I am currently disgusted with the hypocrisy and lack of tolerance that seems to be ruling our nation. With many intense discussions and possible decisions on same-sex marriage in the weeks to come, I was not surprised to find an article on the implications for schools in Education Week. In my opinion, a good school is grounded in principles that help children to be individuals and value tolerance. A good school is not one that indoctrinates students with their own views opinions, but rather informs them of various perspectives and allows students to make their own choice.
And that’s what our schools should be. Unfortunately, they are not.
Ever since I posted “Is Gay Okay in School?”, I’ve been constantly reevaluating my imagined response to the scenario that day. Here’s what I said a couple weeks ago:
What I wanted to say was, “Now, boys and girls, I happen to like boys, and that’s okay. And it would be okay if you did, too.” In my mind, it was the perfect teachable moment. The perfect segue way, not to preach that one “should” be gay, but that it shouldn’t be a source for laughter and bullying.
Perhaps, in hindsight, I was a bit hypocritical as well. Maybe, instead of saying, “that’s okay,” I should be saying, “and no one has a right to judge you either way.” I began thinking, maybe for some, it’s not “okay,” and perhaps I should not contribute my personal opinions into a conversation like that in an effort to remain as objective as possible.
While I am constantly offended by people’s lack of acceptance for the gay community (although it is improving), I have to admit that, by the words of our Constitution, they are allowed to have those opinions. In fact, I think they should be allowed to have them, regardless of how intolerant and closed-minded I believe them to be. I also don’t believe that parents should be forcing their opinions on to children, and neither should I.
Many of these same people, however, are the ones that are lobbying for religious discussion to be allowed in school, as well. Well, if that isn’t hypocritical, I don’t know what is. One of their foundational arguments against gay marriage is that if it is made legal in the states, then that will pave the way for students to discuss it during school. Some parents, as they are well within their rights to be, are wholeheartedly against this “redefinition” of marriage for our students due to the fact that they are opposed to discussion of the topic in school, as it will ingrain within them the idea that this sort of union is “acceptable.” According to them, marriage is such a pervasive construct within our society, that it tends to pop up when discussing various topics. With gay marriage legal, the topic of same-sex marriage is likely to pop up, forcing teachers to educate students on the topic.
Conversely, what about the parents that do not want religion discussed in school? In my opinion, it is virtually the same topic. Religion permeates a number of the topics discussed in school, from history to literature, God or some other higher being is mentioned. Many parents, however, are against religion being taught in school. Does that mean we remove all discussion of the matter from our curriculum? Of course, not! Rather, we are to provide an objective view of the religions that we encounter, discussing the beliefs as we do facts from a textbook. In addition, we preach and equal-but-different attitude when it comes to religion, in an effort to teach our children to accept others regardless of affiliation. We do not teach them that any are “correct,” and likewise, we do not teach them that any are “wrong.”
Same-sex marriage should be treated in the exact same way–objectively and respectful of all opinions. However, regardless of all opinions, the true “target” for learning should be equality and acceptance. Parents will still serve as the moral compass for children, and that will never change as long as parents continue to have a strong role in their children’s lives. If they preach tolerance, they will raise tolerant children; if they model bigotry and discrimination, they will raise discriminatory bigots. This will not change due to the fact that same-sex marriage is legal.
While it is not the responsibility of the school to indoctrinate students with popular or not-so-popular opinions, it is the responsibility of the school to teach children how to be functioning members of society. In order to do so, we need to teach equality, tolerance, and acceptance in school, no matter a person’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation. Unfortunately for some, this requires discussion about racial equality and same-sex marriage.
It pains me to see that we have not learned from our history. Whether we like it or not, this is going to be a reality for our kids. Better to prepare them now than suffer the consequences later.