Friday, December 09, 2005

The Post Is Following the Story

Lori Aratani at The Washington Post put together a really nice story this morning, tying together a lot of things that are going on.

Here in Montgomery County we are engaged in a battle over a new sex education curriculum. It isn't much, mostly replacing out-of-date stuff, but there is something new. For the first time, the curriculum will talk about sexual orientation.

As you are well aware, the radical right is on a gay-hating tear at the national level. I don't get it, but to them, somehow, somebody else's sexual orientation is their business. Oh, listen to 'em weep! The "deviants" and "sodomites" are responsible for the breakdown of the family, the destruction of our free society, they're dirty and carry germs and they're promiscuous, oh, and did I mention they're all child molestors, too?

Please, don't ask me to explain it. I don't know how gay people, of all the crazy things in the world, are to blame for all this, or what's supposed to be wrong with it. Or why anybody would bother to oppose it, as if it was something that would just go away.

From The Post:
The e-mail that landed in mailboxes throughout Montgomery County was provocative:

"DID YOU KNOW . . . . " it read in big, bold type. "Three organizations supporting homosexuality as natural and mainstream were appointed to the NEW Citizens Advisory Committee?" and "Homosexual advocacy groups are targeting Montgomery County children and families?"

On one hand, the missive, sent out last month by members of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), was just the latest in a series of skirmishes between the parents group and Montgomery County public schools. But the note -- advertising a CRC workshop -- also shows how educators' efforts to talk more frankly about homosexuality are raising alarm among those who believe such topics are taboo in U.S. classrooms. Sex-Ed Battle Hits New Turf Homosexuality Topic Splits Montgomery

It's not clear what the three groups are. The CRC email didn't say, and their Powerpoint slides from the meeting don't say. There are a number of groups represented on the citizens committee. One group, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), represents families of gay and lesbian people, they have something to do with gay people. None of the others seem to have anything to do with it. The groups are Montgomery County Council of PTAs, us, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, PFOX (which is their guys), and the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils.

That "three organizations" thing wouldn't be another lie, would it?

Skipping down a little ways:
For groups that endorse self-described traditional values when it comes to education, such as Liberty Counsel, which has worked closely with CRC in its fight against the Montgomery public school system, and the Alliance Defense Fund, the mention of homosexuality invokes charges that advocacy groups are using the schoolhouse to push a "homosexual agenda" on children.

"It's an adult-driven agenda to indoctrinate students," said Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "The schools have become kind of a ground zero on the homosexual agenda."

Added Michelle Turner, president of CRC: "Why does the school system believe it's up to them to tell kids [homosexuality] is natural or the same as heterosexuality? Why are schools not promoting religious tolerance?"

"The same as heterosexuality?" Mmm, yeah sure, I'll bet that's going to be in the curriculum. The word "natural" or course is nowhere to be seen. You'd think they objected to something real, to hear them say it. But this is all their own fantasy. None of this was in the proposed curriculum, and none of it will be in the new curriculum, when that comes out. Natural, normal, not in there. Just some facts.

I should mention. The Alliance Defense Fund isn't just a ... defense fund. It is a gigantic group of more than thirty Christian ministries, founded by a coalition of very-top-level extremists, including James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and the American Family Association's Don Wildmon, among others, to provide legal support for rightwing radical issues. Liberty Counsel is the group rooted in Jerry Falwell's Liberty University; they are known locally for filing a lawsuit against the Montgomery County school district, which ended up putting thirty-thousand-plus dollars into their pockets.

As for the last question, the religious tolerance thing, mmm, she wasn't trying to change the subject, was she?
National surveys show broad support for sex education -- and also for teaching about homosexuality -- as long as it is done in an unbiased manner. A 2004 survey by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that one in four of those surveyed thought it was "inappropriate" to teach about homosexuality. But the survey also found that 52 percent of the respondents said they were comfortable with teachers talking about homosexuality in a neutral way. Educators should teach "only what homosexuality is, without discussing whether it is wrong or acceptable," the survey said.

