Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Reply to the Recall Group

I just saw a defensive email posted to a school listserv by one of the Recall group members, accusing teachthefacts.org of "character assassination," "insults," and "sweeping generalizations," among other things.

The author of this email, a parent (we presume, not all recall group members are) in Gaithersburg, defends the recall group. She says:
The Citizens for Responsible Curriculum (CRC), of which I am a member, has no interest in recalling the BOE, despite the initial website name. The website was named by a concerned MC citizen who set it up, and indicates the initial reflex response many people had to learning about the controversial curriculum changes that were voted through not one week after the November election. The fact is that parents of both political parties and from many different ethnic, religious and secular backgrounds are working together in the CRC.

Oh! So much to say!

We don't think the recall group reflects any particular religious affiliation -- we know there are Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Mormons, etc. in their group. We are concerned about the involvement of the religious right in this issue, and we do wonder among ourselves where some of the recall group's backing comes from, and we suspect that some of it comes from organizations like James Dobson's big-dollar evangelistic organization. Well, we know some of it comes from there.

And yes, we do get a chuckle out of people with a website called "RecallMontgomerySchoolBoard.org" saying "We don't want to recall the school board." Don't forget, a number of us attended your organizational meeting. It may be that your official spokespersons say in public that they do not want to recall the school board, but a lot of your members do. It's not far under the surface. At the very least, it is extremely inconsistent. And funny.

The author says:
The goals of the CRC are to:
1. ask the BOE to rescind its curriculum changes
2. keep the original Family Life curriculum in place and intact and
3. start from scratch on amendments using a more balanced variety of unbiased sources to support the curriculum.

Now, this is the meat of it, isn't it? The BOE worked for years on these curriculum changes. The funny thing is, some of the leaders of the recall group were on the citizen's committee that proposed these changes. They had years -- literally, years -- to persuade the other committee members to include their materials, and they failed. They failed because the materials and viewpoints they wanted to include are extreme, uninformative, and prejudicial.

Having failed to introduce their anti-gay material to the new curriculum, they want to keep the original one. Well, the original curriculum was no curriculum at all. Teachers were simply told not to talk about homosexuality unless a student asked. And then what? Wing it. Now they will be given some information to present. It's not pro-homosexual information, it doesn't encourage kids to experiment sexually, it's just information: some people are gay. Some kids try things with each other. Some families have two mommies. Here's how you put on a condom.

Ah, number three, start from scratch. Do you see how silly this is? The recall group members who were on the original committee submitted all the literature and ideas they wanted. Members of the committee received the stuff, looked it over, and decided against it. The committee wasn't biased against them -- if anything, it is incredible that our community would put somebody representing the Christian Right hoax-group "PFOX" on a committee like this at all! The Daughters of the American Revolution had a member? How'd that happen? And they say the group was biased? An objective observer would think that the committee was stacked in their favor. And it voted, after considering everything, to accept some proposals and reject others.

This group just can't play by the rules.
Character assassination by some uncalled for:
The group over at 'teach the facts' has been quite aggressive in their attempt to define us negatively. Their use of insulting character assassination has been uncalled for and disappointing, especially coming from a few parents at GHS. Let me dispel a few myths:
-The CRC does not propose or favor an 'abstinence only' curriculum.
-It is not made up of 'religious zealots' or parents who do not want their children learning about condoms or homosexuality.
-The CRC has no interest in recalling the Board.

Okay, it's true, we make fun of you sometimes. It's not character assassination, it's just that ... we can't take you seriously.

Here's why.

In our world, a group of adults can be asked to do something, say, make a decision, and they can discuss it among themselves, and then they announce their decision. In our world, if some people don't agree about something, we give them a chance to explain their point of view, and we discuss it. And then we decide. If people are on a committee, a vote is a good way to decide something. Sometimes a leader makes a decision, but we would probably do what the citizen's committee did, and vote. And we don't require the vote to be unanimous, in our world we know that sometimes people make compromises.

So yes, we do find it rather primitive that, once you realize that you really won't get your way, you go crying to the national organizations, you start lobbying to overthrow the school board, you go on the radio and the newspapers and tell everybody how unfair it all was, and imply that you didn't have a fair chance to participate in the decision process.

It's not character assassination. We could get angry. Well, sometimes we do, but generally we remain cheerful, knowing that we are being reasonable.

For instance, if the school board wanted to teach kids about "flavored condoms," I think the teachthefacts.org people might agree that that was a little much. We wouldn't fight to keep something like that in the curriculum. On the other hand, we note that the recall group tells people that there are flavored condoms in the curriculum, when of course there aren't. It seems unreasonable to inflame people with mistruths, just to get them to sign your petitions or whatever.

We stay cheerful. We do not -- I mean, we really do not -- like to see your big-money national organizations coming into our community and telling our school district how and what to teach.

