Saturday, March 05, 2005

Spin and The Times

The Washington Times reported this morning on the pilot schools.
The Montgomery County [Md.] public sachool [sic] system yesterday announced the three high schools and three middle schools that will participate in a pilot program for a sex education curriculum that has riled some parents and activist groups throughout the county.

Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring will take part in the high school course in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers.

Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown, Tilden Middle School in Rockville and White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring will participate in the middle school curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family.

School system officials have noted that some schools were unenthusiastic about testing the new curriculum, which also will teach students to "develop" a sexual identity and that gender identity is "a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female." Schools chosen for sex course in Montgomery

Ladies and gentlemen, we present for your reading entertainment: spin.

Look, we know the Times is a conservative newspaper. I remember once I got a free month of it, and I finally asked them to stop it after two weeks. Not to badmouth it, but it's just not my kind of paper.

And this reporter calls us sometimes. He seems like a nice enough guy, he seems to be taking good notes, asks a lot of good questions, checks to make sure he got the answer right.

So ... where does this stuff come from?

Yes, 10th graders "will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers." They got that part right. There's a new video showing a lady putting a condom on a cucumber. The video replaces the old video, which shows how to put a condom on ... an erect penis.

Describing it as a "curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family" is an interesting twist. I'm absolutely sure nobody says anything about what's a new or an old American family. There are many gay couples who raise children, and I believe they have always been considered "families." Maybe the kid's adopted, OK, couples with adopted kids are families. Some families don't have any kids at all. Some families don't have any mom, or any dad, and some have two of both. Thousands of families out in Utah have two or more moms, and they're still families. There's nothing "new" about this use of the word, except that some radical conservatives have decided to exclude gay families from their definition. OK, OK, so who's surprised when The Times twists the facts their way?

Does the curriculum really teach that "gender identity is 'a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female?'" Well, OK, it should. That's what gender identity is. Some boys feel more masculine or feminine than others; the same with girls. They identify more or less with their biological sex. The quoted definition comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, as credible as you get. It shouldn't be news that the school teaches the accepted definition of a common term.

Here's what the MCPS school board report says:
What is Sexual Identity? This term refers to a person’s understanding of who she or he is sexually, including the sense of being male or female. Sexual identity can be thought of as three interlocking pieces: gender identity, gender role and sexual orientation. Together, these pieces of sexual identity affect how each person sees herself or himself and each piece is important.

The curriculum discusses some gender identity sterotypes, such as "Boys don't cry, girls do," and "girls don’t enjoy math- boys do." Listen, I can remember learning this same stuff when I went to school, back when we had to carve our notes in stone because paper wasn't invented yet. This isn't weird or twisted, this stuff comes right out of a textbook. A real old textbook.

The statement that the curriculum "will teach students to "develop" a sexual identity " is just false. The Times made this up. The only thing I can imagine is that the reporter was distorting this statement in the school board's report:
What is Human Sexuality? This term refers to emotional closeness, sexual health and reproduction, and sexual identity. As we study human sexuality we will discuss how you develop your individual sexual identity.

Because, well, everybody does develop a sexual identity of some sort. Does this sound like they're "teaching students to develop a sexual identity?" No, obviously, that's a different thing.

We have heard Times reporters say before that editors had changed their text, to put a more conservative spin on it. Is that what happened here? They didn't think the real curriculum sounded evil enough, so they made stuff up? Or do they train their reporters to do this sort of thing? You wonder how it happens, and you feel sorry for people who rely on this source for their information about what's going on in the world.
Advocates supporting and opposing the curriculum agreed yesterday that the pilot schools are well-distributed across the county.

"I think it's great. It sounds like a representative sample," said Christine Grewell, a parent and organizer for Teach the (TTF), which backs the curriculum.

Steve Fisher of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), which opposes the curriculum, said: "You can make the case that the schools are representative of the county as a whole."

Mr. Fisher said his group is "disappointed that the pilot program is going forward. We think there's a lot of misinformation, biased information. We would have preferred that the county would have gone back to the drawing board and made it more balanced before they tested it."

OK, we already know what they think.

TTF and other curriculum supporters say the new course introduces information about homosexuality that students will find out regardless of whether they are taught about it. They have said morality has no place in the debate.

CRC and other curriculum opponents say schools are trying to displace the parents' role in teaching their children about morality and its implications on sexuality. They say the curriculum does not include all the facts about the health effects of homosexuality and the moral and religious objections to homosexuality.

Let's clear this up.

First of all, we hope that the school gives kids better, more accurate information than what they pick up on the playground. We don't think it's the same thing, that kids'll find out "regardless."

But more importantly ...

Morality is defined in one dictionary as "the quality of an action that makes it good." Morality is concerned with right and wrong, with good and evil. We at are opposed to evil, and think that education should be good. It should help students become good people, who make good choices. We are in this fight for moral reasons. We think that prejudice against gay people is bad. We think tolerance of other people's qualities, even when we don't share or understand those qualities, is a good thing. Freedom is only possible through tolerance, and freedom is important to us.

Some people have cleverly twisted the meaning of the word "moral" and given it an evil meaning. To those people, morality stands for intolerance of other people, insistence on forcing their narrow beliefs on others, derision of those who believe differently from them.

No, we accept morality in the schools.

What we object to is theology in the public schools, a very different thing. If a particular religion believes that something is sinful, that can be taught in the home, in the churches and synogogues, whatever. Not in the public schools. Where there is conflict between religious beliefs and scientific knowledge, we prefer knowledge.

And, people, there are no "health effects of homosexuality." That's crazy. Gay people are just as healthy as anybody else, it's weird to talk about the "health effects of homosexuality." That's just the kind of thing that needs to be kept out of our kids' education.


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