That works for me. Teach about it, leave out the negative stereotypes. MCPS was going to do that. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Ultimately, the school system threw out those plans after CRC and the group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays sued the school system. Educators are in the process of writing a new program. But school officials said the new curriculum likely will still include discussions about homosexuality. It will be reviewed by a citizen advisory committee and is expected to be completed in the spring.

The story ends with quotes from both sides of the local battle:
Jim Kennedy, a Montgomery County parent and member of Teachthefacts.org -- a group that supports comprehensive sex education in the county's public schools, including discussions regarding homosexuality -- said it's important for kids to understand what homosexuality is, in part because they may be struggling with issues of sexual identity.

"That kid deserves to know what's happening to them," Kennedy said.

But for Turner, the CRC president, there is a larger issue at hand.

"I think the question begs: What are our public schools becoming?" she asked. "Are they going to be advocates of every politically correct topic that comes along?"

Well, if that's all they've got, the "politically correct" thing, what can you say?

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, if that's all they've got, the "politically correct" thing, what can you say?"

Actually, that's all you've got. Nothing that you've proposed has any scientific validity but all of you keep pretending it does. Every time you're challenged about your evidence, you launch into a somg and dance about the dear victimized gay community. Instead of indulging this irrational behavior, why not work to fund studies on how to help these people break their addiction to perversion.

December 09, 2005 4:40 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thank you Anon, you have made your point of view very clear.

JimK

December 09, 2005 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article was a handy introduction to the subject at hand...

I do have a question for those supporting Teach the Facts: what percentage of K-12 private (non-religious) teach any kind of sex ed? I suspect, in the absence of knowing any hard figures, that not many teach the subject...certainly less than a majority. Asssuming that this is indeed the case, anyone care to hazard to speculate upon the reason? Anyone...anyone? (A nod to all you Ferris Bueller fans out there...).

Coming to you from a rather balmy Fort Collins, CO where the LOW (overnite) temperature has jumped 30 degrees...to 28 degrees F.

Sincerely,

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO
oryssman@hotmail.com

December 10, 2005 6:37 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Ok, I apparently do have a blogger account...you know, a mind is not only a terrible thing to waste...but to lose (as in misplace...literally).

Testing...one, two, three...testing.

December 10, 2005 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin Ryssman said

"...what percentage of K-12 private (non-religious) teach any kind of sex ed? I suspect, in the absence of knowing any hard figures, that not many teach the subject...certainly less than a majority. Asssuming that this is indeed the case, anyone care to hazard to speculate upon the reason?"

Typical radcon logic here. They dont have any "hard figures" but they'll throw out an assumption and ask their opponents to "speculate upon a reason."

I suspect the reason you assume that most private non-religious schools don't teach sex ed is because such an argument seems to support your views. But you admittedly lack any supporting data so your statement, "Asssuming that this is indeed the case" is nothing more than conjecture -- a conclusion deduced by guesswork.

Aunt Bea

December 10, 2005 7:52 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

Orin Ryssman said

"I do have a question for those supporting Teach the Facts: what percentage of K-12 private (non-religious) teach any kind of sex ed? I suspect, in the absence of knowing any hard figures, that not many teach the subject...certainly less than a majority. Asssuming that this is indeed the case, anyone care to hazard to speculate upon the reason?"

I don't know if anyone has done any such survey. I do know that private, non-religious schools teach sexuality education. One of the best writers on this subject, Deborah Roffman, teaches that subject in a number of such schools in Maryland. She wrote a great book entitled "Sex and Sensibility: A Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex." You can learn more by going to her website, Sexandsensibility.org

Private schools that do teach the subject may often have an easier time of it, perhaps because they are smaller communities, where, if controversial subjects are broached, the community can deal with it in a cooperative, non-confrontational manner. Very few people, however, can afford private schooling, so it is very important that we do the best we can in the public schools.

The gross numbers, asked for by Orin, even if available, might not be terribly relevant. There is such a wide variety of reasons why parents, who have the financial capacity, choose private, non-religious schools. I suspect that some may do so because they may find their local public schools too narrow and bureaucratic; others may do so because they want smaller class size; others may do so because they want an educational environment in which "problem" students can be removed easily or not admitted at all. Never having considered private schools myself, I am just guessing. Some of the reasons may be indicative of families who want sexuality education; others may not. At the end of the day, I suspect that most private schools are responsive to the wishes of the parents who pay the tuition. Where there are splits in such views, then parents vote with their feet.

