April 9, 2003 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Since 1996, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network has sponsored an annual national Day of Silence event to help create safer schools for all students, "regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression". Today is the 7th time such an event has been held across the country. Are you participating? What is school like for you in this context?
posted by WolfDaddy (22 comments total)
Last year's discussion on this event.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2003

national Day of Silence event to help create safer schools for all students,

shut the fuck up to support safer schools. makes sense.
posted by quonsar at 10:57 AM on April 9, 2003

I've known about the organization since it was known as GLSTN - the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network, but I only heard of the Day of Silence last year. I was the co-coordinator of my college's queer support group, so I was kind of surprised that I hadn't heard of this sooner. If they want this type of event to have an impact, they have to speak up more before the chosen day. (I heard about it after I left college, from a Gallaudet classmate who attends American University. His temporary vow of silence didn't get him out of participating in class at the world's only liberal arts college for the deaf.)
posted by etoile at 11:05 AM on April 9, 2003

Well, I can tell you that across the nation, some organization (I think associated with Phyllis Schlafly) called "The Eagle Forum" is pretty hysterical about The Day of Silence, and wants you and schools not to participate (this was apparently one branch's view on last year's Day of Silence):

Homosexuals Promote Their Agenda in Schools Nation-wide
School Day of Silence Observed April 10, 2002
Goal: Squelch Kids’ Opposition to Homosexuality, Bisexuality, Transsexuality

Observance is indoctrination. Did anyone try to stop it? Was it encouraged?

California schools seem to be uniformly supportive of the day, although I note that administrators in the infamous and silly Elk Grove Unified School District (which doesn't mind leading the fight in indoctrinating students with a certain portion of The Pledge of Allegiance), told its teachers Monday not to cooperate with the event's central element.

I support these brave students wholeheartedly. Widespread, cowardly attempts to stifle alternative viewpoints of all types are rampant in America, and participants in The Day of Silence speak eloquently against such.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:13 AM on April 9, 2003

But who's going to stand up for the kids not getting laid at all? ;)
posted by stifford at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2003

snark aside, it sickens me the way language gets redefined to suit political agenda. a 'day of silence' which is specifically inclusive of ALL is 'supporting homosexuality'? yeah, right. in the same way speaking against war makes one a traitor. conservatives need to attend remedial english and freshman logic.
posted by quonsar at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2003

No, WolfDaddy, for exactly the same reasons I opposed being silent during "thought time" (or whatever it was called) at church and any other indoctrination-through-silence type event. It's always as if by torturing the non-believers you'll get them to believe. And if that's your viewpoint (and it's mine) then you find it abhorrent. Note that it doesn't matter if you agree with the cause or not to take that viewpoint.

Just my 2 cents. And don't take it personally. :-)
posted by shepd at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2003

shepd, when I was in high school and college in the 80s, every day was a day of silence for me and other queer students. One just didn't out themselves for fear of AIDS-paranoia-induced violence against us.

We've come a long way, and the fact that this event can even exist is testament to that fact...I'm curious to see if the participants of the event today are cognizant of what's gone before them.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2003

But who's going to stand up for the kids not getting laid at all? ;)

Who, if I remember my high school tyears were the overwhelming majority.

"The Eagle Forum" is pretty hysterical about The Day of Silence

They're worried that it's catching. And they just got over that case of the cooties.
posted by jonmc at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2003

and now a moment of silence to support a Safer Timmy and Lassie. sponsored by the Jock, Stoner and Zoom Dweebie Alliance for Safer Sitcoms in Syndication.
posted by quonsar at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2003

Hey, WolfDaddy, I feel bad for ya. I really do. Nobody should treat anyone like that. Although that one guy, whatever he may think, probably _did_ read the history of AIDS, which didn't bode well for the homosexual community at large, so of the lot, he was probably the most informed.

That being said I think there'd be a lot more success if people just pointed out other's fallacies (when they're old enough to comprehend the whole idea of logical fallacies, which won't be in high school) rather than try to make them "think" about what they're doing. Because if you think that making a bigot shut up for a minute is going to cause them to change their mind... it ain't happening! It's just a form of torture to non-believers, and the best you'll get from it is lip service.

The idea, unfortunately, is based on something that isn't true, that deeply bigoted people have a conscience that's going to right them. For those already on your side the minute is wasted, and worse yet, it could push them away if it's forced.

