Monday, February 21, 2005

Is It That Bad?

From the school board's report on changes to the sex education curriculum:
The Grade 8 changes include definitions of sexual identity and sexual orientation. Notably, the recommended curriculum includes the following information: that one's sexual orientation is the "persistent pattern" of attraction to "members of the same or opposite sex" (FLHS Content Outline I.B.3); that homosexuality is not a mental disorder; that "[m]ost experts . . . have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice; it's a natural response;" that having some homosexual feelings does not necessarily mean that one is homosexual; and that "[h]aving homosexual parents/guardians does not predispose you to being homosexual."

Woo! That's a bunch of stuff.

In talking to someone recently, I got an interesting response to this. I think some people are reading a lot into this section of text. Let me go through this dense paragraph for a second.

definitions of sexual identity and sexual orientation. Well, that seems appropriate for eighth graders, who will have developed the sophistication to go beyond the "snips and snails" stereotypes of their nursery-school days. By eighth grade, they will have noticed that some girls still play ball with the boys, and some boys are more interested in cooking than fighting, and they will have fretted about these things if it's themselves, or gossiped about them if it's somebody else. This is the stuff that consumes eighth graders' time.

The person I was talking to seemed to think that "sexual identity" meant that the curriculum would go into issues of people who felt they were the opposite sex "from their physical equipment," was, I think, they way he put it. He seemed to assume that this was going to be about transgender issues, and stuff like that. But look, that's not in there, I don't think that's what they're talking about here. The curriculum gives teachers a definition, as auxilliary information, for transgender, but it's not something they get hit over the head with in eighth grade. The teacher's prepared if a student asks about it, that's all.

Sexual orientation. Eighth graders know that some people are straight and some are gay. Some eighth graders are wondering about themselves. It's the perfect time to tell them what's what. So the schools will give them a definition.

And here it is:
one's sexual orientation is the "persistent pattern" of attraction to "members of the same or opposite sex" OK, by eighth grade, a kid knows some people are straight and some are gay. Now they learn that that difference is called "sexual orientation." It's a vocabulary word, and a pretty good one, really. The definition is not overly prurient, it doesn't encourage people to try things, it's just a definition. They get lots of 'em. They're getting ready for the SAT, you know.

that homosexuality is not a mental disorder This just comes from the pros, the shrinks. No mental health, psychotherapy, or counseling organization considers homosexuality a disease. In fact, almost all of them have issued statements to that effect.

I should note here that there are some people who make a living trying to "convert" people who are gay. This is unethical and almost never succeeds. It appears to me that these "therapists" are simply pandering to some hardline religious groups; I don't think there are any who are not strongly associated with some religious sect. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association is the official source for mental health diagnoses. Homosexuality is not in there. Gay people can function just as well as straight ones, there's nothing wrong with them. It's not a disease.

that "[m]ost experts . . . have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice; it's a natural response;" Yes, again, "most experts" have concluded that. You can dig up a couple of guys who make a living telling gay people they can choose to be straight, but if that ever happens it is very rare. It is an ideological argument, not well supported by evidence. Somebody might say that if you could change from gay to straight, you weren't gay in the first place. Anyway, given that some people try to argue it's a choice -- and in fact, you can choose to engage in homosexual behaviors, no problem there, prisoners for example do it all the time, it doesn't make them gay -- we can note that this sentence in the BOE report only says that "most experts ... have concluded" it. And that part is definitely accurate.

Ah, "natural response." Hard one, eh? The conservatives argue that there's no gay gene. OK, there's no single gene for most human traits, big deal. The fact is, nobody really understands why some people are gay. But given that it doesn't seem to impair their ability to function in the world, and that it's found in every society on the earth, and in fact that homosexuality is commonplace among most species of animals, it does not seem especially incorrect to call it "natural." Natural doesn't mean "we can explain it," or "there's a known gene for it," it means, "it occurs in nature."

Some people think that calling it natural means you are encouraging people to try it. You think about the pressure that eighth grade kids are under. You think that hearing in a class that homosexuality -- the main thing that anybody in eighth grade gets teased about -- is natural is going to make them go out and try it? Wow, you don't know kids, do you?

Tell ya what, I'll play along, it normalizes it: so what? It's normal. Get over it. If you think otherwise, explain it to your kid yourself. Values should be taught in the home and the church, not in the schools.

that having some homosexual feelings does not necessarily mean that one is homosexual; Is there a problem there? A girl thinks another girl is cute -- does that make her gay? Of course not. This should actually be a point in the conservatives' favor, isn't it? I mean, if everybody who ever was attracted to someone of their own sex was gay, there wouldn't be anyone left to say how evil it was.

and that "[h]aving homosexual parents/guardians does not predispose you to being homosexual." I direct the reader to this report at the American Psychological Association's website: Lesbian and Gay Parenting. This article reviews lots and lots of research on the effects of gay and lesbian couples raising children. Everybody will find something here to support their views. The summary of the section about sexual identity:
In summary, the research suggests that children of lesbian mothers develop patterns of gender-role behavior that are much like those of other children.

No data are available as yet in this area for children of gay fathers.

Further, in discussing sexual orientation:
A number of investigators have also studied a third component of sexual identity: sexual orientation [references deleted for brevity]. In all studies, the great majority of offspring of both gay fathers and lesbian mothers described themselves as heterosexual. Taken together, the data do not suggest elevated rates of homosexuality among the offspring of lesbian or gay parents.

So it does not look there'd be any big controversy there. Doesn't happen, the research says it doesn't happen, the sex education curriculum says it doesn't happen.

When I first learned that some parents were shocked and indignant about this curriculum, I went and read it. And I could not for the life of me figure out what was so shocking. I want to protect my children's innocence. I don't want them exposed to filth and perversion in the schools. I sincerely hope they abstain from sex until the right moment sometime in the distant future. I want them to learn what's what, because frankly, I don't know all this stuff, and also, kids are more likely to listen to somebody other than the parents who are constantly lecturing them about the importance of doing their homework.

This curriculum is very moderate, very informational. Please support your Montgomery School Board with letters, and join the Yahoo group: .


Post a Comment

<< Home