In Montgomery County, parents vote with their decisions on whether or not to give permission for their Eighth and Tenth Grade students to take the Familiy Life and Human Sexuality Units. In the past, around 1% of parents have declined to give such permission.

December 10, 2005 12:44 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Aunt Bea writes,
Typical radcon logic here. They dont have any "hard figures" but they'll throw out an assumption and ask their opponents to "speculate upon a reason."

Hate to disappoint you, but I am not a "radcon"...really now, you could do better if you want to engage in namecalling. Actually I identify with those dreaded "Neocons"...you know, the ones lead by the Dark Lord Cheney (lol)...but then I digress.

I suspect the reason you assume that most private non-religious schools don't teach sex ed is because such an argument seems to support your views.
Bzzzzz...your suspicion is incorrect. Give me a little credit here...goodness, I post under my own name, email, etc. (heck, if you are as resourceful as my 16 year old daughter you might even be able to figure out where I work, not to mention what I do...).

No, I asked an honest, inquisitive question with a desire to know more on the subject. If Comprehensive Sex Ed (you know...condoms on cucumbers while talking up abstinence...lol) is taught in private K-12 schools I would like to know how they do it, why they do it and how successful they are at doing it.

David, on the other hand, appears to be up to the challenge and has something interesting to contribute.
David writes,
At the end of the day, I suspect that most private schools are responsive to the wishes of the parents who pay the tuition. Where there are splits in such views, then parents vote with their feet.
Thank you...I could not have said it better myself.

I do think David makes a strong point when he states,
The gross numbers, asked for by Orin, even if available, might not be terribly relevant. There is such a wide variety of reasons why parents, who have the financial capacity, choose private, non-religious schools. I could not agree more...what I am interested in is the conflict resolution utilized by private schools that teach sex ed.

Bottomline? Some private schools teach sex ed, some don't, and I am interested in why some don't teach the subject. Is it because they don't want to offend the parents of the students?...is because they simply don't have the instructional time?...or is there some other reason?

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO

December 10, 2005 9:32 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

I know that private schools of the non-religious sort do teach sex/health education here in MC. A friend just attended a parent meeting at Holton Arms for the 9th grade class on this subject. I imagine if Holton- a weel-known private school here- teaches this - other similar schools do as well. I also imagine in a private school, you could probably exempt your child- just as you can in MCPS- for certain portions. I can ask my friend if the meeting covered that.

December 10, 2005 10:39 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 11, 2005 8:42 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I just wrote a long post but it hasn't shown up. In short, I apologize for taking so long, because I wanted my son to opine on this, but he's in the midst of finals week.

He attended Phillips Andover Academy. He had a one semester PE course which had health and sex-ed lectures. Much more importantly, as a boarding school, there are dorm counselors and cluster advisors who are always getting into the kids lives, be it one-on-one or floor-by-floor, building-by-building or cluster-wide. They held numerous bull sessions talking about sex (students + advisors). I remember discussions about homosexuality when some of my son's friends came out.

There is an on-campus counseling center where the kids go to vent about their relationships (usually the girls). I recall several speakers on LGBT issues. And when I transitioned during my son's senior year, his friends were supportive, as was the faculty. Today they are still his best friends, and they've stayed with him at home with me.

Overall, I think they did a great job, and things turned out as well as I could have hoped. Then again, they did a great job on academics as well as college counseling, so it's part of the school culture to get things right. They also handled the post-9/11 situation very well, in the face of having a large contingent of Arab students (in particular Saudis) on campus.

So I think it's fair to say they do not run away from controversy, but challenge it and deal with it. They certainly don't assume the innocence of their students and try to protect it with silence.

December 11, 2005 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Bennett said...

Well our friends at the ADF were quite rightly lambasted in your post, but what Mike Johnson said was strangely ignored. He called us moral, loving, caring, tolerating, scientifically learned, and friendly supporters of non-censored sex ed the "adult-driven agenda to indoctrinate students." Um, hello sir! YOU are the adult-driven agenda to indoctrinate students.

