Friday, July 15, 2005

Summer In Waco: Fightin' Time

Down in Waco, Texas, the nuts are up in arms about a private sex-education class that hundreds of kids go to -- they say 8,000 students have taken these classes so far. There are several disturbing dimensions to this story. From the Waco Tribune-Herald:
The Waco Convention Center is an unlikely battleground for the nation's culture wars, but the lines are drawn every summer at the onset of the local Planned Parenthood's sexual education program for youths.

About 400 youngsters on Wednesday converged inside the center for Nobody's Fool, a half-day seminar that touched on various subjects including anatomy, peer pressure and contraceptives. Outside, about 35 protesters from Pro-Life Waco gathered to question the reliability and the propriety of the curriculum.

"Comprehensive sex education without customary moral guidance does irreparable harm to them," said Barbara Myers, co-director of Pro-Life Waco.

Myers and other protesters said abstinence is the sole "foolproof" solution to curb teenage pregnancy and the growing transmission rates of sexually transmitted disease among the young. Sex ed program again draws protests

OK, disturbing thing Number One. We have seen our critics complain about abortion-rights groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood getting involved in the sex-ed controversay, as if there was something suspicious about their interest in it. Like THIS (where CRC tries to imply that TeachTheFacts is aligned with a bunch of abortion-rights groups): ... the only agenda is the one that the pro abortion groups want to instill in every young teenager -- that sex for kids is ok, in fact its to be encouraged and that for backup -- after that condom fails ... the abortion and STD clinics at Planned Parenthood are right down the street.

So what do you think of anti-abortion groups getting involved in the sex-ed controversy? Is that OK with everybody? All right.

Disturbing Thing Number Two. This Barbara Myers, we assume her children are not attending the class, doesn't that seem like a safe bet? So I'm wondering, why does she care if other people's kids get "comprehensive sex education without customary moral guidance?" Is she afraid that the kids who take the class are going to go out and sexually abuse her children? That's the closest thing I can think of to a rational explanation for her involvement in this. See, she is not complaining that her kids are being forced to do something that she doesn't approve of; she's mad because other people's kids are doing something she doesn't approve of.

And as for that word "foolproof": isn't there a kind of pun in there somewhere? Oh, never mind what it proves...

In the next paragraph we find out why Mrs. Myers and the other straightlaced citizens of Waco are takin' it to the streets:
Anti-abortion groups have greeted the annual gathering since 1994, the year when Planned Parenthood of Central Texas began offering abortions at its Waco clinic. While most voiced complaints about the comprehensive sex education course, a few also decried Planned Parenthood's roles in abortions and providing emergency contraception.

Pam Smallwood, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas' executive director, said the purpose of Nobody's Fool is to offer age-appropriate information so that teens can make better decisions. More controversial topics, such as homosexuality and contraception, are reserved for the older students. Nobody's Fool targets fifth through ninth graders.

Contrary to what some critics say, children are not taught how to give oral sex and props are not used to demonstrate condom use, she said.

Nobody's Fool is best described as an "abstinence-plus" program. While it encourages teens to postpone sex, it also tells teens to be sensible and use caution if and when they do become sexually active.

Ah, now we see. This is just a regular sex-ed class. I'm guessing that schools in Waco offer the abstinence-only plan (yes, this is confirmed later in the story). So parents who actually want their kids to learn something have to send them to a special class.

And the problem is that it's given by Planned Parenthood. And because that organization also offers abortions, the "pro-life" group is going to picket the sex-ed class.

Class, we have been studying how these people think. And the association thing is very important. If Item A can be spoken anywhere in the same sentence with Item B, then all the qualities of Item A can be transferred to B. So if Planned Parenthood puts on the class, it must be terrible, immoral, evil. Like, it must teach kids how to practice oral sex. That only makes sense, right?
"Kids who are given medically accurate information are much better decision makers," Smallwood said. "Kids for whom information is withheld are those who turn to information from their peers and we know that's not the best source of information."

Pro-Life Waco invited Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life Coalition, to speak Wednesday. That organization fought in 2004 to introduce state high school health textbooks that had no references to contraceptives or the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases except through abstinence.

Wright said she doubted Wednesday's Nobody's Fool course would mention the failure rates of condoms, especially in protecting against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. That virus causes common and genital warts. Certain strains are known to cause cervical cancer.

Given that condoms may not protect against HPV infection, which can be hard to detect, Wright said it's irresponsible to not teach abstinence.

"Telling our kids anything else ... is not only foolish, it's criminal," she said.

Well, this is all familiar. "No references to contraceptives or the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases except through abstinence." The perfect sex education class. To somebody.

