Sunday, September 25, 2005

Today's Teach the Facts Forum was Perfect

Today was great. The forum turned out to be just as we'd hoped. Sex education is a very complex subject -- you can break it down to sound-bites, but when you do that you end up missing the whole point. Because the whole point is that it is complex.

I hope to write in more detail tomorrow, and also hope to post some sound recordings soon, if they came out (my batteries died during the last two talks, but I should have most of it recorded). So here let me just say a couple of things, for those of you who have been holding your breath waiting for this event, and then didn't come to it yourselves.

An important theme that came up in a number of the talks was sex education is about more than sex. Sexuality reflects its light into all aspects of a person's life, from their own sense of self-respect to the fine-tuning they do in their personal relationships. We have heard CRC members say, "I learned everything I need to know about my sexual identity in the bathtub." But of course that simply shows that they miss the point.

The point of comprehensive sex education is that your sexuality is an integrated part of who you are. To discuss sex properly, you simply must talk about responsibility, about values, about feelings, about how you make important decisions, about how you resist social influence, you have to talk about yourself in a social world, seeing others and being seen by others, interacting with people -- affecting them and being affected by them. And to be responsible, to make important decisions, to obtain good moral values, one must have access to good, accurate knowledge.

A term that was used a lot today was the word "affirming," in all its various forms. Deborah Roffman introduced the term, describing it as unconditional love, affirming who a person is, as contrasted with what they do; and it seemed that most the speakers after her used the word, too. She noted the need for both schools and family to provide affirmation to a child, but in different ways. Several participants (both on the stage and in the audience) talked about experiences they had had as children, when they were punished for who they are, not anything they'd done.

It was incredible to sit and listen to the speakers, one after the other, addressing this many-faceted topic with clarity and expertise, and it was comforting in a way. When the Recall group held its first meeting last December, we heard them talking about "deviants" and "sodomites" and sin, and complaining seriously about the "gay agenda." For the past year we have heard them say that the school district is encouraging children to have sex, encouraging them to become homosexuals, promoting promiscuity -- OK, I'll stop, but the list goes on and on and on and on. And every bit of it is ridiculous. You have to argue with them, because they can't be allowed to get away with this, but sometimes you feel so ... dumb ... talking to these people about things that are really nothing.

But sex education is not nothing. There's really a lot to it, and it's about time people got together and started talking seriously about it. That happened today.

I want to say, too, that the comments from the audience were mind-bogglingly good. And I don't even care if that's a word or not. People lined up at the microphone and poured their hearts out, or brought up another aspect of the subject that had not been discussed, or asked questions that showed they were understanding the nuances of what was being said.

One lady, a health educator herself, pointed out a couple of things in the Protect Yourself video (which we watched in the middle of the meeting) that could have been improved. Her voice was quivering, and I think she was nervous about criticizing it in front of the people who had supported it, but she had a couple of good points. The recommendation to use a spermicide is probably not good -- the CDC and other groups have reversed their stance on this in the period since the video was made -- and it did not mention that the condom should be removed before the penis becomes flaccid. Good points.

And the reaction? The reaction was not to defend the video, perhaps to say something sarcastic about this woman's intentions, which is the kind of reaction we have grown accustomed to. No, the response was to ask her to please contact the MCPS health coordinator with her suggestions, so perhaps the video can be improved.

See, there's a lot known about sex and sexuality, and there's a lot unknown. Science is about expanding the realm of knowledge, science isn't a bag of facts that can be considered a kind of oracle that can be consulted in cases where facts are needed. As science learns, the curricula should be updated. That's the only thing that makes sense.

We will definitely be talking more about the forum over the next few days, but I wanted to say something for those who couldn't attend. It was a great success, very stimulating, and it was a pleasure to be in the room with such intelligent and knowledgeable and good-hearted people.


Blogger Kay2898 said...

Great turnout today for forum and fabulous speakers.

You walked away knowing more than when you came in.

You walked away with a renewed vision to stamp out discrimination, bigotry, and hate while renewing the continued need for a comprehensive sex education to be taught.

Thanks to all who pulled this together from Teach The Facts, etc..!!!!!!!!

September 25, 2005 10:39 PM  

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