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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The LGBT School Experiment: Innovation or Misguided Social Engineering

Anyone who follows such things knows there is a serious crisis in the Chicago Public School system. At the beginning of the school year, State Senator James Meeks staged a walk out in order to protest the the discrepancy in funding between the inner city public schools and the wealthy schools of the North Shore suburbs like Winnetka. Because Illinois funds their public schools through property taxes, it is just a fact that wealthier areas get more funds than poorer. Either way, many Chicago Public Schools are woefully underfunded.

That's why I found it peculiar to read that the same Chicago Public School system struggling for funding is now in the final stages of opening up a special school for lesbian, gay, bi sexual, transvestite and questioning students.

An LGBTQA Chicago Public Schools ( CPS ) high school has been proposed and, if given the green light, the school would join the likes of New York's Harvey Milk High School in becoming a national model in providing a welcoming, safe education for queer and questioning youth and their allies.

The Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice submitted the proposal to the CPS Office of New Schools for a Social Justice High School-Pride Campus. This project has been in the works since spring of this year. If approved, Pride Campus, a voluntary public high school that would implement a college prep curriculum in all subject areas, would open in 2010. It would serve LGBTQA ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and allied ) students from all over the city.

So, it appears that the same school system that struggles to find funding for most of its schools will now open up a school that will isolate gay students. I am first troubled by the same system that can't produce funds for some schools finding funds for an idea that has almost never been tried before.

Of course, what is most troubling is the social experiment that this school will attempt to create. First, I am very sympathetic to the difficulties that a gay student would face in the typical high school. Being bullied and being an outcast in the school system are two things I am unfortunately all too familiar with. I was an immigrant from the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War when I went through most of my schooling. If you think it is tough being a gay kid in school, try being referred to as a "Russian Pisspot" for several years. That said, there are plenty of children that have it difficult in school, short people, funny looking people, foreigners, and religious minorities. I won't get into a grievance war, however where will it stop? After we are done isolating gay kids among their own kind, maybe we should move onto short people, Hispanics, etc.

Furthermore, after these gay kids are done living in a bubble in which everyone is exactly like them, they will at some point have to move into the real world in which things will be very different. How exactly will this school prepare them for the world?

That's not to say that I am against schools that isolate students. Many of my friends in college went to a Catholic high school. Their experience in high school was far superior to mine. A Catholic high school, though, is privately funded. That is the sort of place for this type of school. I have no problem with an all gay high school as long as private funds are used to fund it. I have no problem with any innovative idea for schooling as long as it isn't tax money used to fund it. The public school system is not the place for social engineering. Those sorts of ideas are meant for private funds. That's where they should stay.

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