Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Gay marriage and education in Masachusetts

I missed this article a few days ago. My favorite snippet:

Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network said gay families exist everywhere _ the only thing different about Massachusetts is that same-sex marriage makes it much harder to push them aside. Public schools must acknowledge gay families, she said, even if it upsets parents who believe same-sex relationships are immoral.

"One of the basic realities of American life," she said, "is that all of us have to deal with beliefs we disagree with."

Does that mean that it’s O.K. to criticize gay marriage and homosexuality in school settings? Or does the need to be tolerant only apply to those with whom you disagree, as the 9th Circuit held recently?

Discussions - 7 Comments

Maybe if we called Christianity a "lifestyle" long enough, people would begin to consider it a lifestyle and then no one could discriminate against it...

What’s with your fascination regarding gay rights?

It would appear that Chase Harper was denied "free exercise" of his religious beliefs.

I would say that the "fascination" with gay rights here has to do with what is being TAUGHT at school, and whether or not parents have a say in the matter.

The difference between tolerance and bi-sexuality in California is that tolerance doesn’t go both ways.

Joe asks: "Does that mean that it’s O.K. to criticize gay marriage and homosexuality in school settings? "

It would depend, would it not, on the age group, and the reason for critique?

If we take the case of a high-school student learning the finer points of critical thinking, then it makes sense to use the issue of gay marriage as a debate for debate. In that context, it should be permissible to criticize gay marriage, and also to entertain arguments for tolerance and inclusion.

But, I assume that you are more worried about grade-schoolers, entering school with their "normal" expectations and values, only to be assaulted by left-wing tolerance nuts teaching them how to be gay. This is the same kind of fear used by people who are afraid that teaching older students "about" safe sex is the same as teaching how do engage in sex, and encouraging them to do the same.

Instead, as you undoubtedly know, but fail to acknowledge, grade school is a place where families are discusses and used as examples and teaching contexts. Children are bound to compare their own families to those in the text books, and also to those of their classmates.

So, in my mind, the question is, what does a teacher do when students ask questions about their own families? Are you suggesting that children of gay parents should be told that theirs is not a "real" family? Or, that their parents are going to Hell? Or, that they may be nice, but that they are abominations before the Lord?

What should teachers say to the children of hard-working single parents, or of biracial parents? Why would you want to criticize a child’s family?

That is the difference between tolerance of diversity, and tolerance of intolerance. One hurts people, and the other does not.

Apparently, teaching kids to exclude and judge others because of their differences poses no problem for many of you. But, teaching them to allow gays into their realm of acceptance is abhorrent.

I suppose I don’t object to an even-handed presentation where teachers say "some believe this" and "some believe that," though avoidance might be even a better policy. I certainly don’t think that it’s the place of public schools either to promote or to assault anyone’s religious beliefs. We seem, however, to be in a situation where schools are all too often choosing "norms," usually at the expense of traditional religious believers.

I suspect that a lot of the conflict over schools could be avoided if we permitted and subsidized genuine school choice. Different populations would sort themselves into different schools.

Of course, one could respond, this only displaces the conflict to a later point in the person’s life, when he or she hasn’t been "educated for tolerance." I don’t know. The tolerance spoken of here is a contestable concept, not self-evidently demanded by the principles of our regime or our constitution. There is also, I think, a difference between what Rawls calls a modus vivendi (co-existence without normalization or moral approval) and toleration understood in terms of moral equivalence. It is quite possible, I think, to express moral disapproval without thinking that gives one a license to persecute. I may look askance at the drunk, the conspicuous consumer, and the wastrel and tell my children that these are not habits and ways of life of which we approve, that (indeed) they are sinful, without thereby insisting that the coercive apparatus of the state be brought to bear against those who display them. (We save the coercive apparatus of the state to be deployed against those evil cigarette smokers!)

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