Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Contagion Effect

Maybe you saw the US News and World Report story this week, talking about how wonderful the activists in Montgomery County are, how great it was that they were able to shut down the "anything-goes sexual preaching in the schools."

The author, John Leo, jumps right in, picking up the thread just like he's supposed to. It's not that the judge ruled on the basis of resources that are for teachers only and not part of the curriculum, it's that "the standard answer was they were 'for the teachers only to use and not of interest to the parents.'" Y'know, not that it matters that that's the actual truth, you call it a "standard answer" and there you go, you don't have to pay any attention to it.

Because the thing you want is for the minority to gain control -- that's what John Leo finds so admirable in this situation. The Ex-Recall/Ex-Gay group was able to frustrate the wishes of the majority of the people in this county who want their kids to learn the facts about sex, including safe-sex and sexual orientation topics. They were able to win, by golly, and that's what matters.

So, OK, yesterday I wrote a little bit about Lexington, Massachusetts. The nuts up there are going on the warpath because there was a kindergarten book that showed a family with same-sex parents. I don't think any five-year-old would be surprised by that, or ask embarrassing questions, like, y'know, "Daddy, how do lesbians have sex if neither one of them has a penis?" No, a five-year-old with reasonable parents would absorb the shock and move on.

And today we're finding out that Fairfax, just across the river from us, is about to go through the same thing -- except this time it's the Catholic church that's attacking them. --Do you have a problem with that?
The Diocese of Arlington has criticized newly approved sex-education materials in Fairfax County public schools, saying they ridicule abstinence and marriage.

The Fairfax County School Board on May 12 voted 10-1 to approve for 10th-graders two pamphlets -- "Birth Control Facts" and "Abstinence 101."

"We would reject both those resources," said Gerri Laird, a coordinator of Education and Training with the diocese's Office for Family Life. "How can you promote abstinence when you talk about sexuality without even talking about marriage?" Diocese rejects sex-ed leaflets

The church's position on birth control is well known, and nobody is surprised that the diocese would issue a statement about something like this. And they have freedom of speech like the rest of us, they have the right to an opinion just like everybody else.

What they don't have is the right to participate in the process of setting policy for the public schools or any other government-run program. Like, look:
The Archdiocese of Washington last winter criticized a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County that introduced discussion of homosexuality, saying the course was "obviously not reflective of our values."

To me, that's great, that's what a church does, provides guidance to its congregation. I mean, c'mon, who thought the Catholic Church was going to like a class that shows teenagers how to use contraceptives? So they make their statement, and the people know where they stand on this issue. Perfect.

But what's this?
The diocese is not satisfied, Mrs. Laird said. She and nine others testified against the pamphlets before the school board approved the materials.

"Contraception should be presented in the context of how it is an abuse of the human person, how it hurts teens, rather than as a backup to failed self-control," she told the board.

"Abstinence is empowering. It prevents our teens from being used by others for sexual gratification and it protects their inherent dignity as persons by protecting their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being."

Well, I suppose they have the right to express themselves at a school board meeting, too, don't they? Mmm, do they?

These nine speakers were not speaking to their flock, they were addressing the school board -- this was the Church directly trying to influence public policy. It wasn't just some Catholic people speaking about their beliefs, no, these people are speaking in the name of the Church.

But what have they got to fear? Because MCPS lawyers wouldn't explain what's what to a federal judge, it looks like every class has to teach both sides of everything. It looks like all you have to do is complain, and the schools will teach Noah's Ark right alongside radiocarbon dating. All you have to do is file some court papers, and you can make them do whatever you want.

If you're a minority trying to force the majority to live by your rules, that's got to be encouraging.


Anonymous Dr. Patrick Morgan said...

On the one hand (on other posts)you say you agree with the Catholic Church (which actually is counter to other things you have said) and now you bash the Catholic Church. Why? All because they dared to utilize their 1st Amendment right to FREE SPEECH. Yes, even the Church has a right to have an opinion. You speak with a forked tongue Mr. Kennedy. You actually prove what concerned parents have been saying all along -- that only people that hold your beliefs in secular humanism are entitled to express them. Thanks for confirming that for all of us.