As a former student member of the CAC and a strong advocate for gay rights, I can quite truthfully say that this is the parent-student alliance for truth, acceptance, and tolerance in education. As I mentioned when testifying before the Board of Education, all the people publically commenting against defining sexual variations were over 55. The vast majority of supporters were under 55! Every student that came before the BOE supported adding sexual variation information into the curriculum. No students came forward to ask the BOE to censor their education.

When will these people stop lying and deceiving?! I've almost had it with Ms. Turner and the ADF!

I'll be back in MoCo for winter break if anyone wants to speak with me or solicit my help. You can contact me at andrewbennett@comcast.net.

December 11, 2005 12:00 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thanks for the word, Andrew. This ADF is a nasty, big thing. I mean, huge. Unfortunately there was so much in this story that I couldn't comment on all of it (I think I have a tendency to post too much anyway).

I myself am exactly 55. I wonder if somehow in the middle of the year I'm going to all of a sudden petrify, or whatever happens to those people. Lose the ability to think critically and to laugh. I have the feeling that, once that's happened to you, you lose the perception to realize it...

Please, stay with us here, check in frequently, wherever you are. Post a comment now and then. It is hard to understand how MCPS got to this point, and it's good to hear from somebody who saw it happen.

Jim

December 11, 2005 12:13 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

First a question...what is ADF?

Second, a comment...Andrew Bennett writes,

No students came forward to ask the BOE to censor their education.

Andrew, I don't know how old you are, but if/when you marry, and if/when you have children, you can teach them any and all sexual variations to your hearts content...within the confines of your home. Should you decide to send your children to the public schools however, you will interact with parents like myself that do not want the latest P.C. line shoved down our children's throats. I know, I know...it sounds rather brutish, backwards, regressive, etc. I know I don't want the public schools so distracted by teaching this nonsense that they fail to teach the basics.

And just so you know, both my wife and I have close, personal friendships with gays and lesbians.

Bottomline: what you call "censorship" is really selectivity.

December 12, 2005 12:24 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

MY RESPONSES IN CAPS

Orin Ryssman said...
First a question...what is ADF?

ALLIANCE DEFENSE FUND, A DOBSON SPINOFF.

Second, a comment...Andrew Bennett writes,

No students came forward to ask the BOE to censor their education.

Andrew, I don't know how old you are, but if/when you marry, and if/when you have children, you can teach them any and all sexual variations to your hearts content...within the confines of your home. Should you decide to send your children to the public schools however, you will interact with parents like myself that do not want the latest P.C. line shoved down our children's throats.

IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR LAST MAY'S LAWSUIT, PARENTS WOULD ALREADY HAVE HAD THE CHOICE TO EITHER HAVE THEIR CHILDREN PRESENTED WITH THE INFORMATION, OR CHOOSE NOT TO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN PRESENTED WITH THE INFORMATION. AT THE MOMENT, THE ONLY CHOICE IS TO HAVE A FAMILY LIFE AND HUMAN SEXUALITY UNIT THAT PRETENDS THAT VARIATIONS IN SEXUAL ORIENTATION SIMPLY DO NOT EXIST. IN ANY EVENT, THE PROPOSED CURRICULUM REVISIONS WERE NOT "PC" IN THE DEROGATORY SENSE THAT YOU USE IT, BUT RATHER SIMPLY PROVIDING THE WISDOM OF ALL MAINSTREAM HEALTH PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS.

I know, I know...it sounds rather brutish, backwards, regressive, etc. I know I don't want the public schools so distracted by teaching this nonsense that they fail to teach the basics.

I AGREE THAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT BE DISTRACTED FROM TEACHING "THE BASICS." THERE WAS NO DISTRACTION, UNTIL THE LAWSUIT. BUT IF WE DECLINE TO INCLUDE ANY MATERIALS THAT MIGHT CAUSE ANYONE CONCERN, THEN WE WILL END UP DOING NOTHING BUT TEACHING BASIC LITERACY, WHICH IS PLAINLY INSUFFICIENT IN THE COMPLEX, DIFFICULT, HIGHLY COMPETITIVE WORLD WITH WHICH OUR CHILDREN WILL BE FACED.

