Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Post Yesterday: Good Editorial

The Post yesterday ran an editorial that was excellent in both tone and content. Here it is:
THE DISPUTE over the proposed sex education curriculum in Montgomery County goes well beyond cucumbers and condoms: It involves where to strike the balance between encouraging abstinence and providing information about ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; whether, when and how issues of homosexuality should be discussed in school health classes; and how far schools should go to accommodate the concerns of parents who disagree with what schools propose to teach their children.

We think most of the curriculum is suitable, especially given that parents must opt in before any student is exposed to it. But on Thursday a federal judge blocked the system from launching it in six schools as planned for next week, and Superintendent Jerry D. Weast then wisely chose to call the whole thing off for the rest of the school year. The delay gives school officials a chance to do more thorough review -- something you'd think they would have done by now, given the months of controversy. School officials need to remove some of the inappropriate "teacher resource" material accompanying the curriculum, particularly documents that praise some religious denominations and criticize others; it's no wonder some parents were upset about that. Though students don't see this material, it shouldn'thave been deemed acceptable as the basis for teachers to plan lessons, and it shouldn't have taken a court case for Mr. Weast to learn of it.

As to what students will see, the "Protect Yourself" video -- you can find it at http://www.recall -- seems to us to provide important facts about condom use and safety without encouraging sexual activity by the 10th-graders who will see it. The video begins and ends with clear messages that only abstinence can provide complete protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. As much as we'd hope that 10th-graders heed that message, we also know that many don't. For those who are sexually active, or may soon be, the video reinforces the importance of proper condom use.

The county's current approach to teaching about homosexuality amounts to the educational version of "don't ask, don't tell": Teachers can address the topic only if asked, and then only perfunctorily. But teens who know or suspect they are gay ought to have accurate information about what that means; other students ought to know that, whatever their own views about homosexuality, they should treat every individual with respect and tolerance. Some critics of the new curriculum are unhappy that eighth-graders are to be taught that same-sex parents are among the various kinds of families; we think that by that age most students know a lot more than that.

For parents who object, the fail-safe is a county policy that requires parents to sign permission slips for their children to attend the classes. They can opt out of all or part of the short (two weeks for eighth-graders, three weeks for 10th-graders) sessions, and the county provides alternatives, including an abstinence-only curriculum. With fixes, the new system would be an improvement that respects the right of some parents to dissent. Balance in Sex Education

What else can you say?

Tricky lawyers got the delay, conflating what's in the curriculum with what's not. Well, they really really want to win, and it doesn't matter if the judge understands the details of the situation or not, as long as America moves closer to being a Christian nation. And you gotta blame MCPS for not presenting the case, for letting the judge miss the distinction between resources that only teachers see and stuff that's taught in class.

MCPS will have to jettison some of the teachers resources, it sounds like. Make some adjustments, look it all over again, and let's get this thing rolling another time. Our kids are going to get the facts, they're going to learn to be tolerant and respect others who are different from them ... eventually.

It's just the right thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So are you now admitting that some of the teacher resources should not have been included?

What happened to "everything is good and perfect with the fact-based curriculum"?

May 09, 2005 2:58 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Gleeful, the curriculum was great. The materials that were suggested for teachers to read up on the topic were good. But it turned out to be too easy for troublemakers to confound the private teachers' resources with the public curriculum, the stuff that would be presented in the classroom, in such a way that even a judge can't tell what's being taught to the kids.

You want your Algebra teacher to know how to do Geometry, too -- you want a teacher who knows more about the subject than they are telling the students. Things can come up in class -- for instance, a kid raises his hand and says, My church says this is a sin. Is the teacher supposed to stand there dumfounded, as if they'd never heard such a thing? No, it's a good idea for them to know more than they're presenting.

So the resources go beyond the curriculum. That makes sense, unless somebody is trying to bring the whole thing down by any means, honest or not.

May 09, 2005 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You dodged the question and threw in some faulty reasoning to boot.

Do you admit that the teacher resources were inappropriate?

Do you see anything wrong with any of them?

If your premise is that teachers should be well educated, then it doesn't make much sense to argue that teacher resources that present only one view and are factually inaccurate (the oft-disproven 10% of the population is homosexual) are helpful.

According to the resources I saw way back when the only response the teacher resources would've provided to your hypothetical was "Well, not all religions do, and Jesus never said that." If you truly value the Constitution, you don't want public school teachers doing that.

May 10, 2005 5:29 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

You're going several directioins there, Gleeful. First, yes, I think the teachers' resources are inappropriate. They would definitely not be appropriate for classroom presentation, and I don't think they helped a teacher prepare very much, either.

Teachers don't have to comment on religion, but they should know what they're going to deal with in terms of students' comments and questions. Actually, it's pretty complicated, and I'm not sure what the rules are as far as teachers expressing their own beliefs.

The latest Teachers Editions did not list some of the more egregious resources, and I believe they had been pulled. The health coordinator should have the right to make adjustments during pilot testing, but of course he can't do that when extremists are making mountains our of every molehill.

May 10, 2005 9:35 PM  

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