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Back to November Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 274 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS NOVEMBER 2008

Chicago Plans Gay High School
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The city of Chicago plans to open a "gay-friendly" public high school, the Pride Campus of the existing Lawndale Little Village High School for Social Justice. Officials hope the Pride Campus will welcome 600 students when it opens in 2010.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan says he hopes about half of Pride Campus students will be homosexual, and half will be heterosexual. It is difficult to imagine how Duncan might achieve that vision, since by federal law school officials may not ask students about their sexual orientation.

The curriculum of the Pride Campus will "teach the history of all people who have been oppressed and the civil rights movements that have led to social justice and queer studies," according to official materials. The school will also offer counseling to students.

Proponents of the gay-friendly high school say it is necessary because gay and lesbian students fare worse than their heterosexual peers in traditional schools. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) just released a study reporting that 32% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students missed a class in the past year because they felt unsafe. Only 5.5% of heterosexual students said they missed a class because they felt unsafe.

Kevin Jennings, founder and executive director of GLSEN, said that schools like the Pride Campus are a moral imperative. "If we keep doing nothing, we are going to keep getting these horrifying levels of harassment, greater rates of skipping, not going to college and more tragic violence," he said. "We can continue to do nothing, and we know the results, or we can save young people's lives and offer them an education and a future."

Opponents of the Pride Campus question the use of public funds to create a school themed on sexual orientation. "Why is the answer to bullying a return to separate but equal?" asked Andrew Breitbart, founder of the news site Breitbart.com. Breitbart called attention to the broader issue of "social justice" teaching in public schools. The School for Social Justice, which will be connected administratively to the Pride Campus, opened in 2005.

"Social justice" is all the rage in education schools and among many liberal activists. Some people confuse "social justice" with simple justice; but because of who usually uses it and how, the term is inextricably tied up with the redistribution of wealth.

Breitbart reports that a group of social-welfare students at the University of California at Berkeley summed up social justice in this way:

"Social justice is a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair (re)distribution of resources, opportunities and responsibilities; (2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential; (4) and builds social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action."

Since these goals are far from politically neutral, Breitbart calls social justice schools and curricula "blatant political sectarianism on the public's dime." Creating the Pride Campus of Chicago's School for Social Justice, furthermore, is "ghettoizing children based on identity politics in order to make them politically active collectivists," says Breitbart. (Washington Times, 10-13-08)

New York City already has a high school for gay and lesbian students, the Harvey Milk High School in the East Village. Harvey Milk was a homosexual activist and San Francisco politician; the California legislature recently voted for schools across that state to celebrate Harvey Milk Day annually (Education Reporter, Sept. 2008).

Harvey Milk High School has served gay and lesbian students since 1985, but it became a "gay-themed" public high school in 2003. 100 students attend the school. While Harvey Milk High requires that the students it admits be at risk of dropping out of another school because of harassment, Chicago's Pride Campus will be open to all interested students. The School Board will vote November 19 on final approval of the school. (Chicago Tribune, 10-9-08, CNN, 10-13-08)


 
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