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Conservatives for School Bullying?

October 16th, 2009 · 16 Comments

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 Timeseditorial 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.

Tags: Sexual Politics



16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt D // Oct 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    “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?”

    Seriously? Do you even have to ask?

    The conservative position is that homosexuals are inferior, immoral, un-American deviants who should either a) not be gay or b) be really, really ashamed of it. So, yeah, I’m sure they’re happy to encourage institutional discrimination against homosexuals, and I would venture that plenty of them see nothing wrong with using harassment and peer pressure to enforce traditional gender norms.

  • 2 Neil H // Oct 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    It’s kind of gratifying to see that you don’t know why the Washington Times finds this so shocking. Although it’s kind of surprising too: you really haven’t heard of the homosexual recruitment myth?

    It’s rarely stated explicitly by anti-gay people. but the “indoctrination” to which the Times is alluding to is what they claim is “indoctrination into the homosexual lifestyle” i.e. making children gay. They view the claims about the actual goal – prevention of abuse and bullying – to be a cynical and deliberate ploy aimed at silencing people who might raise objections to this “pro-h0mosexual indoctrination”.

  • 3 Lymis // Oct 17, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Why should they be against bullying gay teens and pre-teens? They are 100% behind bullying gay adults. As in all bullying, the methods change when it moves out of the schoolyard and into adulthood, but it is still bullying.

    The underlying pretense is that being gay is a choice. Then add to that the pretense that the goals of gay people are to destroy society and to recruit children to continue the agenda.

    Of course, then, it becomes a moral good to do whatever is necessary to prevent people from making this “choice.” And sadly, it looks like the huge body of both personal experience and scientific study that shows that being gay, regardless of how it gets started, is firmly fixed no later than childhood, the logical extension is that bullying kids out of being gay is the last defense against the collapse of civilization.

    It’s an overstatement, but the fact is, since they believe that you can beat the gay out of people, they really have no objection to it starting young.

    Besides that, whatever may be true about being gay, anti-gay bigotry IS something that has to be taught and reinforced. Bigots do have to be recruited. Where better to start than on the playground? If straight kids get 12 years of training in tolerance at school, how are the bigots going to convert them over to maintain the anti-gay agenda as adults?

  • 4 Ewe // Oct 17, 2009 at 11:46 am

    You’ve got to love denotation and connotation or explicit and implicit meaning.

    The real point of the Washington Times article is merely to publicize the fact that an Obama administration appointee wrote the introduction to a book called Queering Elementary Education. All the hand-waving about scientific protocol is just for show. Although I must say that Julian, your reference to “peer-reviewed papers in scholarly journals” reveals that you are either mistaken or fibbing about the quality of “science” that can make it into peer-reviewed journals. (The study of education and particularly pedagogy is notorious as a dumping ground for bad science and propaganda masquerading as science.)

    The crescendo of your series of rhetorical questions at the end of your cri de coeur deserves to be answered.

    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.

    As any common parent will tell you, some measure of bullying is within the range of normal experiences in school. In real life–as opposed to the academic fantasyland where universal and constant civility and tolerance preside as a holy magesteria–children are sometimes assholes. And, to some extent, we let them be assholes because they’re kids and we can’t spend all our time policing who calls whom a “doodyhead.”

    Rather than “queering elementary education,” we should just teach children to treat others as they would like to be treated. But the proliferation of rules, categories, and legalistic distinctions between bad behavior is the abandonment of common sense. We need to empower adults who have benevolence and discernment with a wide latitude to enforce a measure of discipline for the maintenance of relative peace on school grounds. Although no one would admit to want this ex ante, a phalanx of crusading lawyers is ready to create something as long as the tax code to distinguish rights and sanctions on behavior towards protected and politically disfavored groups respectively. Adding rules and bureaucrats like layers of wedding cake is, predictably, a recipe for disaster.

    Pretending to think that editorial writers are standing up for school bullying is an implausible position and an uninteresting one.

  • 5 fishbane // Oct 17, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Rather than “queering elementary education,” we should just teach children to treat others as they would like to be treated.

    Nice thought. Unfortunately, apparently some people think that

    Pretending to think that editorial writers are standing up for school bullying is an implausible position and an uninteresting one.

    in the face of the demonstrable fact that this is precisely what they are doing.

    Adding rules and bureaucrats like layers of wedding cake is, predictably, a recipe for disaster.

    It would be nice if adults would behave like adults. However, they don’t, and continue to pass laws about who can marry whom, etc. Much in the same way that sometimes the only way to deal with a bully is to punch them, sometimes the only tool one is left with in the face of oppression is the law.

