To the editor:
Marjorie Kings Queering the Schools [Spring 2003] does not fairly or factually represent the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network [GLSEN]. Kings article poses as a well-researched critique, but she interviewed no one at GLSEN before writing this grossly inaccurate, misleading piece. And her irresponsible, salacious claims are given credibility by appearing in City Journalnot usually an outlet for half-baked journalism.
Among Kings egregious misrepresentations is her description of a workshop conducted by a Massachusetts Department of Education employee at a GLSEN conference in 2000, which she calls typical of the GLSEN agenda. In fact, upon learning of the workshops content, GLSEN issued a statement that the workshop leader had been inappropriate, and took steps to ensure that such incidents wouldnt be repeated. This incident was isolated, not part of a pattern, and no similar incident has occurred since.
King cites as examples of GLSENs recommended curriculum a series of books that are not recommended in our BookLink catalog.
She attacks students working to end school violence, saying they bear a uniform faith . . . that experimenting with a range of homosexual behaviors serves the cause of civil rights. These students include a Special Olympics board member, an anti-smoking advocate, and an aspiring special-ed teacher; they exhibit a civic engagement that should be applauded, not denigrated with glib and inaccurate characterizations.
King dismisses the need for anti-bullying and anti-violence programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] students: gay groups contenddubiouslythat such programs are necessary because homosexual students must endure bullying and hatred every day in schools across the country. King should ask the families of Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, or Sakia Gunnstudents murdered partly because of their sexual orientationhow dubious this contention is.
The facts are clear: harassment is the rule, not the exception, for LGBT students. The Centers for Disease Control have found that LGBT students are more than twice as likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon as non-LGBT students (18.6 percent vs. 7.6 percent, respectively) and to miss school out of fear for their safety (16.4 percent vs. 7.6 percent). If youre too afraid to go to school, youre not going to get an education.
GLSENs mission is to ensure that schools are safe, effective environments for all students to learn, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. All claims to the contrary are mere distractions that force our organization to turn our attention to debating distorted half-truths. To mischaracterize and attack an organization whose sole mission is to end harassment is contemptible.
Executive Director, GLSEN
The editors respond:
GLSENs Kevin Jennings hurls many insults at Queering the Schools: misleading, distorted, salacious, and contemptible, among them. But Mr. Jennings never substantiates his baseless chargesand he makes some highly misleading comments in the course of his name-calling.
The first concerns a workshop for youth onlyages 14-21 held in 2000 at Tufts University, which (among other things) instructed teens in the dangerous practice of fisting: inserting a fist into a sexual partners anus or vagina. Mr. Jennings admits the event was inappropriate and claims that GLSEN has taken steps to ensure it wont happen again. Were glad GLSEN agrees that the workshop was wrongthough inappropriate is a tame word to describe teaching such practices to kids not old enough to drink legally. But Mr. Jennings seems to forget that parents groups criticized GLSEN for its 2001 Tufts conference, as wellwhere, for instance, Planned Parenthood reportedly handed out kits to teenagers for safe fisting.
Moreover, Mr. Jennings says nothing about workshops for teachers, featured at these and other GLSEN conferences, exploring themes like Addressing GLBT Issues in Preschools, Daycare and Kindergartens and Gender in the Early Child Classroom. He remains silent because GLSEN does think it appropriate to have schools plan activities in which second-grade boys dress up in high heelsas one GLSEN-recommended teachers resource book suggeststo fight bigotry against transsexuals. We dont agree, and its a safe bet that most other parents dont, either.
Next, Mr. Jennings protests that GLSEN doesnt endorse the books cited in Queering the Schools, like Stephen Chboskys The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which features homosexual teen sex and bestiality. Apparently, he hasnt seen the Selected Bibliography of Books for Children and Young Adults on his own website, which describes that book as incredibly compelling.
Third, Mr. Jennings complains that, in describing GLSEN student activists as loyal to GLSENs belief that experimentation with homosexual behavior serves the cause of civil rights, we dont also mention their other activities: stamping out smoking, volunteering for the Special Olympics, etc. Its great that these kids have interests other than GLSEN. Yet Mr. Jennings doesnt reject our characterization of GLSENs worldview or their student activists commitment to it.
Finally, Mr. Jennings argues that Queering the Schools ignores the harassment that LGBT students face daily in schools, which in turn necessitates GLSENs radical remaking of school (even pre-school) curricula to emphasize LGBT themes and endorse LGBT behaviors. This agenda runs counter to the most deeply held values of many parents.
No one wants to see any child bullied or harmed, for any reasonas our article says. But unsafe schools result from a breakdown of school discipline generally, as Mr. Jenningss own numbers underscore. If 18.6 percent of LGBT students have been threatened or injured with a weapon, so have 7.6 percent of all students. Since LGBT students are a tiny fraction of all students, that 7.6 percent represents a much bigger problem. Make schools safe for everybody; forbid all examples of intimidation and abusethats our commonsensical view. Theres no need to revolutionize school curricula in ways that seek to transform tolerance for homosexuals and the transgendered into full-fledged approval.
GLSENs project is so radical that it risks undermining public toleration of homosexuality. A recent Gallup poll shows that 46 percent of Americans think homosexual relations should be illegal, while 49 percent say homosexuality should not be an acceptable alternative lifestylea much more anti-homosexual result than previous polls. These stark numbers mark a powerful public backlash against homosexuality in the wake of the Supreme Courts Lawrence decision invalidating anti-sodomy laws. Elites using public schools to indoctrinate childreneven very young childreninto a minority worldview at odds with their parents values is a kind of tyranny that will also call forth an inevitable backlash.
To the editor:
Kay S. Hymowitzs Michael MooreHumbug [Summer 2003] is probably fair enoughin a small, little way. Swaying the mob means saying something catchy, again and again. George W. Bush is great at it. To single out Moore in an age of mind-numbing folksiness in politics is disingenuous. Come off it, Kay. The fight is joined, so quit whining.
To the editor:
Though he does have a hungry ego, Michael Moore makes a damn good point: the 11 oclock news is utter B.S. Many people arent aware of this, some keep it to themselves. Moore is not a sacred messenger of the truth, but he makes people reflect on important issues easily overlooked in our fast-food, gimme-gimme world.
Yes, his opinions permeate his films and booksbut thats the case with every author. Maybe you are the one living in a convenient Manichaean world, where you play ax-man to everyone elses wood. It must be tough to sleep at night.
Kay S. Hymowitz responds:
I received many letters that can be boiled down to two strains of hyperventilation: 1) &!%@*$#!; and 2) Moore may be a liar, but hes our liar. These are the fans of a supposed hypocrite-basher?