welcoming to a straight ally.

Oh, and by the way, the very nature of EDUCATION demands that it BE LIBERAL-- that is, open to all ideas in the free marketplace thereof!

Penny Culliton
Temple, NH (teacher in New Ipswich)

10/13/2008 4:05 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Penny, thank you for commenting. It's great to hear from someone with your perspective.

I feel like I'm nitpicking a bit here, but from what I've seen of true liberals, they don't fit the definition that you give. True liberals seem to be every bit as intolerant of ideas that don't fit their idea of "the truth" as true conservatives.

Once again, thank you for commenting!

10/13/2008 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis, just because someone calls themselves a liberal doesn't make them one. A true liberal is as Penny describes - open to all ideas in the free marketplace. That is the classic definition of a liberal, which has been hijacked by modern day "progressives." And I don't see why anyone should have a problem with an all gay school.

10/13/2008 7:20 PM  
Blogger Tressa said...

I wouldn't have a problem with that kind of school if it was funded with private funds. Just as Christian schools are funded. You pick one group to make a school and then you really need to help all the groups that are bullied, and since that would be impossible, I don't think it is a good idea.

10/14/2008 7:58 AM  
Blogger said...

An all-gay school would have the same problem. Wake up, folks, even a gay person can be a bully. An all-gay school does not do away with that problem.

10/14/2008 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who needs a special public school for homosexuals? Look what the kids get already. Is this what our tax dollars are for?

10/16/2008 3:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your tax dollars are for whatever the elite decide they are for. If the elite cared what you wanted done with your tax dollars then they would allow you to keep them and spend them yourself. This is how government works. After all, once your money has been stolen from you, what does it matter what it is used for?

10/16/2008 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

"An all-gay school would have the same problem. Wake up, folks, even a gay person can be a bully. An all-gay school does not do away with that problem."

I agree with Andy's statement here. Kids will bully kids for any reason. Even if there was an all gay/lesbian school (which I think would be a horrible idea) the kids would still find something to bully each other about, whether it be clothes, hairstyles, the way someone talks, where they come from... anything! No matter what kind of school it is, there will always be bullying. Teachers and administrators need to have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and instead of avoiding the problem they need to face it and stop it!

11/06/2008 1:20 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Here comes a rather long comment from a new reader who found the site through a Google Reader recommendation:

I've been in contact with the folks who are pushing for this school, and I'd like to clear a few things up. First, the school will not be "only" for queer students. All students will be welcome, and the school's policies and administrative staff will place special focus on giving support to students facing the challenges particular to queer youth.

One of the target populations of this school is homeless youth who are no longer in the CPS system. Of the 16,000 youth who experience homelessness in Chicago every year, nearly half cite being queer as their primary reason for being homeless. These youth are at highest risk for lifetime poverty, becoming involved in the criminal justice system, drug use, poor health, and everything else that comes along with lack of education, shelter, and support networks. Getting these youth back into school in a supportive environment where they can actually succeed would be a tremendous accomplishment. That's why the organizers who are planning the school intend to have boarding options, social workers, medical care, and lots of other long-term support.

The folks behind the Social Justice Pride Campus initiative were actually specially tapped by Arne Duncan, CEO of CPS, to replicate a hugely successful school that they founded several years ago. The Little Village Lawndale High School has support networks that include full time social work staff, medical and dental care, childcare, and family services, not to mention a partnership with a local college to give free four-year tuition to any student who graduates from LVLHS meeting the college admission requirements. With beautiful safe and clean facilities, parent involvement, and highly trained staff, is it any wonder that the school is on track to graduate ~95% of its students, compared to the CPS average of about 45%? This is just a regular neighborhood school, not a charter school or selective enrollment school.

The folks who worked hard to make LVLHS a success want to do the same at the Social Justice Pride Campus. The small school model they follow could set the trend for the next decade of school development in the city, and other districts are taking notice as well.

The LVLHS website is here: Reading their history and mission is pretty inspiring for educators and students alike!

11/10/2008 1:49 PM  

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