December 12, 2005 6:53 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Orin,

To me the basic question is: why does this matter so much to you? You sound generally reasonable, you have gay friends, you probably are aware as a result of those friendships and participating in this blog what it's like to be "outside the general community." As David said, the curriculum dealt with this only in a total of 90 minutes in the first place. Parents had to opt-in their children as well.

But I don't understand the fuss about this issue in the public schools. It doesn't sound like garden variety libertarianism to me. Did you get so riled up about the new math? Are you upset that the quality of science education in general is so poor? That teachers are overworked and underpaid, that the education in general is suffering?

And on the most fundamental level, do you think parents should be welcomed in to micromanage every aspect of the curriculum the way they have been invited in to talk about health and sex? And if not, why is sex so, so important?

December 12, 2005 8:04 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Well, well...I had a reply nearly ready to send and accidently selected and deleted it all...sigh. And now I have other things I need to do...

So, I will pass on commenting on David's post...other than to say that all the information supposedly being denied students is readily available on the internet from highly reputable sources, like Planned Parenthood. So, why the PUSH then to include sexual variation?...could it have anything to do with a social engineering and political agenda? Like I have said...I will gladly call off the fight and tell those backward, Jesus wheezing, Bible-thumpers to go crawl back to their caves if we can all agree that this element of public education is too devisive and controversial to ever agree upon. Any takers?

Then, real quick, Dana Beyer writes,

But I don't understand the fuss about this issue in the public schools. It doesn't sound like garden variety libertarianism to me. Did you get so riled up about the new math? Are you upset that the quality of science education in general is so poor? That teachers are overworked and underpaid, that the education in general is suffering?

Nope...I am not libertarian, an offshoot of the conservative side that is about as amoral a worldview as is possible.

As a "guinnea pig" in that new math experiment, I do appreciate the extent to which the field of education is prone to fads and fashions. The level of science instruction in my neck of the woods is actually pretty good, with teachers that are well-qualified and motivated to teach. I believe a big part of the problem are students that are not willing to put forth anything more than a minimal effort to learn, much less master a subject. Remember, I have a 7th and 11th grader... There are far, far too many distractions for today's students to resist. TV, internet, cell phones, etc...

And on the most fundamental level, do you think parents should be welcomed in to micromanage every aspect of the curriculum the way they have been invited in to talk about health and sex? And if not, why is sex so, so important? Why place all the blame on teachers? Honestly now, I think they generally do a good job...but do students apply themselves? I don't think so...

Dana concludes,
And on the most fundamental level, do you think parents should be welcomed in to micromanage every aspect of the curriculum the way they have been invited in to talk about health and sex? And if not, why is sex so, so important?

No, I do not...but since you and I and most of those that post here hardly qualify as "babes in the woods" and are not naive on this subject, what is this all about? And why is it so important?

As much as Jim, David, you and all of those that support Teach the Facts would prefer to ignore, excuse, rationalize, minimize or simply wish away, the Truth (big "T", not little "t") is that nearly any discussion of human sexuality necessarily involves a moral and ethical dimension. To say that any moral consensus still exists over any number of issues in contemporary American society would be to assert that the Earth is Flat. Indeed, the consensus has been so fragmented that I doubt it can ever be reconstituted (though I suspect that fact is celebrated here), a view that puts me at odds with many in my camp.

In light of a lack of any consensus, not to mention the socio-moral fragmentation, why press forward with liberal/left-wing social engineering agenda that will only work to reduce support for our public schools? I lived in what was at the time a retirement community in Southern CA...everything was old...the buildings, the textbooks, in short everything. It was well known that the reason for this is that every time a bond issue or mill levy increase went before the voters, the Senior Citizen contingent would vote them down. Were I to still be living in the State of California, I would be working a second job so that I would not have to send my children to the public schools.

A widescale loss of public support for public education would be more than unfortunate...it would be tragic. Keep pushing the agenda as represented eloquently here, and you will have nobody to blame for the loss of support, money and votes but yourselves.

