Before we’re called sissies for agreeing with a seven-day event championed by the Girl Scouts, keep in mind that it’s “No Name-Calling Week.”
The project, now in its second year, was created by Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which was created to denounce ad homonyms directed at school students and to promote understanding. The group focuses on sexuality and name-calling, as does James Howe in his book, “The Misfits.” The book “deals with four much-taunted middle schoolers-one of them gay-who run for the student council on a platform advocating an end to nasty name-calling,” according to an Associated Press article. Now GLSEN, Howe and a number of groups are behind the initiative and are attempting to turn the fictional account into reality.
They hope this will be the first step toward acceptance, particularly by middle school students who may project their own inner turmoil onto other students by name calling. Though Howe is openly gay and GLSEN obviously champions accepting homosexuality, Howe says “No Name-Calling Week” is much more inclusive.
“Gay students aren’t the only kids targeted-this isn’t about special rights for them,” he said. “The fact is that ‘faggot’ is probably the most common insult at schools.”
The effects of name-calling can linger, and persistent personal attacks can be emotionally damaging and, in some cases, can lead to suicide.
A number of conservatives think the concept is hogwash. They say the event nurtures a “victim’s mentality” and “overemphasizes harassment of gay youths,” according to the article. Subsequently, the Pleasant Valley School District in Iowa ruled that teachers could no longer read the book aloud, while legislators in Colorado vetoed an offer to recognized “No-Name Calling Week”.
“Schools should be steering kids away from identifying as gay,” said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute. “You can teach civility… without conveying the message that failure to accept homosexuality as normal is a sign of bigotry.”
Knight’s words are an egregious example of conservative opposition, based mostly on ignoring sexuality and holding a false hope that if one doesn’t think he or she is gay, problems such as name-calling will magically disappear. An inclusive and positive event aimed at diminishing name-calling is not a tacit agreement to support homosexuality. Conservatives seem to believe the two are invariably linked, which is not logical thinking.
“This is as vanilla as you get in terms of creating safe environments in schools,” said Jerald Newberry, director of the National Education Association’s health information network. “To criticize this program would… be a political attack.”
One could only hope that if given the choice, conservatives would opt to change “No Name-Calling Week” into “No Name-Calling Month” or Year. But then again, only a sissy would do that.