I didn't like it during church, and I don't think I'll like it any better when it's for a good cause instead.
posted by shepd at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2003

At my high school today several students were silent (though, being a teacher, I never shut up). It's a good way to get the straights to think about the kind of life WolfDaddy refers to above. It's especially hard in secondary schools, i think.
posted by kozad at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2003

Silence is torture? How about getting beat up or verbally abused? I really don't follow shepd's argument at all.

On preview, I get it now. I agree that you can't change a bigot's mind. But many kids haven't decided to be bigots yet. And if there's an event that gives them a moment to think about what's involved, there might be one or two fewer bigots.

Besides, is it really about forcing anyone to be silent? In high school, I can't imagine that's very successful.
posted by divrsional at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2003

Or maybe this will cause some of those non-bigots who don't normal think about it to think about it. maybe a few will then speak up when the non-thinking bigot hurls an insult or swings a fist.

It seems to me that this day of silence isn't intended to change a bigot's mind.
posted by tolkhan at 12:16 PM on April 9, 2003

divrsional, you have to understand, I'm a normally defiant person. :)

I honestly think it would be much more effective to discuss the topic in a class. Not just hand out flyers and expect kids to read them, not just have a teacher tell students what their attitudes should be, not just put up posters and hope they'll be read, but acutally discuss the idea. And the idea encompasses much more than gay rights. It's the entire idea of freedom, of critical thinking, of making descisions for oneself based on knowledge rather than dogma.

When presented in such a manner there are few arguments that bigots would have available to use against homosexuality. Without arguments there can be no belief for a critical thinker.

But instead, I expect it'll be another pamphlet brigade in which students are told what to think insted of choosing to think it for themselves.

Tell me and I'll forget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me and I'll understand. I firmly believe this to be true. And "involvement" isn't being led to an auditorium to be quiet for a minute. That's just passive ignorance of the issues.
posted by shepd at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2003

shepd, just to be clear, I'm not necessarily in favor of silence, or this event, as a means of changing the world. I think the sight of a bunch of high school and college students engaging in a same-sex kiss-a-thon would be a silent activity that would provoke a lot more reaction, for example, if that's what one is trying to do. I *do* think that the world is a different place now than twenty years ago: I can't flip on the TV without being, quite frankly, assaulted by queer imagery. A kid today can get access to information (not to mention even more hardcore imagery) regarding homosexuality with the touch of a button, but in a way that his or her parents don't necessarily have to know about (thus perpetuating a type of silence within the home, not necessarily a good thing). With all of that, though, kids still commit suicide, kids still beat other kids, kids still suffer--usually in silence--over their sexual or gender identity.

So, really, what progress has been made after all? It's a troubling question to me, and makes me wonder about the efficacy of such events as the day of silence, both to the particpants and to those that might want to think different.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2003

Ahh, but WolfDaddy, you're equating that self imposed silence with something "special". Nowadays, since that information is available, it's a choice to talk about it. Kids make really bad choices often, and not just about sexuality. They may borrow a porno mag, for example, and decide not to talk about it and instead do something else far more rash when it's found. I don't see this as being anything more than an overall pshychology problem for most kids -- I've met a lot of closed minded parents, but I know all of them care more for their child's happiness than they care for outmoded ideals. Just the kids unfortunately don't understand this, but I think they'd have an easier time coming to terms with it if they were taught critical thinking.

That's what's lacking in schools, and that's what really causes today's problems. I think most violence and bigotry in schools today can be traced to a lack of critical thinking. And instead of being taught what that is, students are just shielded from it, as if it were a dangerous weapon (it is -- it's the most dangerous weapon possible to a closed mind).

I just don't see a minute of silence encouraging fixing the real root of the problem. Teachers aren't going to start teaching critical thinking because of this. School needs to do more than teach kids how to add, paint, and bake cookies. It needs to teach kids how to explore new ideas with a clear head. After all, isn't that what learning is about?

The problem even persists into College. I can still remember watching a movie in accounting class that advocated every person should work exactly 35 hours a week, no more, no less. When the teacher asked our opinions and I said it was a prelude to communism, the entire class looked at me like I was from mars. Clearly the teacher (and class) expected a "Well, from an economic standpoint, the pros outweigh/do not outweigh the cons" response.
posted by shepd at 1:04 PM on April 9, 2003

Some kids at my high school participated in the Day of Silence. Not that many though. I'm not sure how it worked..because since people were just being silent sometimes the message didn't seem to be getting across.
Teacher: I wish someone had got Freddie to sign up for the Day of Silence! [Freddie=loud and obnoxious class clown]
Freddie: Hey! I'm not against the war.

