Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Is It About Florida and Gay-Straight Alliances?

Two years ago I wrote what I considered to be a rather thoughtful post about gay-straight alliances in public schools. If you want to be fully up to speed when reading this post, please read that one first. If you prefer not to read it, here's the skinny: a US District judge in Florida ruled that schools had to allow GSA's to meet if they allowed other clubs to meet. I wholeheartedly concurred with his ruling:

Students should not have to hide who they are at our schools. That doesn't mean that everyone needs to accept everyone, far from it. I subscribe to the concept of tolerance, which is very different from acceptance. But I don't think it's a very big secret that gay students are picked on in schools, and that the very language and vocabulary used by so many of our students today is particularly onerous to gay students. Yes, other students are picked on, too, and we in the education field need to be prepared to stop all forms of harassment. But let's be blunt: gays are singled out at least as harshly and as vigorously as other groups, and often more harshly and vigorously. And they're singled out for who they are, not what they do.

GSA's are not "meat markets". They don't exist as clubs where students can hit on each other and trade porn, as the school district in the above-linked story presented. Come on, the internet is a much more efficient medium for such activities. These clubs, by their very name--Gay-STRAIGHT Alliances--exist to help all students build bridges to each other. Again, by their very name if not by their activities, they promote tolerance. Some may cross the line into homosexual advocacy, something I would not condone, but the primary purpose of such clubs seems to be to help students learn to tolerate each other and to treat each other as individuals, not as members of labeled groups.

Speaking as a conservative, I see that as a good thing.

Let's repeat: a federal judge said that GSA's had to be allowed if other clubs were. So why am I reading this today, about a different Florida district and the exact same issue?

A federal judge has ruled that a student club that promotes tolerance for gays at a north Florida high school must be allowed to meet.

U.S. District Judge Henry Adams issued the decision Wednesday in a case involving two students from Yullee High School near Jacksonville.

Adams ordered a local school board to grant official recognition to the Gay-Straight Alliance and afford it the same privileges as any other student organization.

The school district had argued in court that it would grant school access to the group if its name were changed, citing the name as its chief objection. But the judge ruled that the group did not need to make a change.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of two gay students.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?


mazenko said...

George Will, on This Week on Sunday, argued that the issue is becoming less significant, and the GOP is losing credibility, as the younger generation views it as a non-issue. He noted, with some hyperbole, "it's like being left-handed to kids today."

Tolerance is one of the greatest strengths among this generation of young people, and I have noted that I am amazed and impressed with their pragmatism. Twenty or thirty years ago, there would never have been Gay-Straight alliances in most schools. Fifty years from now, homophobia will be a fringe element.

Tolerance has been one of America's strengths, and there is no drawback to this sort of rational acceptance.

Donalbain said...

The problem is that "gay" is, for some people, exactly morally equivalent to paedophile, or murderer, or rapist. Thankfully, this is mainly an attitude of the older generation, kids today just dont seem to be so stupid in this matter.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Oh but let's not count out the flexibility and adaptability of people who unashamedly use hatred to further their own agendas among those same, tolerant, young people.

Let's see. There are the folks who've tumbled to the brilliantly original tactic of trying to stick their opponents with the "denier" label; imputing intolerance to those with whom they, intolerantly, disagree.

Then there are the numerous scenes in colleges in which those with opinions with which those tolerant young people disagree are prevented from speaking.

Tolerance isn't an American strength, America is the place where intolerance is difficult to bake into law and so, eventually, whithers.

Intolerance is driven by unfamiliarity and unfamiliarity is maintained by force of law. When you can force "them" to live in a certain part of town or live in a closet you can maintain the unfamiliarity that's necessary for the maintenance of intolerance.

And with wonderful irony the force most erosive of intolerance? Capitalism.

Makes me smile just thinking about the intolerance the self-proclaimed tolerant feel toward the one force in human affairs that, by its nature, is inherently subverisive of intolerance.

While it isn't very widely known - and why would that be? - that the bus company that owned the bus Rosa Parks made history on lobbied against the passage of the law Rosa Parks broke by refusing to give up her seat, it's nonetheless true.

The anti-intolerance effect of capitalism has even crept into popular culture.

In the movie "Rosewood", who's the white guy who tries to restrain the murderous mobs out killing local blacks? The racist shopkeeper whose livelihood depends on those black residents.

mazenko said...


Intriguing and insightful comments. The Rosewood reference reminds me of Mr. Underwood in To Kill a Mockingbird.

allen (in Michigan) said...

While I don't have any recollection of Mr. Underwood he sounds quite distinct from John Wright, the shopkeeper, played by Jon Voight in "Rosewood".

Voight's character was unappealing, and his efforts on behalf of the black residents were distinctly mercenary, yet the effect was indistinguishable, perhaps superior too, the effect of the sort of principled response one might expect of a Mr. Underwood. After all, self-interest, being no virtue, makes fewer demands and has more tangible rewards.

Self-interest gnaws away at the certainties the unquestioning intolerant's try to inculcate in their less certain fellows. So self-interest has to be contained and curbed.

But, just to bend this discussion back towards the topic of education, notice that teachers have no selfish interest in educating kids. A teacher gets paid with no regard to their teaching ability so the utterly mundane characteristic of self-interest plays no part in public education and teacher motivation.

Far from being a virtue, that's a significant part of what's wrong with public education. It puts teachers in roughly the same situation as Mr. Underwood in that they have no motivation to excel other then their virtuousness, their personal pride. As in the case of Mr. Underwood, it's the rare teacher who has the internal resources to stand out from the crowd.

That's the effect that removing every element of self-interest has on teachers but the effects don't stop with teachers. Principals, school boards and ed schools all are effected by the fact that teachers have no motivation to deliver a good education beyond their internal motivations. That's why I'm somewhat less starry-eyed then many about the golden days of education past.

There was no more motivation to be an excellent teacher back in those halcyon days then there is now. It's just that the pay was so low it only attracted the truly motivated to teaching and the funding was so low that there wasn't money to hire the legions of non-teaching professionals that plague the institution these days.