Once again, Dana writes,
And if not, why is sex so, so important?

And your answer is?...

Orin Ryssman
Fort Collins, CO
oryssman@hotmail.com

December 12, 2005 11:51 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Orin,

My answer is multifold. I don't consider it left or right. I do consider it moral.

I believe public schools, being public, must look out for the majority of students. That means funding some programs for the gifted and talented as well as the developmentally delayed. It means respecting gay as well as straight students, and, at a minimum, making sure their institutions are safe. I don't call that social engineering.

I believe in teaching science that is as up to date as possible, and not teaching religion, which masquerades as science, as science. I take that as a moral position.

I believe teaching about sex is part science, part morals. I'd like the science to be up-to-date, which means the scientific material that was in the recently discarded curriculum. I know it doesn't amount to much, but it's an improvement.

I have no problems teaching abstinence and safe sex practices together, as well as contraceptive techniques, because humans are sexual beings from puberty onward, and to ignore that fact is immoral. Also, to believe humans will abstain from sex from puberty until marriage is lunacy (and I don't mean that as a mental illness, Andrea).

As a physician I beleive in protecting the public health, and the best way to do that is to teach adolscents about the science and practice of sex. To refrain from doing so because of religious objections is short-sighted, wrong, and ineffective.

Why is this battle worth fighting now, and here? Well, I don't really disagree with you on a pragmatic basis. If I were convinced that dropping sex-ed was a necessary and sufficient action to protect and enhance public schooling, I might support it. But it's not. This particular battle is simply the front line in a right wing Christian attempt to make this a fundamentalist Christian state. If it weren't for Liberty Counsel and the ADF, the curriculum would be in place, the 1% who refuse to opt-in would not opt-in, and life would go on for me without bi-weekly visits to the BoE.

So I will fight that battle wherever it appears, when I am qualified to do so. I am particularly qualified on issues of science, medicine and public health, and less so on other issues, so this is my personal front line.

I also believe, on a more philosophical level, that the religious fear of sexuality is rooted in misopgyny, and until we can educate children to respect each other, and to empower both boys and girls to respect their bodies and sexualities, then we will simply engender more and more fear and hate. To the fundamentalists sex has always been about controlling women's lives. I know neocons couldn't give a hoot. :-)

December 12, 2005 12:44 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

Orin Ryssman said...

"So, I will pass on commenting on David's post...other than to say that all the information supposedly being denied students is readily available on the internet from highly reputable sources, like Planned Parenthood. So, why the PUSH then to include sexual variation?...could it have anything to do with a social engineering and political agenda? Like I have said...I will gladly call off the fight and tell those backward, Jesus wheezing, Bible-thumpers to go crawl back to their caves if we can all agree that this element of public education is too devisive and controversial to ever agree upon. Any takers?
*****

"As much as Jim, David, you and all of those that support Teach the Facts would prefer to ignore, excuse, rationalize, minimize or simply wish away, the Truth (big "T", not little "t") is that nearly any discussion of human sexuality necessarily involves a moral and ethical dimension. To say that any moral consensus still exists over any number of issues in contemporary American society would be to assert that the Earth is Flat. Indeed, the consensus has been so fragmented that I doubt it can ever be reconstituted (though I suspect that fact is celebrated here), a view that puts me at odds with many in my camp."

Orin,

Your concerns do go back to the basic question of whether the public schools should teach anything about sexuality at all. That is a moot point in Maryland, because state law requires it. Since it is taught, omission of basic facts on sexual orientation would be (and has been) a gaping hole. For the reasons I will now discuss, I think it wise that Maryland requires some teaching about sexuality. (Of course, Maryland also mandates that students only take that teaching if their parents or guardians give permission, something about 99% of Montgomery County parents do.)

I agree that “any discussion of human sexuality necessarily involves a moral and ethical dimension.” I think that the middle and high school curriculum in Montgomery County tries to deal with those moral and ethical dimensions by stressing the value of teen abstinence and exploring (perhaps not enough) both the emotional and physical consequences (good and bad) of sexual activity. Given the junk that kids get from the mass media, the street, and the locker room, it is a pretty good idea to have the schools correct a lot of misinformation.

