|NUMBER 288||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JANUARY 2010|
|Safe Schools Czar's GLSEN Reading List Denounced as 'Pornographic'|
Obama adviser Kevin Jennings is under fire again after it was publicized that the organization he founded and headed until 2008 recommends sexually explicit books for 7th-12th graders. Jennings has previously come under harsh criticism by more than 50 House Republicans who called for his removal as head of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools last year.
The lawmakers questioned his suitability for the post because of Jennings' prior drug use and because of what Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) characterized as Jennings's "integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools" (see article in the November 2009 issue of Education Reporter).
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), founded by Jennings in 1990, works to prevent harassment and create a climate of positive acceptance for gay, bisexual and transgender youth in schools. The group seeks to accomplish its mission by encouraging the formation of Gay Student Alliances, influencing public policy, organizing pro-gay school events, and providing educational resources for sympathetic teachers and students.
A "cornerstone" of the organization's educational effort, according to its website, is the promotion of gay-friendly books for all ages. The GLSEN BookLink identifies recommended resources for teachers that include the organization's own published works as well as "other pre-screened videos and publications related to GLSEN's mission." A similar list of books and films is provided in the student section of the website for youth who want to purchase and read the books on their own.
Critics say that many of the books recommended for 7th-12th graders are inappropriately explicit. Scott Baker and his reporting team at Breitbart-TV.com randomly chose and examined eleven of the more than 100 books on the BookLink list. In their opinion, "the books seemed to have less to do with promoting tolerance than with an unabashed attempt to indoctrinate students into a hyper-sexualized worldview."
Baker reported that "Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren't merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between pre-schoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games, semen flying through the air. One memoir even praised becoming a prostitute as a way to increase one's self-esteem."
Mindful that readers might conclude that Baker and crew exaggerated or took material out of context in attempt to sensationalize it, they digitally scanned and posted the relevant pages from each book. They also made exact transcriptions of the objectionable passages so readers could decide for themselves.
One such passage is from a book titled Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story About Growing up Gay, by Aaron Fricke. In it the author describes his "busy homosexual childhood. . . . By first grade I was sexually active with many friends. In fact, a small group of us regularly met in the grammar school lavatory to perform fellatio on one another. A typical week's schedule would be Aaron and Michael on Monday during lunch; Michael and Johnny on Tuesday after school; Fred and Timmy at noon Wednesday; Aaron and Timmy after school on Thursday . . ." Fricke goes on to explain that he and his friends intuitively knew not to mention any of this to adults. Nonetheless, he writes, "None of us had any guilty feelings about it; we figured everyone did it. Why shouldn't they?"
Many other passages of the eleven books Baker and colleagues reviewed are even more explicit than the passages quoted above. Some describe disturbing encounters between young boys and older men.
Jennings stepped down as the organization's Executive Director in August of 2008, but the Breitbart-TV.com report notes that each of the books it reviewed was added to the resource list while Jennings headed GLSEN.