Via Andrew, I see that conservative news outlets haven’t been even a little shamed by the serial exposure of previous slanders against “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings. The Washington Times‘ editorial bashing Jennings for penning the foreword to Queering Elementary Education isn’t just stupid and offensive, as you’d expect; it’s downright bizarre. As you would expect, anecdotes and case histories related in the book do not use the real names of elementary school students and teachers. The editorial suggests that this normal—indeed, obligatory—scholarly practice is somehow suspect, and complains that it leaves readers “unable to check how many of the stories are secondhand exaggerations or even pure fiction.” The “how many” is a nice touch—as though you can take for granted that some are fabricated; it’s just a question of getting an exact count. There’s also the strange assertion that “the authors don’t provide scientific evidence that their policies accomplish the strange goals they push”—strange because even from a cursory skim over at Google Books it’s obvious that every essay in the collection is densely packed with citations to peer-reviewed papers in scholarly journals of psychology, sociology, and pedagogy.
But what’s really baffling is that it’s never quite made clear what the authors find problematic about the rather anodyne goal of promoting tolerance and civility between students. Given that actual kids in actual schools do bully and harass kids who don’t fit gender stereotypes, or who come from nontraditional families, what does the Times regard as an acceptable approach by the schools? They’re supposed to stand by in silence, for fear that they might “indoctrinate” someone with the radical communist view that it’s unacceptable to use “gay” and “faggot” as terms of abuse? Or perhaps they should just ban the word “gay” without explanation, as though it’s some kind of profanity, or an especially heinous thing to accuse someone of? It seems to me you’ve got to be awfully dense not to get that there’s also an implicit lesson when schools casually and routinely reference hetero relationships, while gay and lesbian couples—who, like, go to supermarkets and have kids in little league and stuff; students are going to notice they exist—are under some kind of omerta, never to be mentioned. Is the conservative position now that schools are supposed to remain indifferent to harassment in their halls, or to treat the families of certain students as a shameful secret? Because that appears to be the alternative.