Sunday, June 12, 2005

That Times Editorial: Fishback Responds

Here is David Fishback's response to a recent Washington Times editorial. Mr. Fishback was the chair of the citizens advisory committee that developed the sex-ed curriculum that was recently blocked by a judge's order.
On June 2, the Washington Times published an editorial that was, to say the least, interesting. See The next day, I submitted the following response as a Letter to the Editor of the Times. As the Times has not printed the letter, and we suspect they will not, given the fact it has printed several letters since June 2 supporting its editorial, including one from a CRC supporter from Severna Park (Anne Arundel County) criticizing Board Member Abrams' comment reported in the Times on June 5 that the curriculum should not be the result of "negotiation between outside groups." (See

The Times editorial, which reflects a political agenda inconsistent with the best medical wisdom in this area, seeks to call down up and up down. It is breathtakingly Orwellian in its scope. Fortunately, the citizens of Montgomery County will not be persuaded by such misrepresentations any more than they would accept "creationism/intelligent design" notions as part of a biology curriculum. Those we elect and those hired by those we elect will not, we believe, be intimidated by the Washington Times or any other voices seeking to undermine wise health education programs for our children in the interest of an agenda that seeks to ignore we have learned about the human condition.

*** Sent by David S. Fishback to the Washington Times on June 3, 2005:

As former chair of the Montgomery County Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, I agree with the statement set forth in your June 2 editorial ("A clean slate for Montgomery sex-ed"): "The point of a sex-ed curriculum is to teach facts about sex, not to propagate dubious theories." The proposed revised curriculum that was originally to be piloted last month said relatively little about homosexuality, providing definitions from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, and simply making the accurate statements that "all major professional mental health organizations affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder" and that "most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice." (The text of the pilot versions of the curriculum may be found on the Resources Page of The "dubious theories" are those propagated by groups who cling to the long-since rejected ideas that all homosexuals are diseased and can be "cured" of the disease. Indeed, it was the clinical experience of mainstream medical and mental health professionals in the 1940s, '50, and '60s that led them to reject the notion that homosexuality is a disease.

The former Citizens Advisory Committee examined the statements from the mainstream professional associations as well has materials presented by Committee members who were advocates of the idea that all homosexuality is diseased, and concluded that the mainstream professional approach should be followed. Contrary to your editorial, these recommendations did not come from some purported "education establishment." Rather, they were from the mainstream medical and mental health professionals.

As Superintendent Jerry Weast stated last November when the Board of Education unanimously voted to pilot the revisions, these are revisions the school system should have made years ago. Why did he make that statement? Because for too long the silence in the health education curriculum unit on sexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that there was something "sick" about not being heterosexual. For too long, students who happened to be homosexual and children from same-sex parent families were made to feel marginalized. Because that was wrong and hurtful, the Board was wise to act last November.

One more point is essential to this discussion. Montgomery County parents never have been required to have their children take the portion of the health classes on human sexuality. If families' parents objected, they could have their children study alternative materials. This way, the school system has been able to accommodate the concerns of parents who may have religious or other objections to the material, without giving a small minority a veto power over the entire curriculum.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

At 438 words, I highly doubt that such a letter to the editor would be considered for publication. Most newspapers have a word limit that runs between 150 words (the New York Times) to my own hometown paper, the Fort Collins Coloradoan at 250 words.

A little editing might be in order

June 13, 2005 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ideally they should also not dodge the issue entirely.

June 13, 2005 4:49 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

The Washington Times did publish this piece. Here's a link to it FYI.

Christine Grewell

June 15, 2005 8:07 AM  

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