February 27, 2013
Everyday, children ages five to eighteen spend up to 8 hours in school. It is where they learn about math, history, reading, and writing, but it is also where children learn about social protocol and what it means to be a helpful, productive citizen of the US. As we find ourselves in the an age where issues of freedom of race, economy, religion, and sexuality are part of daily life and daily discussion, where does sexuality and gender identification fit in the school system?
According to a report on TrueTolerance.org, elementary school is no place to discuss gay activism, the new definition of family, or gender identity. In a program called CitizenLink Report, Candi Cushman, educational analyst, examines the educational practices in elementary schools surrounding what she calls “the promotion of homosexual themes and the deconstruction of the meaning of traditional family and marriages”. Cushman refers to books and training programs as being at fault for this misguided education American children are receiving. Books like 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert and Rex Ray, according to the report, sends a message of “sexual anarchy, sexual chaos, and sexual confusion”. Cushman remarks that parents send their children to school to learn the basics: math, reading, and how to become an American citizen, not to “experiment with homosexual advocacy”.
However, doesn’t being an American citizen involve being open-minded to diversity of every kind, from race to class to gender identity? Each generation provides a new chance to be accepting and tolerant to prejudices of the one before. It is no secret in the year 2013 that there is a wide-range of gender identification and sexuality, and that these identifications start at a young age. The main character in 10,000 Dresses isn’t radically different than many boys and girls nation-wide struggling with not only their own ideas of who they are and who they want to be, but the opposition they face by their parents and their communities.
Cushman and other advocacy groups use language such as “anarchy”, “chaos”, “deviance”, “deconstruction”, and “alarming” to cast a negative light on books such as 10,000 Dresses, tolerance training programs such as GLSEN, and other diversity education in schools. Although some critics mark these books and programs as having an “activist agenda”, others find these as tools for teaching tolerance, and for helping children who are struggling with their own identities. The resource website LesbianFamily.com name celebrate books such as 10,000 Dresses as being important devices in assisting those struggling with gender variation, whether it be their own or someone in their community.
Where do you think gender and sexuality education belong in our schools?