Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Parents Learning to Teach Their Children

The Gazette has an article this morning about some parents who are learning how to talk to their kids about sex: Gaithersburg Middle PTA takes sex-ed message to parents.

It's not exactly easy to see the reason for this meeting. But from some comments that are made, it appears that the idea of the meeting was to promote parents talking to the children about sex, so the schools won't have to.
Amid new debate over sex education issues in public schools, Gaithersburg Middle parents are stepping up efforts to teach their children about condoms and sexually transmitted diseases.

At a PTA meeting last week, a dozen parents practiced unrolling the latex sheaths onto a partner's fingers while dissecting the best route for talking to their kids about sex.

"Everybody wants to think that it isn't an issue at this point [in their children's lives]," said PTA president Connie Mulloy, who set up the meeting. "But it's here. And parents need to be prepared to talk about it."

The PTA invited health teacher Frieda Cooney, whose abstinence-based program touches sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Gaithersburg Middle, to give the PTA a refresher course on sexual-health issue.

The goal, Mulloy said, was to present parents with the information they need to discuss sex with their kids.

"What I do in the classroom only supports what happens at home," said Cooney, who also writes health curriculum for the county.

That's all positive. Teach parents how to do it so they can teach their kids.

Parents need to talk with their children: this is like a politician speaking out against crime. It's obvious, and easy, to say that parents should teach their own children about sex.

But look at that story: a dozen parents. You know how many kids go to that middle school? This would be, like, one per cent of the parents.

Oh, and they interview one guy who we know, from the last school board meeting, sends his kids to private schools. He's a ringer. That means "a dozen parents" is more like "eleven parents" of MCPS students.

It is tempting to hold a personal opinion here: I could say, I don't need any school to teach my little angels about sex. We talk about it at home. We grown-ups tell the kids what we know, and they have questions sometimes.

But there's more to it. My wife and I don't know everything about sexual behavior and contraception and what diseases are out there and how they're spread. We don't have statistics from the CDC at our fingertips. We have personal experience, but we don't have the special access to facts that teachers can have. So I'm glad that the school is able to present that information, in a cool and objective way. My kids will learn something beyond what we have been able to teach them.

Oh, and besides that, I want the other students to know these things. Hey, my kids are perfect, but the kids they go out with might not be. I can't screen their friends, I can't force them to attend a short seminar on contraception and disease prevention, never mind good manners. So I want the kids my kids date to know the facts.
But some Gaithersburg Middle parents at the meeting said they feared a vocal minority that opposes the curriculum will hurt overall sex education.

[PTA president Connie] Mulloy urged members to make their stance known.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm agreeing with [those who oppose the education] by my silence," she added, discussing comments made on PTA Web list serves. "It's worth writing something even if you're OK with [the education]."

And that is the hard part. We formed this web site mainly just to support common sense. Students need to be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about sex.

Everybody knows that.

As parents, we joke -- "My kids know more about sex than I do" -- but that's not true. They're teenagers, and they only know what they hear from us, and from their friends, and on TV and the Internet. They need the facts.

And everybody knows that.

And you might feel kinda dumb saying it over and over again, but it has to be said, because there are people out there actively campaigning to keep your kids and my kids in the dark. If they don't want their own kids to learn these things, they can simply sign them up for a different unit -- they can sign them up for an abstinence-only class, if that's what they like. Some of these people don't even send their kids to our school district, but they still fight to keep your kids and mine in the dark. It's not their children they're concerned about, it's your children, and mine.

So, people, we have to speak the obvious. Our children need to be taught the truth. Say it out loud, write letters, fight for it.


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