Yesterday Obama announced Arne Duncan, head of the Chicago school system, as education secretary. With the reputation of a tough, results-gettin' reformer and an agenda to make schools so competitive you'll think you're in a Korean prep school, his appointment on paper sounds like an A. Minus.
He chilled his reputation in the Windy City this Fall with the proposal of a gay-friendly school. Not surprisingly, it was met with resistance. After a few edits —
sexual orientation — he reproposed it as a safe haven for all bullied students. But at the last minute he withdrew the plan, promising a revised version next year.
Opposition came not only from social conservatives but also from liberals and, let's be inclusive, moderate conservatives who called it segregation. And right, I get it. At first light, it does sound like a plan to hoard gay teens in a separate school lined with rainbow-colored lockers; however, after reading about New York City's gay high school, I decided it's not. To find out why,
Not every, or even close to every, gay teen will attend a gay-friendly school. They are for teens who are ostracized by families and peers, often homeless, and more likely to drop out. More Rickie from My So-Called Life and less (OK way less) Eric van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl. It's nothing more than a niche school for at-risk students, like schools for pregnant teens and young mothers, as a part of the increasing trend to break large schools down to small, specialized ones that better serve communities.