This NPR story addresses the Day of Silence gay kids are holding today at American schools and the Day of Truth that Christian kids are countering with tomorrow at American schools. I think both are proselytizing, and I'd like to see both out of the school. However, to the extent any given school allows one, it should definitely allow the other. My question, though, is whether the premise underlying the Day of Silence (which started all this) is correct.
The NPR story indicates that the purpose behind the Day of Silence is to counter the bullying gay kids undergo in American schools. (Most gay kids, when polled, say that they've been bullied.) I'm not gay, but boy was I bullied when I was in school. I'm short, I was skinny and pale, I wore thick glasses, and even then I was a bookworm (not a pretty picture, huh?). Getting through the halls often wasn't pleasant. Indeed, it was my own private Hell. With age, though, comes wisdom and shared experiences, and I've since learned how many of my peers were harassed — because they were too tall or too short, too dark or too light, too smart or too dumb, too fat or too thin.
Basically, children are cruel and they will seek to assert their own status by picking on others whose differences they can easily discern. It's a pack behavior. "If I can distinguish you as too dark, I can gather near me all the other kids as pale as I am and, voila, I'm safely in a pack. I just hope that my pack doesn't notice that I'm too heavy (even though appropriately pale), because then my pack will turn against me." It's a dog-eat-dog, or maybe "Lord of the Flies" world out there.
The question then, is whether kids who get harassed because they're gay actually got harassed more often than other kids. If that's the case, there's really a problem. However, if they're getting harassed at rates equal to the harassment visited on other children, with the harassment being directed at their sexuality, rather than their looks, or whatever, than the problem isn't homophobia.* Instead, the problem is a bullying climate in the given school.
I think bullying is an appalling problem, having been on the receiving end of it myself. Every school should address it, because school should be a safe space of all students, regardless of sexual orientation, height, skin color, religion, intellectual pursuits, weight, whatever. But if the problem is endemic bullying, it's no solution to focus solely on the bullying visited on a single identity group in the school. Instead, the behavior should be eradicated entirely through a focus on civil behavior, good manners, and simple kindness.
*To me, harassment is name calling, teasing, humiliating, etc., not physical violence or intense psychological torture. If gay students are experiencing the latter, that's conduct beyond the pale of the ordinary bullying that distinguishes so many young people, and does deserve special and immediate consideration.
Talking to Technorati: Day of Truth, Day of Silence, Bullying, Schools, Education