I was talking to a young mother the other day who was disturbed that her children were calling each other "faggot". We traced it back to a 10 year old boy who apparently uses it regularly as a general purpose pejorative.
I know the kid's family, and I've never ever heard them use that word, whether describing sausages, embers or gays. It's not as if it's common on TV or pop music (I don't think I've heard it on the radio at all except for an occasional uncensored version of "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits). So where did he get that from?
Apparently he got it from his school buddies. I'll grant that things were tamer when I was his age, but I didn't run across that word until I was about 12 or so. Even then I had to look it up in the dictionary - it hadn't occurred to me that there was such a thing as homosexuality.
A few years earlier I had heard a family friend use a certain compound word in a context where he clearly disapproved of someone's behavior, but he didn't say it as if it were profane. Cool - now I had a new name for the kids I couldn't catch if we were playing tag. So I hollered it at the top of my lungs one summer's day before AC was popular, so the people who weren't cooling off outside could hear it through their windows for blocks around.
I was summoned and grilled about this. No, I didn't know what it meant, but it really didn't take much thinking to figure it out. People did that? Well, I guess that's what the girls were doing in those pictures I found, but I thought they were gross.
I learned more as time went on. About the time I learned "faggot" I remember learning a word for a certain sexual practice which kind of revolted and amused me, and I immediately embraced the word as a nickname for a kid named Cornell. But even then it was in a heterosexual context. I could figure out that it could be done to either sex, but that was just in principle - it never occurred to me that men actually did it to each other. (and later I learned that it wasn't even reciprocal. Not that way, ya perv - I mean that there are two roles, and typically the "tops" didn't trade places with the "bottoms". If I'm wrong, well, ignorance has its place.)
Would my education have been better served with information like this? (Nasty Material Alert!) It seems that it's something of a priority to present such, um, educational material in the hands of kids.
Would it have harmed me? I guess it would depend on how much influence my teachers had on me, and whether my parents had found out. I hadn't had any counter-education, so my reactions were my own, and I don't know that I was different from other local kids in that regard.
So I have to wonder if this type of education won't backfire on the proponents.