Saturday, December 5, 2009
Attacks on Kevin Jennings and GLSEN
Shortly after his appointment as Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan named Kevin Jennings the Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. And here is where it gets pretty ugly. Right wing groups and media have initiated a full scale attack on Kevin, trying to link him with child pornography and groups that foster pedophilia. The reason? Some of the reading recommendations Kevin made for high schoolers who were LGBT were sexually explicit. Now, let's start by acknowledging that no matter how explicit the depictions were, high schoolers looking at explicit pictures is not child porn. Of course, these groups know that full well, but linking gay men to pedophilia is part of their bargain when talking about LGBT folks. Secondly, as someone who was very involved in GLSEN after it began (I was not one of those founding members), I am very familiar with the reading lists and workshop materials GLSEN created and recommended. As a teacher, I could be pretty traditional when it came to language and material that I thought might not be age appropriate. In my mind, GLSEN's work was not only appropriate but vital.
There's something else deeply disturbing about the attacks on Kevin. It boggles my mind that these groups would exploit the pain and suffering of the far-too-many survivors of childhood sexual abuse in this country, whether they were victims of institutions like the Catholic Church or victims because too many adults closed their eyes to what was going on. For these groups to try to connect the work GLSEN has done with child pornography and pedophilia is shameful.