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Education Reporter

Anti-Bullying Curriculum Conceals Political Agenda
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"Bullying" has become an important buzzword in education, and a number of state legislatures have considered and passed anti-bullying legislation. Everyone agrees that parents and teachers must sometimes step in to discipline a child who is "picking on" others. But bullying is sometimes exaggerated, and it also sometimes serves to cover up a political agenda in schools.

Tim Gill, author of No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk-Averse Society, argues that the word "bullying" is overused. Gill thinks we should reserve the word for cases where a stronger or older child is persistently mean to a smaller or younger one. Instead, "bullying" now often describes "what are actually minor fallings-out," says Gill. "Children are not always nice to each other, but people are not always nice to each other. The world is not like that. One of the things in danger of being lost is children spending time with other children out of sight of adults; growing a sense of consequence for their actions without someone leaping in." (Observer, 10-28-07)

The need to protect students from bullying has become an excuse not only for over-involvement in children's play and interactions, but also for the introduction of more and earlier lessons about homosexuality in public schools. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a gay and transgender advocacy group, created the "Welcoming Schools" curriculum for children in kindergarten through grade 5. "Welcoming Schools" presents itself as an anti-bullying curriculum that will help students to live peacefully together and be kind to one another.

Minnesota Star Tribune's Katherine Kersten investigated "Welcoming Schools," and found that its lessons "have little to do with bullying, and much to do with ensuring that kids as young as age five submit to HRC's orthodoxy on family structure, even if it differs from their own parents' view." (Minnesota Star Tribune, 5-11-08)

The first section of "Welcoming Schools" teaches students about "family diversity." Children in grades 3-5 act out being members of nontraditional families, including same-sex couples with children. Children in grades 1-3 participate in a "Family Diversity Photo Puzzle," an activity that re-educates them about family structure. The teacher asks students to create seven families out of a packet of photos of adults and children. The packets are "rigged" so that it is impossible to create seven groups without at least one same-sex couple.

The curriculum's second section, titled "Looking at Gender Roles and Stereotyping," seeks to "expand [students'] notions of gender-appropriate behavior." Teachers evaluate students on "whether or not [they] feel comfortable making choices outside gender expectations."

Finally, in the third section, "Welcoming Schools" addresses bullying. Not surprisingly at this point, the curriculum emphasizes bullying of students because of their real or perceived homosexuality. It says relatively little about other scenarios for bullying.

"To promote its agenda, 'Welcoming Schools' employs classic indoctrination techniques," writes Kersten. "Teachers begin lessons by questioning students to identify their current beliefs. Then they use group exercises, films and books to convince the kids that any traditional attitudes they harbor about family structure and homosexuality are harmful 'stereotypes.' At the end of the lesson, teachers 'evaluate' students to ensure that their views now pass official muster."

HRC has piloted "Welcoming Schools" in three school districts, and hopes to distribute the curriculum more broadly beginning in the 2009-2010 school year.

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