Thursday, November 20, 2008

School for Rejects

I hate stories like this. As a fan of rational thinking and intellectual responses to difficult situations, it’s particularly painful to watch people with the best of intentions do something ridiculous in the name of those intentions. But there’s really no word to describe the proposed Social Justice Solidarity High School in Chicago’s school district. Previously, the school’s planners wanted to call it Pride Campus, and it was intended to be a safe haven for gay, lesbian, transgendered, or sexually ambiguous students who would otherwise be harassed in regular public schools. The new proposal would set up the school as an all-inclusive place for any kind of social outcast, from goths to geeks to physically disabled kids. Again, the good intentions are obvious here. You don’t want any kid to feel threatened or, worse, be harmed at school. And there’s some evidence to suggest that gay teen suicide rates are disturbingly high. But at the same time, doesn’t this kind of segregation just make the problem worse? Aside from the risk of overprotection and coddling, wouldn’t this make the regular public schools just a rampant breeding ground for homophobic, hateful bullies? Also, there’s something special about being the minority outcast in a vast population of fools. These kids don’t need a special school. They need a dark boiler room and a house where the parents don’t get home until late. They need to lead normal lives—to bottle up their insecurity and resentment and seething anger so they can use it to skip ahead of everyone else in college. There’s no point in being a reject when you never face any rejection. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail here, and Chicago’s outcast teens will be able to get back to secretly crying in their rooms at night. Depression builds character, and if you’re having too good a time in high school, chances are you’re doing it wrong. More details here.

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