And I think that there is a general consensus, at least in Montgomery County (and probably most places), that human sexuality should be an important, fulfilling part of life – not just the means of reproduction. Sex is a powerful thing: used irresponsibly, it can be devastating to those involved; used responsibly in loving, caring relationships, it is one of the greatest joys of life. Most of us want for our children responsible, monogamous, life-long relationships – what most of us call marriage. Marriage is vital element of societal stability and happiness. How we advance this moral and ethical dimension will often be a subject of some controversy, but it is the means, and not the ends, that may divide us.

Where there is less of a consensus, at least nationally, is how gays and lesbians fit into this picture. Most people, if we are to believe the polls, adopt a live-and-let-live approach. (Like Jim, I fail to see any downside in affording the rights and responsibilities that government permits opposite-sex couples to be extended to same-sex couples.) Others believe that God demands that gays and lesbians either “change” or remain life-long celibates, if they cannot change. The proposed curriculum revisions that the Montgomery County Board of Education unanimously voted to pilot last year did not get into that issue. Rather, it simply provided basic information about sexual orientation (NOT, I repeat, NOT) about sexual activity. The curriculum revisions did not discuss, much less encourage, “alternative life-styles,” whatever that means. At most, the only “alternative life-style” mentioned was the fact that, in our community, some families are headed up by same-sex couples. Of course, those couples’ lifestyles are essentially identical to the Leave It To Beaver model, except for the sexual orientation of the parents. (The curriculum already mentions families headed by a single parent and “blended families,” where biological parents have been divorced; that did not create an outcry from those who opposed the curriculum revisions).

Just as most of us want our children to be accepting of families who practice religions different from ours or who may be of different ethnicity or race, I do not think it such an extraordinary proposition that we should want our children to be accepting of people who happen to have different sexual orientation. There was a time in this country when religion, ethnicity, and race were considered legitimate reasons for shunning. Thankfully, we have gotten past that, for the most part, and the Golden Rule approach of our schools and other public institutions had an enormous positive impact on that growth. Orin, I am fairly certain your gay friends would agree that we should continue that progress.

Still, there are those who believe that people who have minority sexual orientations should be shunned or, if possible, “converted.” I suspect that many of their children or grandchildren will be embarrassed at their parents’ views, just as so many in our generation are embarrassed by our parents’ or grandparents’ prejudice against Jews or Catholics or Mormons or African-Americans or Hispanics.

Have a Merry Christmas, just as I intend to have a Happy Chanukah. And may be we all have a Happy New Year.

David

December 12, 2005 5:20 PM  
Anonymous David. S. Fishback said...

Orin Ryssman writes . . .

“So, I will pass on commenting on David's post...other than to say that all the information supposedly being denied students is readily available on the internet from highly reputable sources, like Planned Parenthood. So, why the PUSH then to include sexual variation?...could it have anything to do with a social engineering and political agenda? Like I have said...I will gladly call off the fight and tell those backward, Jesus wheezing, Bible-thumpers to go crawl back to their caves if we can all agree that this element of public education is too devisive and controversial to ever agree upon. Any takers?
****

“As much as Jim, David, you and all of those that support Teach the Facts would prefer to ignore, excuse, rationalize, minimize or simply wish away, the Truth (big "T", not little "t") is that nearly any discussion of human sexuality necessarily involves a moral and ethical dimension. To say that any moral consensus still exists over any number of issues in contemporary American society would be to assert that the Earth is Flat. Indeed, the consensus has been so fragmented that I doubt it can ever be reconstituted (though I suspect that fact is celebrated here), a view that puts me at odds with many in my camp.”

Orin,

Your concerns do go back to the basic question of whether the public schools should teach anything about sexuality at all. That is a moot point in Maryland, because state law requires it. Since it is taught, omission of basic facts on sexual orientation would be (and has been) a gaping hole. For the reasons I will now discuss, I think it wise that Maryland requires some teaching about sexuality. (Of course, Maryland also mandates that students only take that teaching if their parents or guardians give permission, something about 99% of Montgomery County parents do.)