May 20, 2005 10:08 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

"Bash" the Catholic church? In this post? I'm not seeing that -- this post, in case you can't tell, is about the fine line separating church and state. Whether you agree with their position or not, a question remains, should churches be involved in government processes?

And that secular humanism thing, man, I haven't heard that since the sixties -- thanks for that blast from the past.

... Looking back at your comments again, I've got to wonder, did you even read what I posted?

May 20, 2005 10:16 AM  
Blogger Isabel Manuela said...

What does agreeing with the Catholic Church mean? We agree, as stated several times in several posts, with the Catholic church position on homosexuality (sexual orientation, in fact): it's not a choice. We disagree with the Catholic Church when it demands that homosexuals do not live by their sexual orientation, and remain celibate, because -as the Catholic Church itself has seen many examples of- that's a heck of a demand. I know I wouldn't like to be celibate, so I don't know why a gay or lesbian would be required to. For all the weakness that people attribute to them, it seems that God gifted them with a huge demand: I will give you a "bad" way of being, but you will still perform as if it is the "good" oneā€¦ That doesn't seem to work even for the "don't lie" part of the commandments, so I don't know how one could expect it would work for this. So, I don't think God would agree with it.

Why, Dr. Morgan, you mix things up? Are you familiar with the idea of agreeing with a party, a church, an individual, etc. on some issues and disagreeing in others? In fact, that's something on which the Catholic church has a few examples: many devote Catholics disagree with the church doctrine on the issue of contraception, just to name one.

May 20, 2005 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Gleeful said...

Do any of you acknowledge the inherent problem of forcing (to stick with the current example) Catholics to pay for public schools that teach things directly counter to their values?

May 20, 2005 4:19 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Can you imagine the inherent problem if the majority decided what would be taught in schools? Better just to stick to scientifically agreed-upon facts, and let the various religions determine how to live with that.

May 20, 2005 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the problemn -- you are using 'facts' that are not universally agreed upon and get your religious references the hell out of the curriculum! The Bd of Ed brought up religion -- not the other way around. Nice try.
I expect that you will now delete this because you cannot stand to be challenged, can you?

May 21, 2005 2:07 PM  
Blogger Isabel Manuela said...

If we couldn't stand to be challenged, we wouldn't have a comment sections on our blog. Go on, challenge us as much as you can, but be civil, and your comments will stay.

May 21, 2005 8:31 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anonymous, I don't delete challenges. I delete moronic comments. You're tryiing to say something, there's no problem with that. Let's talk.

The facts that were in the curriculum are universally agreed upon by scientists and mental health experts. There's really nothing of controversy in it, you can send it to any Psych department at any university in the country and they'll give it a green light.

As far as saying "get your religious references the hell out of the curriculum!" If you've been following this issue, you know there are no religious references in the curriculum -- only one very vague mention of religion that no one objected to. There were some in the teachers' background resources, which the CRC/PFOX lawyers led the judge to believe were part of the curriculum, in turn leading to the press reporting them as part of the curriculum.

The curriculum outlines are accessible from the righthand side of this page. Look them over. Search for words like "religion." There was nothing to complain about.

I don't believe those resources should be recommended to teachers, and I think everybody in MCPS agrees on that, too. That's part of why you pilot a curriculum, to find out what works and what doesn't, what belongs and what doesn't. But they weren't for classroom use, for showing students, for quoting from, for putting on the bulletin board, it was simply information to give teachers some background on some important dimensions of the topic of sexual orientation.

May 21, 2005 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are wrong Jim. Approved resources are for the teachers to use to support the currciulum and help prepare their lessons. You can repeat yourselves over and over again, but you are wrong.

May 22, 2005 12:07 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

There are two kinds of resources: "key" resources, which are listed in the curriculum and are for use in course preparation, and "background" resources, which are for teacher background knowledge only. All the quotes that the judge objected to, as you clearly know, came from three background resource documents. They would never be presented in class.

In any case, these particular three resources should have been removed from the list, instead of cancelling the whole thing.

May 22, 2005 2:17 PM  

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