This is just a perfect example of how the Religious Right distorts the facts to suit their own needs.
On April 17th, students who choose to will participate in the Day of Silence:
The Day of Silence… is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies.
The Illinois Family Institute is calling for Christian parents to pull their children out of school that day in response (emphasis theirs):
Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. Please help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.
The executive director of IFI, David Smith, had this to say about the event:
“Well, often students take a vow of silence on this day to protest perceived or real injustices against students who are homosexual, self-identify as being homosexual, bi-sexual, transgender or — I’m sure there is another acronym out there, too — but anyway, those students who are perceived or self-identify as that, they take a vow of silence,” he says.
Smith notes schools handle the event in different ways. Some choose not to participate, some allow students to participate outside of class, while others will have teachers who participate in the classroom.
I don’t know any teachers who are actively participating in this event — remaining silent and not educating in the process. IFI makes it sound like a teacher who gives a test on that day (and doesn’t say anything) is implicit in some sort of evil conspiracy. Teachers have a job to do and, unless they can effectively teach without talking, they need to carry on with their work. Just like pharmacists should not be allowed to deny a woman birth-control or morning-after pills for “conscience” reasons, teachers should not be denying students of an education for their own political reasons.
Let’s break this down a little more and see where (and how often) IFI gets it wrong.
They offer a PDF of the reasons for staging a walkout. Here’s what it says:
School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.
School administrators do not “allow” silence. This is a student-led activity.
Furthermore, no school I know of requires every student to speak in their classes. Some students are just quiet. As a teacher, it’s my job to get them involved, but I can’t get every student to talk in every class.
(I also don’t know of many teachers who would find silence disruptive…)
The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around the silence of some or many, or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking.
The DOS requires nothing from teachers. That’s a flat-out lie.
No one has told me — or any teacher I know — to restructure our lesson plans around the DOS.
In fact, classes should (and will) go on as scheduled. No student would be exempt from making a presentation, or taking a test, or participating in class. If a student doesn’t want to talk, he can write out his answers. If a student doesn’t want to give a presentation on that day, he should’ve scheduled it for another day.
IFI says in an email that they contacted a high school principal who said just as much. Watch how IFI spins it:
When asked whether students would yet again be permitted to remain silent during instructional time in order to participate in the GLSEN-created political action, Day of Silence, Mr. Pryma responded that students have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent all 180 days of the school year. Apparently, with a straight face he is trying to suggest that the expectations for student participation are precisely the same on the Day of Silence as they are on any other day of the school year… Mr. Pryma then said that if silence or refusal to speak ever becomes disruptive, the administration will address it.
This is the standard administrative talking point…
There’s no talking point. The same rules apply on the Day of Silence as apply any other day. IFI just seems frustrated because they can’t find anything legitimate to attack.
Day of Silence participants claim they seek to end discrimination. There is, however, a problem with the way “discrimination” is defined in public discourse today. Groups like GLSEN believe that statements of moral conviction with which they disagree constitute prejudice or discrimination.
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) isn’t trying to convince people to endorse homosexuality. They want to bring attention to the bullying and harassment GLBT students face on a regular basis.
Is IFI in favor of the bullying and harassment of GLBT students? I would hope not.
Finally, DOS supporters contend that one of their purposes is to end harassment. What they fail to acknowledge is that the worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time. There are myriad other ways to work toward that end. DOS participants have a First Amendment right to wear t-shirts, or put up posters, or host after-school speakers, or set up tables from which to distribute informative materials. They ought not to be allowed to manipulate instructional time in the service of their socio-political goals.
Once again, no students are losing instructional time in the classroom whether or not they participate. The only students who would lose that time are children who are pulled out of class — and the IFI is endorsing this.
So much for getting an education.
Finally, the IFI says they are against the silence because it “politicizes the classroom for ideological purposes.”
Again, that’s just not true.
Earlier in the school year, some students across the country participated in a similar “Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity.” They remained silent all day on behalf of potential babies who were aborted.
In a conversation with me last month, David Smith said IFI didn’t support this event. (In the conversation, he’s referred to as “them.”)
However, his organization did not issue a single press release condemning this event nor did they request that parents pull their children out of the classroom in response.
The Illinois Family Institute is not against silence or the “politicization of the classroom.”
They are against supporters of GLBT rights.
And they are hypocrites.