It's interesting that they're hanging their argument on the HPV issue. Condoms don't prevent HPV -- human papillomavirus -- for a good reason. The condom creates a barrier between the penis and the external world. HPV cannot get through the rubber, so in that sense it does stop the virus. But HPV is not just a sexually transmitted disease. It can be spread by any kind of contact, not just through sex. Some studies have shown that as many as a third of grade-school children have HPV in their systems -- it is simply not an STD. It's very common, and it is spread in countless ways, not just by sex.

I was led to this story by a blogger who commented that "this is the way to write a story about sex-education." And he was right, this is a well-done story. There's quite a bit more, you oughta click on the link and go read it.

See, we're not the only ones who have to deal with these things.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three cheers for the intelligent, clear-eyed parents who are sending their teens to Nobody's Fool. Three cheers for the kids who walk past the protesters to get to their classes.

They are living an important lesson in values: Getting a good education is worth standing up for. It's worth walking past a picket line for.

July 15, 2005 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an abstinence advocate I think these folks have too much spare time...the pro-life folks that is. If a parent wants to send their children to be instructed in what is essentially a private setting by a private group then it is *nobody's* business, and certainly not any business of a prolife group. While I disagree with the group doing the instruction and the philosophical approach they take, I am encouraged that some parents care enough to have proactively taken matters into their own hands to seek and obtain sexuality health education for their children.

What I have no patience for are parents who are either too lazy or inattentive to be bothered with this subject matter, and only deal with the issue when a crisis takes place (i.e. their daughter gets pregnant, or their son gets a girl pregnant).

Thanks for the article.

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO

July 16, 2005 7:26 AM  
Blogger War Diaries said...

Well, Orin, I was thinking exactly the same thing. I would qualify as an abstinence until you can carry with the consequences advocate, and an advocate for knowledge and information, since ignorance certainly does not make us free.
I support PP and its good works all over the world. They have been there in cases of violence against women in which many other groups have been only speaking against, but doing very little.
But, at any rate, I thought they were for parental choice in their kids education.
Didn't the Mother of the Year suggested that those classes should be giving on Saturdays or on after school programs so to avoid the embarrassment for her daughter?
I'm sure CRC will come out strongly against this Waco anti-choice group, because they are opposed to parents' choice in educational matters.

July 16, 2005 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, maybe in a place like Waco, Texas, where the majority of residents prefer abstinence only sex education, it makes sense for a private group to teach comprehensive sex education outside of schools at a private location.

Similarly, here in Montgomery County, where the majority favors comprehensive and inclusive sex education, what's the problem with allowing the minority here to find a private provider and location for their children's abstinence only sex education?

The majority gets what it wants in the public schools while the minority goes outside public schools to get the instruction they want.

Aunt Bea

July 17, 2005 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you are right that the abstinence-only version of sex-ed should be taught outside of school in a private setting, but I think it would be more fair for our public schools to offer options to parents who are not comfortable with comprehensive sex-ed, or with portions of comprehensive sex-ed. For instance, an abstinence-only unit could be made availabe in the schools as an alternative to the human sexuality unit. Or the schools could offer the parents a chance to select a topic for an indepentent-study unit. That would be a good way for MCPS to demonstrate its respect for the great variety of views held by the parents of our county.

Oh, wait, on January 12, a CRC exectuvie member posted this on their bulletin board:

FACT: Prior parental permission is required for students to participate in any class session on human sexuality and sexually transmitted infections.

FACT: Alternative units are available if parents decide that they do not want their children to participate in the classes:
* An alternative unit on "Abstinence Only;" * An alternative unit on stress management and environmental health; or * An independent study unit on a health education topic of the parent's choosing.

It's a quote from the MCPS website.

Geewiz... Parents CAN get the sex-ed they want for their kids without the inconvenience and expence of taking them to a private education source.

July 17, 2005 5:44 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Well, they could have, except ... that curriculum was thrown out when those same CRC folks won their lawsuit.

July 17, 2005 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that I was not clearer with my point, Jim. The CRC parents have always had what they wanted for their own children, and they knew it. They posted the regulations that assured they'd get what they wanted for their own children, i.e. abstinence only education or a parent-selected independent study, on their own bulletin board in a discussion of how careful they had to be about how they presented their petition to county parents.

I disagree with an earlier suggestion that our schools should only teach what the majority prefers. I think MCPS should offer an up-to-date comprehensive health-ed curriculum with both the abstinence and the independent study options. We should not become the opposite of Waco; we should be the model for the state and perhaps for the nation.

July 18, 2005 3:08 PM  

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