Teachers Learning to Teach Tolerance of Homosexuals
July 7, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - It's about promoting tolerance, the video producer says, in answer to why a film released in June called "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School" is being offered to parents, teachers, and administrators nationwide.
"We felt there was a severe problem in this country with the consequences of anti-gay prejudice," said Debra Chasnoff, the film's director and a senior producer with the Women's Educational Media organization. "We felt we had to do a lot more to prevent prejudice before it starts."
Thus, the organization created a video to aid parents and education officials with raising the "awareness of gay communities," she said. The film is reportedly the second such type released by the agency in the past three years.
A spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation supported the video, calling it a "useful tool to help parents [understand] how gay and lesbian issues affect their kids" in elementary and middle schools.
"A child shouldn't be harassed simply because of what their religious beliefs are," said GLAAD spokesperson Cathy Renna, adding that Christians, too, should be afforded the same protections.
Critics, however, have called the video "more of the same" type of "propaganda" presented two-and-one-half years ago when the Women's Educational Media organization created its first film of such content.
Then, Traditional Values Coalition members appealed to Capitol Hill legislators to help halt the influx of any homosexual educational video into schools. With the release of the second video, the Coalition has redoubled its efforts.
"Parents need to know what their kids are being taught," said Andrea Sheldon Lafferty, executive director of the Coalition. "They need to be aware this curriculum is not just taught in sex ed class."
Calling the video a "training film for teachers to indoctrinate children," Sheldon Lafferty said those advocating its use view "tolerance [as] a one-way street," where "we are to tolerate them, but they can't tolerate our Judeo-Christianity, which is centuries old."
The recent filming reportedly occurred in seven public and private schools in New York, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and San Francisco. The video begins with a clip from Senator Robert Smith (R-NH) calling homosexuals "trash" and "filth" before cutting to a group of fourth-graders "brainstorming" on the topic, according to a review from the San Francisco Examiner posted on the retailer's - New Day Films - Internet site.
The 78-minute video then depicts characters from various youth movies, like Home Alone 2, "spouting homophobic remarks," the review continued, and portrays first- and second-graders sharing a book they designed about homosexuals.
"It's not targeted toward children," Chasnoff said. "Marketing and distribution has been aimed at parents and educators. It's not intended for elementary school students to watch."
Rather, she said, parents, teachers, and administrators should use the video in order to become better equipped for dealing with situations related to homosexuality that arise during the normal course of any given day.
"The country is becoming more understanding that people have differences. We have to understand these differences," said Jack Jennings, the director for the non-profit, non-partisan Center on Educational Policy. "I don't know if this [video] is the way to do it, but to say there's no problem would be foolish."
Jennings said he had not heard of the video, but he maintained that children could learn not only respect for others from those reiterating the video's message but tolerance for and awareness of the genetic makeup of homosexuals.
"It's not like [homosexuality] is like deciding one morning to have orange hair," he said. "It's a matter of who people are. I think polls have shown that people are starting to understand these things are genetic, these things are inborn."
Neither Jennings nor Chasnoff favored the biblical view of homosexuality being broached in the education system.
"That sounds like it's [more] appropriate for churches," Chasnoff said.
"If you're teaching tolerance to people [about blacks], should you be allowed to teach the KKK?" Jennings asked, in reference to the classes related to ethnicity and tolerance that he said ensued during Black History Month. "I don't know about this particular [video]. But what I do know is that gay teenagers have the highest rate of suicide ... and if that's true, we should deal with this taunting. We should face up to that."