The kids file into the high school classroom with the usual talking, bickering and teasing. Inevitably, one student will loudly ridicule another.
"Oh, that's so gay!"
Suppose you're the teacher. What do you do?
According to the kids I've spoken to, you probably don't do anything. You pretend you didn't hear anything and go about your business.
Those words appeared in this space in April 2003, and I regret that things seem not to have changed for the better ... and may well have gotten worse.
I'm told the phrase "that's so gay" is still heard repeatedly at Oneonta High and probably every other middle and high school in our area.
It's not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of ignorance and prejudice.
Let's face it, it's only a hop, skip and a jump from pejorative banter at the local high school to what happened last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington when author and columnist Ann Coulter referred to John Edwards as a "faggot."
"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards," Coulter told the group. "But it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I _ so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."
Coulter's previous outrageous statements include saying that certain widows of 9/11 victims enjoyed their husbands' deaths because it brought them some celebrity. She also opined this about Muslims.
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Coulter is clearly a wingnut and an embarrassment to mainstream conservatives. Several right-leaning writers and Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney ripped her after her slur against Edwards.
But what really is troubling is the reaction from the audience at the conference. It's on YouTube. Go ahead and listen for yourself.
Her referring to Edwards (who is married, a father and by all accounts heterosexual) as a "faggot" evoked cheers, laughter and even an appreciative whistle.
Why were those people celebrating? What kind of upbringing taught them to react like that?
What kind of upbringing will the next generation have if it hears "that's so gay, that's so gay, that's so gay" every day?
To blame the schools isn't fair, but still, they can and should be doing more. At Berkeley High School in California, a gay student club distributed buttons with the words "That's so gay" crossed out.
Not a bad idea at all.
Oneonta High Principal Nancy Osborn told me that several programs are in place there to fight intolerance and that all inappropriate and threatening language is dealt with when brought to the administration's attention.
But, I asked her, if a student is in the halls and loudly saying "nigger" or "dirty Jew" or "that's so gay," would a teacher or administrator treat all the slurs with the same seriousness?
"No," she said with what I perceived as a bit of regret in her voice. "Some terms are just becoming more common. For instance, the (four-letter) 'F' word is very common. It's inappropriate, and we address it, but a lot of students feel they can say a lot of things that our generation wouldn't say."
In Santa Rosa, Calif., a high school freshman named Rebekah Rice was recently teased about being a Mormon by classmates who asked, "Do you have 10 moms?"
Rebekah replied: "That's so gay." She got sent to the principal's office, then received a warning and a notation in her student file.
The kids who teased her about being Mormon apparently weren't disciplined, and that was patently unfair, in addition to being another example of ignorance and foolishness.
Rebekah's parents are suing the school, saying it violated her First Amendment rights when she used a phrase that "enjoys widespread currency in youth culture."
If the phrase "enjoys" (a silly word in this context) such currency, it's because parents, teachers and other grown-ups don't challenge it, and thus give it their tacit approval.
Think about how debilitating, humiliating and confusing it is to be a gay kid and having to hear time and again that what you are is synonymous with something awful.
Jim Koury, editor of the local gay publication, "Diversity Rules," talked to me about the "social ostracism, depression and intense peer pressure" for local youngsters to stay in the closet.
"Look at the suicide rates among gay youths," Koury said. "They're much higher than for young people who are straight."
John Edwards, responding to Coulter's speech, said it was "hateful, selfish, childish behavior."
Ms. Coulter is probably a lost cause, but we can and must do more to deal with the "childish behavior" of our children before they grow up to be bigots.
Finally getting rid of "that's so gay" would seem to be a good first step.
Sam Pollak is editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.Continued ...
- And the music goes round and round
- When did pranks turn into vandalism?
- Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
- Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
- There was just no telling about snow days
- Cary Brunswick
It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
It has been 55 years since Fidel Castro and his bands of nationalist fighters and supporters took over the government of Cuba. The United States immediately took issue with that regime change, and ever since has had serious problems with the tiny nation just south of the Florida Keys.Continued ...
- Unconventional events changed my outlook
- Keystone XL pipeline is still a terrible idea
- We shouldn't trade privacy for security
- I'm pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis
- It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."Continued ...
- The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
- It's no wonder businesses avoid us
- How to bridge a widening wealth gap
- Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
Good grooming, beauty and style seemed to be a recurring theme in the news around Oneonta during the month of March 1964.Continued ...
- Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
- Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
- Early efforts to halt Silver Creek were slow going
- Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s
- Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
- Rick Brockway
It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
This has been a tough winter. In fact, it has been one of the coldest winters on record. Now don't get me wrong, I love winter and I always have. I've always believed that people who don't like winter don't have anything to do when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. But I've never had that problem.
- Animals' behavior a sign of wild winter
- Opossum is unique in many ways
- It can be too cold sometimes
- It's tough to say what you really did see
- It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
- Sam Pollak
Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
Discuss politics or religion in any establishment that specializes in dispensing alcohol, and -- proprietors warn -- the discussion is highly likely to result in you waking up on the tavern floor and spitting out teeth, probably your own.Continued ...
- The world must think we're nuts
- Mistakes easy to take ... if they're not yours
- Celebrate 2013 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
- The feds still aren't coming for your guns
- Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues