'Don't Say Gay' Bill Won't Keep Tennessee Kids Straight

Jeanne Sager

gayAs if it could get any worse to be a teacher in America. Now educators in Tennessee could face criminal charges for simply acknowledging that, gasp, there really are gay kids in America! Dubbed the "don't say gay" bill, the new law has passed the Senate in the Volunteer State.

If it becomes law, the bill would make it a misdemeanor for a teacher of any child in kindergarten through eighth grade to discuss the concept of homosexuality in a classroom, as it does not meet the state-mandated "family life curriculum." In other words, it will officially be a crime to prepare our kids for the real world beyond the school doors.

The irony of laws rooted in this sort of intolerance is that they most often come from the same people who decry the separation of church and state that rules schools cannot teach religion to students. And yet, growing up, our school teachers were able to teach the concept of different cultures following different religions without encouraging us to follow any one path. I'm an ardent supporter of separating church and state, and yet I will acknowledge it's an important part of social studies to address the fact that there are people who practice Catholicism, people who practice Judaism, and so forth. Because it can be done, and done well, without TEACHING the concept so much as acknowledging its existence.

I hate to make a comparison that puts homosexuality in an unfavorable light, but for argument's sake, it's the same reasoning we use to teach our kids about unpleasant things that have happened in history. Because ignoring them doesn't make them go away. Gay kids will still be gay, even if we pretend they aren't.

The Holocaust will still exist even if we pretend it didn't. Hitler was real. Stalin too. And teaching our kids about them will not turn them into dictators.

Our teachers had the means to separate knowledge from the power of suggestion, the very thing that we need to see more of in terms of homosexuality discussions. Using the word "gay" won't make kids gay anymore than acknowledging there were Jews out there made me go home from school and tell my parents I couldn't be Catholic anymore because I wanted to go to synagogue. It will, however, make them aware that people in life don't fit in little boxes.

So, parents in Tennessee, and parents outside Tennessee who think this is a great idea, ask yourself: do you want your kids to be uneducated cookie-cutter creatures? Or do you want them to be open-minded, well-rounded people who are aware that Americans come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and yes, sexualities? Your kids will grow up gay or straight despite you ... but with your help, they could grow up a little kinder. It's up to you.


Image via josevnz/Flickr

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