As for the rest of it... of course you guys want abstinence education, you say it over and over. Of course you don't want your kids -- or my kids -- to learn about homosexuality or condoms. Why else did you pick this fight? As far as recalling the school board ... right. Just an accident in the name of the web site... uh-huh, gotcha.
The CRC has not participated in name calling although we have been called many rude names.

See what I mean? We are forced to retain our sense of humor about this. I myself saw Michelle Turner, your leader, apologize to the school board for threats by your group's members. We have all seen the crazy stuff your members posted on your message board. We know why you took it down -- it was some of the most hateful spewing imaginable. Name-calling, why, yes it was.

And then you say something like this.

Yes, we brand your approach as bigoted, and we have a number of ways to say it. Nothing personal, as you repeatedly point out, you seem like a nice enough bunch of people. Some of our group are good friends with some of your group. It's not about that.

The curriculum teaches eighth graders that some people are gay, and gives definitions for various well-known sexual orientations. It gives some facts about what some people experience, and very little about what they do. The curriculum teaches tenth-graders how to put a condom on a cucumber. It does not encourage kids to indulge their appetites, it does not promote any lifestyle or orientation. The new curriculum would tend to promote tolerance, and it might make a gay kid feel a little less freakish. And that's what you object to.
If I have any 'fear' it is that the mean-spiritedness and intolerance on the part of these few but loud 'supporters' of the BOE's curriculum changes will drive a wedge in our school community. My hope is that reasonable people will be able to get past the divisiveness coming from that group of individuals at teachthefacts long enough to actually hear what many parents are concerned about.

I went to your December Fourth meeting to ask the question: what's the issue? And I heard your members, your leaders, explain what the issue is. The issue is your fear of something you call the "gay agenda." Well, I'm not gay, don't have any gay relatives, I know some gay people but have no special investment in that, and I really don't care if somebody is gay or not. As far as I know, none of the individuals who maintain the teachthefacts.org web site are gay. It appears to me that gay people want to be treated like anybody else -- if there's a "gay agenda" it's just that -- and that's okay with me. I'm a parent and I want my children to be taught the facts. Something doesn't need to be swept under the rug because some people find it threatening.

I encourage people who are undecided to go read the Board of Education's report on this matter: November 9th 2004 minutes. Read what the curriculum is. See if you can find the scary part.

Don't let these radicals jerk you around. Make up your own mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi; I've been following this issue for some time, and appreciate what a tremendous resource this site is. My question is this: in that parent's letter, she refers to us as the "few but loud 'supporters'" of the BOE curriculum. I know I--and many of us--consider their viewpoint to be in the minority. Do we have numbers. even roughly? I haven't actually been to meetings, as some of you have. Do we have good reason to believe that most of Montgomery County IS on our side of the issue? How large is their organization?

Don't get me wrong; I still strongly support the BOE's decision, and would even if I were the only person in this county who did. But for argument's sake, I'm wondering how large their camp really is.

Thanks, and keep up the great work.

Kristen C. Argenio,
Silver Spring

January 18, 2005 3:33 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Good question, and of course nobody really knows the answer. These are very personal questions, it is hard to tolerate something you really can't relate to or understand. We know that Montgomery County was 2-to-1 for Kerry. The good news there is the implication that the religious right does not have a big stronghold here. I hope people will let their consciences rule over the uneasiness they may feel regarding sex in general and gays specifically.

Both sides feel they have the majority here. But we really don't know.

January 18, 2005 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jim. I have to think that the BOE's unanimous ratification of the new program is a good sign for our camp, but one never knows. (I also thought Kerry would win.) :)


January 19, 2005 2:46 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

So did I. And now we have to stagger back to our feet and keep punching.

January 19, 2005 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your right... you're gonna have to keep on fighting. Because we're not going to let you "corrupt" our children along with the BOE, the Citizens Advisory Committee and the obvious underlying homosexual Gay agenda. If you don't see anything wrong with some of the items on the curriculum... you must be blind! Hence the reason you can't see it! We parents can take care of teaching our own children about this!

Thank you very much!

January 23, 2005 5:04 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

As usual, in response to comments like Anonymous makes, I will ask readers to go read the school board's report on the curriculum.


If you see a "gay agenda" there, or some threat to your family or your way of life, then by all means join up with the recall group.

A lot of people like Anoonymous here are satisfied to listen to somebody tell them what the document says -- I guarantee those terms like "gay agenda" come from somebody else. If you're like that, then you are browsing the wrong web site.


January 24, 2005 11:51 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

"We parents can take care of teaching our own children about this!"

Yes, Anonymous, you can still opt your child out of the human sexuality portion of health education classes in MCPS and "take care of teaching [y]our own children about this."

January 29, 2005 10:18 AM  

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