I decided to reconsider my previous "this is segregation and down with segregation" position in light of the following....
You see, I realize that geeks and jocks and preps and so on-- that they all are maligned, to some extent, by those who are not 'like' them.
However, and I hate to invoke this, it comes to my attention that no one specifically tells them they can't be whatever they are. Nobody ever came up to me and told me I'd go to hell for liking Star Trek. (Though I have been known to refer to Voyager as hell.) There's never been protests against allowing people to play football. Granted, there have been protests against *not* allowing *certain* people on the football team (go feminism!) even if the reason for the protest was simply to draw attention to inequality.
By the same token, however, sexual orientation is far less clearly defined than ethnic or racial or other stereotypes. I doubt anyone has ever suddenly come to the life-altering realization that they're white or black, or Italian or French or Spanish, or whatever-- the thing speaks for itself.
Gay isn't the same thing. It's both misunderstood and persecuted. Perhaps rightly so, perhaps wrongly so, based on whatever you think. But that's both the problem, and the reality. There are those who have no sympathy for those of "deviant" sexuality because they perceive it as standing contrary to their moral code. There's nothing wrong with that.
But where it crosses the line with me is when that moral code becomes a cause of action-- when what one believes brings one to decide on a course of action that is malicious to another. I'm certain that jocks and nerds, blacks and whites, whoever, divide along their chosen lines and fight against each other. Dichotomy does not lend well to diversity.
It's an unfortunate fact of our society that sometimes the only way to mark a trail to be blazed is with blood. The same sacrifices that lend themselves to our modern society's considerable liberality and freedom to do as one will came at a heavy cost. History tells us that everything we do, every day, had to be fought for in order to be accepted. Perhaps at some point blood was shed to give us a twenty-four hour day, a seven-day week. Perhaps it wasn't. It's become so ingrained in our world that we don't question it.
Without conflict, there cannot be growth. While I admittedly can say this in the fullness of objectivity since my conflicts are usually only against myself, I honestly have to admit that, even setting segregation aside, creating a space that's *more* gay-friendly than every other public school in New York City draws the same false dichotomies that lend themselves to tragic ends. If anything, I would infinitely prefer it if *all* public schools, everywhere, were founded on the basic tenet of tolerance and self-expression in all forms. That, admittedly, flies in the face of the basic conformity to the teacher's authority prerequisite to learning. And thus it's an ideal. But it's something to be aspired towards-- because without individual comfort in an academic setting, creativity is stifled, and learning dies.
I can understand the need to take sexual orientation off the table as an "issue" in the name of that same learning, to offer shelter in the classroom from the tempest outside. It would disturb me to no end if I was unable to teach a lesson on the basis that a student took issue with my admittedly relativist way of viewing things.
But at the same time, I have to balance the interests of the student who is being tormented for being gay against those of the students who exhibit clear anti-gay principles, for whatever reason, religious or secular alike. Both of them need to accept that unless it's on the agenda for the day, they can leave their prejudices in their lockers. There's no room for them in the classroom.
Inherent in any education is the imperative of assessment. Students have to assess the right answer to the question, have to assess the text they read for facts, and assimilate them. Teachers in turn have to assess assignments, essays, homework, and other work, and grade them. Students also have to assess their classmates, their friends, their enemies, and react to them. Each of these is in and of itself a conflict-- perhaps a more mental conflict than persecution, but a conflict nonetheless. Each new scenario must be assessed on the basis of social, academic, and other factors --each factor weighted by the individual.
And so we must assess the merit of this school towards its intended end. To me, it seems an admission of failure to inculcate diversity and bring about an inclusive, tolerant school environment.
While I may have opposed it on the previous principle of segregation, I find after this lengthy reconsideration that I still oppose it-- on the grounds that one gay-friendly school in the city is not enough. These kids will spend enough of their lives locked in conflict over the issue of their sexuality. The least that can be done is giving them an academic space that exists separately from that. So often I hear that "school isn't like the real world" as a criticism of school. Perhaps, contrariwise, that's one of its great untapped strengths, especially along lines such as the ones I've outlined here.
As always, just my bit.