Morgen on October 9, 2009 at 5:07 pm
As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing objectionable about the stated mission of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) founded by Obama safe schools czar Kevin Jennings:
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
We believe that such an atmosphere engenders a positive sense of self, which is the basis of educational achievement and personal growth. Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike. We recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have similarly adverse impacts on communities and we support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities.
GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome as members any and all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.
As stated, it’s nothing more than an agenda of tolerance and respect for differences based on sexual orientation. Which is just as honorable a mission as one based around respect for ethnic, cultural, and/or religious differences. And I also believe that there is a role for proactive education to foster the sort of environment necessary for this ideal of mutual respect to be realized.
However, I believe there is an important distinction between promoting a narrowly-focused message of tolerance and respect for differences of all types, versus seeking to broadly expand the educational curriculum in order to indoctrinate children with beliefs and values opposed by many families.
One of the central complaints against GLSEN of course is that they actively and subversively seek to do the latter, while publicly claiming that their objective is only to foster a safe environment for LGBT students. This claim seems to be supported by a lot of anecdotal evidence, from parents and communities who have fought the inclusion of controversial course materials in their schools and districts. And also based upon some of the beliefs expressed by GLSEN’s leaders, including Jennings, who was GLSEN’s founder and long-time executive director.
However, what I did not see was any direct evidence that as an institution GLSEN sought to directly promote a subversive educational agenda on a nationwide basis. (They were involved in some state-wide campaigns over curriculum – for example in Massachusetts.)
So I did a little digging of my own and managed to find some archived materials on their annual conference in the year 2000. This was a national conference attended by hundreds of teachers and educators from around the country. In keeping with their public-facing image, the conference was titled “Teaching Respect for All“. However, a closer look at the description of many of the conference workshops suggests that the agenda was a little broader than this:
Appreciating a Broader Canvas: Elementary Social Studies as a vehicle for Gay and Lesbian Content Integration: Study findings regarding the integration of gay and lesbian content into K-6 social studies curriculum will be discussed. The presenter will share teacher understandings from the study as well as strategies employed and challenges faced when discussing the idea of gay and lesbian content integration within the social studies curriculum. Two lesson plans created by the researcher and elementary teachers that incorporate content about gays and lesbians into primary and intermediate social studies topics will be shared.
Getting to “The Heart of the Matter” is ELEMENTARY: The presenters will discuss their experiences using the “teachable moment” and “classroom climate” as vehicles for addressing LGBT issues in the elementary classroom. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue on issues affecting the elementary community; hear about the experiences of elementary teachers and how they deal with LGBT issues; learn practical, age-appropriate ways of integrating LGBT issues into the curriculum; and learn some techniques for capitalizing on those “teachable moments”.
LGBT Inclusion-Not the Usual Suspects: Most LGBT inclusive curricula are in English, History, and Health–”easy” fits. Using case studies from the difficult fits–Math and Science–participants will critique/analyze lesson plans that are intended to be LGBT inclusive. Participants will brainstorm a variety of potential ideas for LGBT inclusion, problem-solve around case studies elicited from the participants, and compile a list of “do and don’t guidelines.”
Literary Lifelines: Lesbian and Gay Voices in Literature for Children and Young Adults: Come celebrate the growing body of L/G-themed literature written for children and young adults. Compassionate books can save lives! They have the potential to help isolated youngsters find self-acceptance, dignity, and hope. Positive images in books also help heterosexual peers educate and expand their hearts. We will discuss picture books that feature lesbian mothers and gay fathers; young adult fiction, short stories, biography/autobiography, & nonfiction; and the courageous authors who write these affirming books.
Out Cinema-Integrating Gay-Themed Film into the Classroom: There is an ever-increasing archive of Hollywood and foreign film that portrays the brilliance and/or normalcy of gay and lesbian lives. Showing a film properly and appropriately is always a challenge in the classroom. This workshop will show teachers how they can successfully use gay-themed films in any discipline. Participants will view several short segments of “Out Cinema”, will be given a list of resources, materials and questions that they can use within their discipline, and then have time to discuss the possible challenges of this addition to the curriculum and the many ways it can be made a welcome and even an essential part of their class.
“That’s a Family!” in the Classroom: “That’s a Family!” is the new, exciting film from the producers of “It’s Elementary” about the many family structures that make up the fabric of American culture. This engaging new film is narrated entirely by children and produced for elementary students. This workshop will introduce “That’s A Family!” and provide strategies for incorporating it into schools in order to raise awareness about LGBT and all families.
What I find particularly troubling, as highlighted above, is the apparent focus of GLSEN in promoting the inclusion of “gay-themed” subject matter into elementary-level education. Even kindergarten (picture books!?). And well outside the scope of just health or individual rights-oriented curriculum (math!?). Of course all this makes perfect sense if your goal as an organization is to indoctrinate children into your values-system. And as an added bonus, if you are wondering what sort of gay literature they were promoting, their web site from this same era helpfully provides an “Annotated Bibliography of Children’s Books With Gay and Lesbian Characters“.
To wrap this up, let me just add a reminder that Kevin Jennings is now serving as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education. There, it seems, he would have more than a token level of influence on the educational curriculum and agenda promoted at a federal level. Perhaps the nation’s collective mindset has shifted to the point where this sort of agenda is no longer controversial. But if it has then somehow I missed the transition point.
You know I have no problem with anyone openly promoting their preferred policy agenda. Make your case, change some minds. But as a parent, and a person of faith, I really have a problem with the strategy of subversion and double-talk that seems to have been employed by GLSEN to achieve their goals. So I am very troubled that their founder, and long time leader – no doubt the architect of this strategy – is now serving in a high level position within the Department of Education. And I think it’s completely reasonable for conservatives to continue to question this appointment.