Thursday, April 21, 2005

New Changes to the Sex-Ed Curricula

Recently, the BOE published revised documents for teachers of the 8th and 10th grade Health curricula. These changes are very interesting.

Some, but not many, are corrections: for instance, menopause is not part of puberty. Some were disambiguations of concepts that had been taken wrong. In most cases these were taken wrong on purpose, that is, people opposed to the curriculum liked to say things about it that were not true, but required only a slight twist of wording.

And some of the changes were just to dumb-down the document for public consumption. Teachers know what "teachers' resources" are for, but some people were reading these and telling the world that information in the teachers' resources would be taught to students. So some of the explanatory text added to the documents simply reflects the fact that people who know nothing about education are trying to interpret these outlines which are part of a teacher's professional package.

Below I have gone through the two documents, looking for any changes I could find between these and the Board's November report. I have blockquoted new text that has been added and old text that was removed.

8th Grade Curriculum
(Please Note: the sources for the definitions are listed below for teacher use only. The definitions are to be presented to students as stated below – no additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher.)

In the previous version, it was assumed that the reader knew this -- well, a teacher would understand, but it turned out that the public was scrutinizing this document without understanding what they were looking at. The definitions are to be used, but the sources of the definitions are not part of the course.

They removed this:
As we study human sexuality we will discuss how you develop your individual sexual identity.

I suppose this was taken out because certain people were twisting this and using it to say -- and I am not exaggerating here -- that the school was encouraging children to decide at an early age whether they were gay or not.

Again, at the start of the "Teachers' Reference" section, they say:
(The information in the shaded area is not to be shared with students.)

... which an intelligent reader or professional educator would understand, but some people were confused.

Under Examples of Stereotyping and Generalizations, they added:
(Teachers are to clarify for students that the following stereotypes are not true, and these are only examples.)

Because, well, some people might not understand what a "stereotype" is, I guess.

After Factors That Influence Stereotyping
(These are examples and not the only factors.)

It's amazing what needs to be spelled out when you put your documents on the Internet for everyone to read.

They took a section titled III. Examine Myths and Facts About Human Sexuality, which was originally ninth, and moved it up, saying:
(The following are examples and teachers need to make sure that students understand that myths are false, and facts are true.)

Imagine: they felt they had to add that.

And they changed one of the myths. The original said
3. Myth: You're a homosexual if you've had sex with, or even had a "sexy dream" about someone of the same gender.
Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation.

and the new one says:
Myth: A person is a homosexual if he or she has ever been sexually attracted to, or ever had sexual contact with someone of the same gender.
Fact: Fleeting attraction or contact does not prove long-term sexual orientation.

So it says the same thing, just the reference to playing doctor is a little more subtle. You remember how the critics went crazy with this? They said MCPS was saying that it was OK for children to engage in homosexual behavior, and stuff. I imagine they'll still think "fleeting attraction or contact" is bizarre and sinful. We'll have to watch to see.

Under Possible Effects of Cultural Factors, they added:
(The following are examples of how cultural and/or family beliefs may affect relationships.)

After Examples of Problems Created by Contrasting Values/Beliefs they wrote:
(The following are examples of what may happen.)

I mean, wow, they really dumbed this down.

They fixed something. The earlier version had Menopause listed under "Hormonal changes in females at puberty." They took it out.

Three whole new sections are included here that are not in the November 2004 BOE report. They are:
  • XI. Review How Family Values, Culture, Religious Views and Other Factors May Influence Family Planning
  • XII. Abstinence, and
  • XIII. Identify and Describe Methods of Pregnancy Prevention

They have been in the curriculum all along, and weren't mentioned in the BOE report because nothing in them changed.

Tenth Grade
In the Introduction to Unit they added:
(the teacher should read or summarize the following statement at the start of the unit to alert students to what will be studied in this unit)

After Describe Factors Contributing to Sexual Identity as Part of Personal Identity they wrote:
(Please Note: the sources for the definitions are listed below for teacher use only. The definitions are to be presented to students as stated below – no additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher or solicited from students.)

Oddly, they removed a line from the intro to sexual identity:
Together, these pieces of sexual identity affect how each person sees herself or himself and each piece is important:

I don't get that one.

They beefed up the sources of some definitions, giving article titles instead of just the web URL.

One section has been changed a whole lot. It is now called For Teacher Reference Only, with the warning (The information in the shaded area is not to be shared with students.) Here it says:
Questioning refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation. (No source)
Transgender refers to someone whose gender identity or expression differs from conventional expectations for their physical sex. This term includes transsexual and transvestite.
(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Oct. 1993), pp. 631-634)
Coming Out refers to the process in which a person identifies himself or herself as homosexual or bisexual to family, friends and other significant people in his or her life.
(Source: American Psychiatric Association Fact Sheet: Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues (May 2000)).
Intersexed refers to people who are born with anatomy or physiology (ambiguous genitalia) that differs from cultural and/or medical ideals of male and female. (School Resource)

Note that Questioning and Transgender were included in the earlier report, but Coming Out and Intersexed appear to have been added to the 10th grade curriculum. All were and are mentioned in the 8th grade curriculum teachers' resources.

Under types of families, where it lists Same sex parents family, they added this little CYA:
(this should not be interpreted as same sex marriage)

There may be other changes. I have only gone through the Family Life and Human Sexuality sections here. I did see a change in the Mental Health section, something regarding the mention of sexual identity -- there may be others, I don't know.

How to interpret these changes? Some criticisms were made. A couple of things could be improved, and were. A lot of things could be taken wrong, and were, and were changed in order to clarify the meaning so anyone could understand them.

There were no changes in the content of the curriculum.


Post a Comment

<< Home