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20 April 2012

FollowUp 2: Opposition to Day of Silence

A collection of hate groups is protesting today's Day of Silence by asking that students stay home and learn nothing of tolerance of others.
The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 20, 2012. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day – even during instructional time – to promote GLSEN's socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.
Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to reclaim a proper understanding of the role, and limits of public education. Help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child's school allows students and/or teachers to refuse to speak during instructional time on the Day of Silence.
I have never known a teacher, gay or straight, to be silent on the Day of Silence.  When I have a class I still call attendance, give students their lesson and speak with them during any activities.  Those students who choose to do so are encouraged to remain silent but communicate by writing notes to me.

Most schools leave the determination of whether students are required to speak in class on the Day of Silence to the teachers.  So, students may be silent during my classes and must speak during other classes.  As GLSEN and Lambda Legal and the ACLU have made clear, students who are asked to speak during instructional time should do so.  It is only during hallway passing time, lunch, or study halls that students may not be compelled to speak by teachers or administrators.

The goals of GLSEN are only controversial to bigots.  They are common sense and practical to most educators and to all of the major medical and psychological organizations.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
We believe that such an atmosphere engenders a positive sense of self, which is the basis of educational achievement and personal growth. Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike. We recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have similarly adverse impacts on communities and we support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities.
GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome any and all individuals as members, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.
Despite the fears of those opposing the Day of Silence, heterosexual students are encouraged to be straight without any denigration of their majority status.  No bullying of anyone is tolerated, including for religious reasons.  That doesn't stop bigots from being upset.  Here is why they say that they are upset:
One oft-repeated mantra is that the goal of DOS [The Day of Silence] is to keep LGBTQ students safe. The problematic rhetoric of safety,” however, substitutes speciously for the more accurate term of “comfort.” To suggest that in order for those who self-identify as homosexual or “transgender” to be “safe,” no one may disapprove of homosexual conduct is both absurd and dangerous. If this definition of “safety” were to be applied consistently, virtually all statements of disapproval would be prohibited.
No student should be disapproving of fellow students.  Freedom to disapprove of "homosexual conduct" is code for permission to bully.  The argument continues
Day of Silence participants claim they seek to end discrimination. There is, however, a problem with the way “discrimination” is defined in public discourse today. Groups like GLSEN believe that statements of moral conviction with which they disagree constitute prejudice or discrimination. While relentlessly promoting this view, administrators are never asked to provide evidence for the dubious presuppositions on which claims of discrimination are based. They are never asked to provide evidence for the arguable claim that homosexuality is equivalent to race; or that disapproval of homosexual conduct is equivalent to racism; or that homosexual impulses are biologically determined; or that the presence of biological influences in shaping desire renders a behavior automatically moral. The time is long past that parents demand justification for those claims.
Calling out students for being homosexual, bisexual, transvestite, or transgender with religious disapproval has no place in a school.  It is discrimination.  Whether or not sexuality is "equivalent to race", which it is in the sense that both are immutable qualities of each person, discrimination in schools is wrong.  Biological determination versus environmental impact is irrelevant.  Discrimination is wrong.
If we allow schools to define discrimination so expansively as to prohibit all statements of moral conviction, character development is compromised and speech rights are trampled. And if administrators continue to define discrimination in such a way as to preclude only some statements of moral conviction, they violate their pedagogical commitment to intellectual diversity and render the classroom a place of indoctrination.
"Statements of moral conviction" is code for "religious speech".  It belongs in church, not in our schools.  There are limits to freedom of speech, particularly where that speech can lead to violence.  There are too many documented cases of LGBTQ students being physically bullied and too many suicides.  Discrimination masquerading as "statements of moral conviction" must end.
Finally, DOS supporters contend that one of their purposes is to end harassment. What they fail to acknowledge is that the worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time. There are myriad other ways to work toward that end. DOS participants have a First Amendment right to wear t-shirts, or put up posters, or host after-school speakers, or set up tables from which to distribute informative materials. They ought not to be allowed to manipulate instructional time in the service of their socio-political goals.
The claim that instructional time is exploited is debunked by the fact that students may be asked to speak during instructional time, as is clearly stated on the Day of Silence web page.  Claiming otherwise is bearing false witness.

The organizations calling for this walkout (starting a little over halfway down their webpage), a far more extreme curtailment of instructional time, are organizations and a few individuals who are notorious for the anti-gay agenda.  These people who call themselves pro-family are opposed to families that are not in their religious ideal.  Their ideals, when made into laws, harm the children of gay couples, harm consenting adults, and ultimately harm the whole of society in perpetuating a caste system based on fear and hatred.

Running from those with whom you disagree does not solve problems, it reinforces them.  Walking out is a terrible answer.  Their children, those who will grow up to be straight and those who will grow up to be gay, deserve a lot better.

19 March 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

18 April 2012, FollowUp 1.

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