  • 6 Conservatives for School Bullying? School’s Rate // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    […] here: Conservatives for School Bullying? By admin | category: elementry school | tags: book, case-histories, editorial-suggests, […]

  • 7 K.Chen // Oct 17, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Ewe, when talking about education policy, its usually best to use small words and simple concepts – because anything else complicates a simple and noble goal.

    While yes, education has some terrible science in it, whinging about “rhetorical questions at the end of your cri de coeur” doesn’t help at all. It doesn’t take a country scholar to realize that bullying is bad. Its very bad. Its not just inherently wrong, it makes it much harder to learn. Homosexuals need a safe environment to learn in just like everyone else, and just about anything that works towards that goal is worth looking at. Just about everything besides this sort of obvious reasoning is window dressing.

  • 8 Perry de Havilland // Oct 18, 2009 at 11:28 am

    When I read this my conviction that no free thinker would not move heaven and earth to home school is greatly strengthened. I would not care of any children of mine to be given to ‘policy makers’ of left or right to craft according to their particular mores.

    The notion I need professional strangers to teach appropriate moral theories is bizarre… the only worthwhile role for professional pre-university level teachers in my view is that of teaching technical subjects, but in this internet age even that starts to look less important.

  • 9 BKennedy // Oct 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I wonder if, since we’re on the subject of Kevin Jennings, the kind, tolerant, well adjusted liberals can tell me why Kevin Jennings is given a pass on not reporting sexual relations between a 16 year old boy and a 24 year old man in his capacity as a teacher? A position which mandates he do so as a first reporter.

    Why, the letter of the law of course (and not its spirit). 16 (the age is disputed, btw.) is the age of consent in the incident. You see, “power differences” is only applicable when you’re race/gender/orientation baiting the straight white man. A priori, gay older men cannot take advantage of gay younger men, and have no responsibility as long as the age of consent is low enough. Kevin Jennings just didn’t want to pry in this young boy’s “exploration” of “his nature.” He didn’t want to “interfere” with “experimentation,” which as we all know is perfectly healthy between grown adults and legal minors.

    As one of those conservatives with an irrational psychological fear of teh gay, as diagnosed by self-righteous hacks with no medical training, I must have missed something in primary school.

    Can we also dedicate mucho government dinero specifically against the bullying of short kids, fat kids, kids who climb on rocks, tall kids, skinny kids, and even kids with chicken pox in schools?

    I’ve seen Mr. Jennings as the exemplar of “Queering Up” Schools, and I didn’t like it. That tragic example of unreported statutory rape is, sadly, squarely in non-fiction. What is truly queer is that he still is in a position of power to influence the education system.

  • 10 Julian Sanchez // Oct 19, 2009 at 12:24 am

    The age is “disputed” only in the sense that some people insist on repeating false claims in the face of dispositive evidence; the student himself says he was 16 and his drivers’ license proves it.

    And what “given a pass”? On failing to report the legal romantic relationship of a student who came to him in confidence? If he had reported it, I’d consider him a scumbag and a moral failure.

  • 11 Dom // Oct 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

    “If he had reported it, I’d consider him a scumbag and a moral failure.” Really? If it had been a 16 year old girl? My guess is you don’t have a daughter.

    And my other guess is that no one would find excuses for him had he served under Presdent Bush.

  • 12 Number 6 // Oct 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

    BKennedy-Congratulations on combining an ad hominem attack, a strawman, and a false statement of fact in one post.

  • 13 Matthew Yglesias » Beck and Plato on Politics and Aesthetics // Oct 31, 2009 at 11:29 am

    […] who thinks cigarette taxes are fascism, but torture and indefinite detention are great) while others don’t seem very […]

  • 14 Satori // Oct 31, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    The thing is, conservatives are fine with bullying. Growing up as a boy who wasn’t into sports in Nebraska, my bullying was tolerated by the schools. Counselors would tell me things like “well, maybe if you tried to like football the other kids would like you, more”. The reality is, conservatives think that bullied kids *are* the problem for acting in “inappropriate” ways in the first place.

  • 15 NBarnes // Oct 31, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    It’s not exactly a big surprise that conservatives are more or less ok with bullying. They are a bunch of social conformists at heart, and bullying is exactly the kind of enforcement of social norms that they’d approve of.

  • 16 Jesse // Oct 31, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    #9: “Tragic example of unreported statutory rape”? Hilarious!

    First, “statutory rape” refers to sex in which factual consent is irrelevant because the age of one of the participants renders them legally unable to give consent. In other words, the “letter of the law” you despise so much is what defines statutory rape, and it’s not on your side. To call a legal, consensual act “statutory rape” is to misunderstand both halves of the phrase.

    Second, if you’re referring to the incident I think you are, no actual sex took place or was reported anyway:

    “In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence.”