A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Should GLBT teens have their own school?

In Chicago, they're thinking about it:
Weeks after a proposal to open Chicago's first public high school catering to gay, lesbian and transgender youth was announced, about 200 people on Thursday met with administrators at the city's main gay social services center to discuss whether it's a good idea.

The Social Justice High School—Pride Campus would offer a college-preparatory curriculum in which students would take four years each of English and math, three years each of foreign languages and science, as well as fine arts and physical education, administrators said during the public hearing at the Center on Halsted on Chicago's North Side.

"[We want] to continue to provide a college-prep campus for students who are often overlooked," said Chad Weiden, an assistant principal at the Social Justice High School who would be the principal of Pride Campus. "Gay, lesbian and transgender students are often overlooked in our district. And this is a school for all students."

As a gay youth, Weiden said, he often experienced violence and fear at school.

But Andy Thayer, a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said he fears the Pride Campus could relieve Chicago Public School administrators of responsibility for making sure gay and lesbian students throughout the district are being treated respectfully.

"My fear is that the rest of the system will be let off the hook," Thayer said. "The notion that the Pride Campus is a silver bullet to set aside all needs of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth is mistaken."

Administrators at the meeting said the Pride Campus would not segregate gay students because attendance is voluntary and the institution would be open to all students, regardless of their sexual orientation.

District chief executive Arne Duncan is expected to decide by Oct. 1 whether he wants to bring the proposal for Pride Campus to the board for a vote. If Duncan decides to go forward with the plan, there will be at least one more public hearing before the board votes on Oct. 22.

Backers of the school said that even if they receive the necessary approvals, they do not expect the school to open until 2012. A site for the school must still be determined.

The plan is being put forward by members of the Greater Lawndale Little Village High School for Social Justice.

Officials expect a school of up to 600 students, and those familiar with the project expect a high population of minorities.

Okay, first, why was the announcement made, and then public input sought? That's a pretty ineffective way to do things.

Second, is segregation really the answer?

Third, and I am serious here, is this also an attempt to make things easier on the part of administrators who then hope to shove GLBT teens off into a corner, or is this meant to empower GLBT teens? Would the school still have a comprehensive curriculum, or would it focus on GLBT issues at the expense of academic content?

I don't know what to think about this, but I thought I'd throw it out there for the rest of you to at least ponder as well. I seem to recall that New York City runs a separate school for GLBT teens named after Harvey Milk, but I could be wrong.

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At 10/11/08, 5:06 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

You know what? I'm struggling with these questions, too.

My first thought was "MAN! I wish I lived in Chicago; I'd TOTALLY apply for a job there!"

Is it segregation? The NPR article I heard said that the school would be open to EVERYONE - one needn't be gay to attend (and if one IS gay, one needn't leave their current school to go to this new one). What are the motivations for opening a school like this?

I understand wanting to create a safe environment for all students, but I don't think this is the way. Instead of opening a magnet school for GLBTQ youth, the school system should be installing GSA groups and tolerance training in the existing school system. Herding the queer kids off on their own may create a wonderful environment for those who choose to go, but it's not going to help to pry open any closed minds in the rest of the district.

At 10/12/08, 5:23 AM, Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

I don't like this idea. It seems to me that there are a lot of teenagers who are confused about their sexuality, and setting up a school based on sexual preference doesn't help this. Some critics of public schools accuse us of encouraging homosexuality, and this plays right (Yes! Pun intended.) into their hands.

There are bullies out there who will bully for any reason they can find. If we try to segregate kids based on anything they might be bullied for, we're going to have to have a lot of different schools. Should we have a special school for fat kids? For skinny kids? For kids with bad acne? I had a very distinct walk, and I got made fun of frequently for it. Should we have a special school for kids who walk funny? We have to learn to live together, and we also have to deal with idiots who want to make fun of us for stupid reasons.

Here's an even better idea. Allow public schools to DEMAND that students not harass other students for any reason. Allow us to dismiss the bullies.

At 10/12/08, 3:08 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I hate to take the easy way out, but Dennis said it for me. Where would it stop? And, you's spend valuable resources on facilities, overhead, etc., that can hardly be afforded.

At 10/12/08, 9:51 PM, Anonymous quakerdave said...

This smacks of segregation, and therefore, I'm against it.

If administrators and teachers can't deal with these issues in a fully integrated school community, run with policies that encourage not just tolerance but empathy, compassion, and EDUCATION, then maybe they need to find another line of work and let the rest of us do our jobs.

At 10/15/08, 7:29 PM, Blogger mathmom said...

If I were a gay teen, I think I'd want to go to a school with a significant proportion of other gay students. For one thing, so much of high school social life seems to revolve around the dating scene, and that would obviously be easier for gay teens in a school like this....


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