Some teachers were also kind of stupidly joking about it. My math teacher stopped in the middle of class to read outloud a card with information about the day on the t-shirt of a boy in my class. My history teacher lamented that the Day of Silence was this semester and not last semester when 2 talky and opinionated girls (who were being silent today) were in his class. I guess so for one day he could say whatever he wanted with out them objecting.

The worst was English, in which a teacher put a silent-girl in a horrible position. He offered to make a quiz extra credit if she would talk. I think he meant for it just to be funny but it was mean -- way to turn the rest of the class against one student.

So all in all -- I think I agree with the people who have said that it should be more about discussion than silence. It's a neat idea, but it didn't really achieved what it meant to; at least not in my school. On the other hand, maybe it is a sign of progress that DoS is being recognised by my school. Last year no one knew about it.
posted by puffin at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2003

I'm down with what you're saying shepd, it's just that in my experience with educators (I publish textbooks), the reality is that discussions like that are not encouraged. True, the occasional brave thoughtful teacher will raise important issues in a sensitive way, but for the most part they're cowed by the school board into playing it safe.

And besides, I think part of the point of the silence is to encourage discussion about why it's happening. But you gotta have a gimmick to get people to play along.
posted by divrsional at 1:22 PM on April 9, 2003

Meh. In our school kids were supposed to pay money for the privledge of being silent, by wearing BRIGHT RED T-Shirts with huge logos. They sold a moderate number of T-Shirts, which is odd because wearing one of those signals you as either a fag or someone with really left-wing politics - which defeats the whole point of being ... silent. The whole point is for EVERYONE to be silent, to stop the hazing. Now the day only renders the kids who are, in fact, questioning their sexuality, or supporting those who do, silent, whereas it doesn't affect any of the people who are causing the fags grief. So it merely serves as a star of David that points out the queers in our school. Dumbasses. Gimmicks are pointless - you're better off staying closeted until you escape high school.
posted by Veritron at 8:36 PM on April 9, 2003


I remember "blue jeans day", when if you wore blue jeans, it meant that you were gay or something. This was really appreciated by the kids who couldn't afford or didn't have pants other than blue jeans, usually (real) "cowboy" types.

To make matters worse, in a high school with maybe 15 black students, the MLK assembly had all of 15 attendees, for some reason. So they decided to make it mandatory. Oddly enough, these same (real) "cowboy" types resented it horribly, not because they were racist, but because instead of doing stuff they wanted to do, such as the auto mechanics and ag taught on "their" side of the school, they were forced to learn about people as foreign to them as Martians. Many of them had literally not met a black person until they were in high school, and neither knew or cared to know.

Oh, and there were gay students. In about the proportion of homosexuals in the population at large. Maybe 1 to 2%. Out of a student body of 500, this meant that five or ten students went about their business and nobody really cared one way or another.

True indifference brings with it freedom. The squeaky wheel gets greased.
posted by kablam at 9:55 PM on April 9, 2003

i go to what is supposedly the largest public university in the us, and from what i could tell, no one was being silent.

i saw exactly one flyer on campus. and it had a picture of a girl with her mouth taped shut and it said something like "she couldn't take her girlfriend to the senior prom." all i have to say about that is, that girl is a fucking pussy. i almost took my girlfriend to my prom but we broke up so i took my best guy friend instead. life's not fair, and if you want to excercise your right to be different, then you probably will be ostracized. ignorance in any kind of society is inevitable.

i'm not saying i didn't get a fair amount of harassment for being gay in high school or middle school, cause god knows i did. and not only that, teachers, and even one of my principals in middle school, discriminated against me for it. the sad thing is, i don't even "look" or act gay. i feel worse for kids who are completely flaming that don't live in a place like austin, texas where people are expected to be liberal.

so as someone who's been a victim of minor hate crimes against homos, this is a pretty lame protest activity or whatever you want to call it. there will always be homophobes, but that isn't a problem that a fucking protest can fix. people who are afraid of catching a case of the gays are usually harboring some kind of same sex tendencies and take it out on whoever it is they want to bone. either that or they like jesus way more than they should, and everyone knows jesus hates homos.
posted by natasharama at 2:42 PM on April 10, 2003

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