I agree that “any discussion of human sexuality necessarily involves a moral and ethical dimension.” I think that the middle and high school curriculum in Montgomery County tries to deal with those moral and ethical dimensions by stressing the value of teen abstinence and exploring (perhaps not enough) both the emotional and physical consequences (good and bad) of sexual activity. Given the junk that kids get from the mass media, the street, and the locker room, it is a pretty good idea to have the schools correct a lot of misinformation.

And I think that there is a general consensus, at least in Montgomery County (and probably most places), that human sexuality should be an important, fulfilling part of life – not just the means of reproduction. Sex is a powerful thing: used irresponsibly, it can be devastating to those involved; used responsibly in loving, caring relationships, it is one of the greatest joys of life. Most of us want for our children responsible, monogamous, life-long relationships – what most of us call marriage. Marriage is vital element of societal stability and happiness. How we advance this moral and ethical dimension will often be a subject of some controversy, but it is the means, and not the ends, that may divide us.

Where there is less of a consensus, at least nationally, is how gays and lesbians fit into this picture. Most people, if we are to believe the polls, adopt a live-and-let-live approach. (Like Jim, I fail to see any downside in affording the rights and responsibilities that government permits opposite-sex couples to be extended to same-sex couples.) Others believe that God demands that gays and lesbians either “change” or remain life-long celibates, if they cannot change. The proposed curriculum revisions that the Montgomery County Board of Education unanimously voted to pilot last year did not get into that issue. Rather, it simply provided basic information about sexual orientation (NOT, I repeat, NOT) about sexual activity. The curriculum revisions did not discuss, much less encourage, “alternative life-styles,” whatever that means. At most, the only “alternative life-style” mentioned was the fact that, in our community, some families are headed up by same-sex couples. Of course, those couples’ lifestyles are essentially identical to the Leave It To Beaver model, except for the sexual orientation of the parents. (The curriculum already mentions families headed by a single parent and “blended families,” where biological parents have been divorced; that did not create an outcry from those who opposed the curriculum revisions).

Just as most of us want our children to be accepting of families who practice religions different from ours or who may be of different ethnicity or race, I do not think it such an extraordinary proposition that we should want our children to be accepting of people who happen to have different sexual orientation. There was a time in this country when religion, ethnicity, and race were considered legitimate reasons for shunning. Thankfully, we have gotten past that, for the most part, and the Golden Rule approach of our schools and other public institutions had an enormous positive impact on that growth. Orin, I am fairly certain your gay friends would agree that we should continue that progress.

Still, there are those who believe that people who have minority sexual orientations should be shunned or, if possible, “converted.” I suspect that many of their children or grandchildren will be embarrassed at their parents’ views, just as so many in our generation are embarrassed by our parents’ or grandparents’ prejudice against Jews or Catholics or Mormons or African-Americans or Hispanics.

Have a Merry Christmas, just as I intend to have a Happy Chanukah. And may be we all have a Happy New Year.

David

December 12, 2005 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Bennett said...

Why does MCPS need to include homosexuality in its curriculum?

Gay teens are 3 to 5 times more likely to commit suicide. That's no mistake. For every 100 straight teens killing themselves, there are between 300 and 500 gay teens killing themselves. This is the tragic reality because intolerant parents dissociate from their children and their ignorant peers harass them. In some cases, they even hate themselves because they do not understand what it means to be gay. This is no mistake. No. This is a social crisis. It takes an extremely strong personality to be able to carry on after your father refuses to talk to you again. I know that kid. I went to school with him. It takes an extremely strong personality to go to school when you are beaten and harassed. I know those kids too.

I will not stand by while students are in fear of going to school. I will not stand by while students are in fear of going home. This is a social crisis. We need truthful education simply to define the terms and open the classroom to allow 10% of the student body (approx. 13,000 gay students in the school system) to have a place to feel comfortable.

Those people against defining homosexuality are not just advocating religious beliefs, they aim to threaten the students I represented. I do not mean to insult anyone's religious beliefs (although I could...). I want to save the lives of students in Montgomery County.

-Andrew

December 12, 2005 8:02 PM  

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