Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Marc Fisher Online Comments

Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher made some comments last month in his "Potomac Confidential" online discussion, which are interesting. In the introductory segment of the discussion, he said:
Yay to Michelle Turner of the Einstein High School PTA in Kensington, and to other parent activists around Montgomery County who are rising in protest against the school board's decision to impose discussion of "sexual variations" on eighth graders, whether they are developmentally ready for that or not. The public schools, Turner says, are "not the department of social services," a fact that seems lost on school administrators.
sion, he said:

This does sound like the "recall" group has the moral high ground, forcing young children -- just out of the crib -- to consider "sexual variations," which, well, the imagination can go wild with such a phrase.

A little later in the discussion, Fisher elaborates, and in his words we see the reason that clear-thinking people need to organize to support the school board:
I have no problem with teaching kids about homosexuality in the context of a sex ed course in high school. Where schools run into trouble is when they decide that all students at the elementary or middle school level must be subjected to classes about sexual behavior that go way beyond science instruction and well into discussion of mores and techniques, decisions that are best left to families to make for themselves.

A casual reader -- and most people are "casual readers" of the news, they don't have time to find out all the details of every story they see -- would be led to suppose, from this discussion, that the proposed curriculum goes "way beyond science instruction and well into discussion of mores and techniques."

Mores -- the right and the wrong of sexual behavior, is a tricky subject. The curriculum proposes talking with eighth-graders about sexual orientation, and the fact that some people grow up to be gay. It appears that simply presenting this fact -- and who would dispute it, really? -- is interpreted by some religious extremists as an endorsement of homosexuality, or as a suggestion to kids that they should go out and find someone of their own sex to experiment with.

It is likely that at least one kid in every class (by anyone's statistics) is, in fact, experiencing some same-sex attraction, and may have questions about how to interpret their own feelings. As far as mores go, the "recall" crowd would like to tell these kids that their feelings are aberrant and abominable and must be suppressed. One of the leaders of that group recently referred to the "gay agenda," by which we suppose she meant that gay people are actively recruiting new members from our classrooms, as if someone were telling the kids that they should run right down to the nearest gay hangout for some training.

Of course that isn't what they'll be taught. The curriculum does not tell them that their feelings are evil or sinful, and it seems that teachers have some materials that recommend sources of information and support for individuals who find themselves growing up gay. The "recall" gang interprets this as advocacy, and as teaching of values and mores. Sorry, folks, that's as neutral as you can get in this situation, the school's not going to promote your bizarre religious views in the classroom. You'll have to teach that at home.

Fisher's other concern, besides mores, was the teaching of "techniques." And this is where we might work out a conciliation with the recall group's views. The proposed curriculum doesn't teach anything at all about techniques used by homosexuals. Kids'll have to pick that part of it up on the playground, it's just a little much for the classroom. The eighth-grade discussion, as far as I can tell, involves sexual orientation and attraction, but no tab-A-into-slot-B technical details.

Why did I see hope in this for conciliation? Because the recall group must know, they don't have a leg to stand on if they want to insist that homosexual orientation is just something a person chooses. Even their quack psychologists can't claim to change orientation, their "ex-gays" are still attracted to people of their own sex. What they can change is behavior. If the fundamentalist types want to believe that gay sex is evil, they can insist that their adherents abstain from it. Sit in the pews and fantasize, if that is your nature, but don't act on your impulses. Well, all of us learn to do that, even straight people control their urges.

So I suggest we meet in this middle ground: the school teaches about sexual orientation as an emotional phenomenon, and says nothing about non-heterosexual concrete sexual behaviors. Concerned parents can teach their gay children not to "do that," and the school will teach them that those who have those feelings are not freaks.

The real issue here with Fisher's discussion is that, in framing his comment as if the Board of Education had proposed teaching "mores and techniques" to babes in grade school, he leads readers to believe that that is, in fact, part of the curriculum. The truth is, the curriculum barely glosses over the surface of sexual variation, simply presents students with a little bit of knowledge about it. It does not encourage them to do anything, or even tell them what it is that "those people" do. It's a good curriculum, not bold, not revolutionary, not even very liberal, just a few high-level facts that everyone should know.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now that Mary Cheney and Heather Poe are pregnant? As Jay Leno's monologue humorously suggests, 'It's a MIRACLE!' Of course, on the playground, they know it's not a miracle - and the presence of male sperm somehow has figure in there somewhere. Some unpleasant pictures come to mind.

December 11, 2006 9:13 AM  

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