Friday, April 22, 2011

The "Don't Say Gay" Bill

I haven't written a rant about an article in awhile, have I? Fortunately for all of you, this one is pretty short.

In case you didn't go to read it, the title should be enough: "Tennessee Senate Panel Approves School Gay Ban Bill," also known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
It basically prevents any discussion of any sexuality other than heterosexuality from taking place in Tennessee classrooms in which the students are 8th grade or younger. It doesn't matter whether it's in the context of sex-ed or not, and apparently not even the kids are allowed to talk about it on their own.

The bill makes me angry, of course, as does some of the phrasing in the article itself (teachers can't teach anything that's not in the Board of Education's "family life curriculum."), but when I think about it...
We never discussed non-heterosexuality in class up until high school. I don't think there's any laws preventing it, but it didn't happen. And even in high school, it wasn't in health class. It was always in English, either in the context of a speech on a controversial topic or that of current events, when there was the series of suicides last year.
Then again, heterosexuality was never really discussed in health class either. It was all "yay abstinence! Oh, and there's this thing called birth control, but we don't need to tell you much about that, since you should all BE ABSTINENT!!!!"

The article itself is pretty impartial, which is a relief. However, I have to disagree when the head of the office who created the bill claims that it's "neutral. We should leave it to families to decide when it is appropriate to talk with children about sexuality – specifically before the eighth grade."

Then they should ban all discussion of sexuality in school before the eighth grade if they really want to be neutral.

Here's how my schools did it: 5th grade was "There's this thing called puberty. Here is what happens during it. Here are some diagrams." Not much sexuality there, really. It was all focused on understanding what is/was about to be happening to the individual students-- not how it relates to others.
For middle school, see my summary of abstinence-oriented education above, which is also basically "sexuality is bad," which in my opinion isn't the best message to be giving.

My schools' policies on the matter are flawed, yes, but that bill is even more so. Sex-ed (or any other type of discussion regarding sexuality) shouldn't be a matter of heterosexuality vs. other. It should be a matter of sexuality in general. More like "Hey kids, you're sexual beings. It's a very complicated issue, but here are some healthy, safe, and respectful ways to handle it."

I don't care whether a kid is gay or straight or anywhere in-between: sexuality is difficult enough to cope with regardless of the kind, and each and every student needs to be able to have the information, acceptance, and emotional support that he or she deserves (and each student deserves an equal amount.)

I'm not saying "hey, being straight is tough too so stop focusing on everyone else so much." I'm saying "sexuality of any/every kind is something that needs to be given its due in school (or at the very least the opportunity to be discussed, even if it isn't a mandatory part of the curriculum), because the point of school is to educate kids in a safe, supportive environment."

1 comment:

  1. It's good to see that we are moving toward a world where "gay" will unambiguously be understood to be a pejorative. No longer shall we have to worry about the political correctness nonsense where some people consider the term inappropriate because it refers to a specific people group, because we don't talk about that people group anymore!

    Anyway, agreed, this is somewhat barbaric!


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