Monday, March 20, 2006

Voices In The Dark

Kansas, being Kansas, has got another controversy on its hands. This time the conservative state school board members who redefined science so that it no longer required "natural explanations," who wanted intelligent design taught in biology classes, have decided to undermine sex education by requiring students to "opt in" rather than "opt out" of classes. That means your kid is by default not going to have sex-ed, unless you sign the permission slip.
School districts in Kansas must get parents' written permission before teaching their children sex education, the state Board of Education decided Wednesday.

The board adopted the policy in a 6-4 vote. Up to now, most Kansas districts had an "opt-out" policy, they enrolled children in sex ed unless a parent objected in writing.

Only a few other states have such "opt-in" requirements on sex education, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a group that promotes sex education. Among them: Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

Board members who voted for the new policy said some parents told them they did not know their children were taking sex education until the classes had started.

"It's about empowering parents. That's the bottom line," said board chairman Steve Abrams. Kansas: Parents Must OK Sex Ed

This is a funny way to try to drag down health education, and one that I'm guessing won't work.

Montgomery County has an opt-in policy already. I know, I just signed the form last week and my kid lost it, so I signed it again this morning.

Though statistics don't seem to have been kept, the estimates from school district staff have been that something like ninety-nine percent of parents did sign those forms, and more amazingly, ninety-nine percent of kids managed to get all the way to school with them and turn them into their teachers.

But this is cool, it looks like some local Kansas school boards are just going to ignore this new rule. From the Lawrence Journal-World:
Lawrence schools Supt. Randy Weseman on Friday criticized the Kansas State Board of Education for being out of touch and unresponsive to local school districts.

“The arguments they’re making are just voices in the dark,” Weseman said. “They’re just not issues.”

Weseman said the Lawrence district likely wouldn’t change its practices in response to the board’s recent vote requiring parental permission before students take sex education courses.

“I think what they did was a solution in search of a problem,” Weseman said. “I just don’t see (the Lawrence board) moving in this direction right now, and I know my board pretty well.”

The state board’s conservative majority on Wednesday approved a requirement that students receive parental permission before taking sex education, a process called opt-in. In Lawrence, as in many districts, parents can have their children opt out of classes. Lawrence sex-ed policy likely to stay as opt-out

Pretty good article, you ought to click on that link. This conservative school board is just tearing it up over there, making decisions right and left, dragging the state of Kansas into the Third World.

Kicking and screaming, in some cases.
Health teachers at two Lawrence junior high schools said the issue of teaching human sexuality had not been a major concern for parents.

“The parents are very supportive, and they tell me how glad they are we are talking about this subject,” said Vickie McCauley, a West Junior High School teacher who has taught health for 21 years in Lawrence. McCauley said about 10 students had opted out of her sex education lessons in those 21 years.

Max Cordova, health and physical education teacher at Southwest Junior High School, said talking about the subject in school could ease fears about discussing it at home.

“They’re intimidated by mom and dad, and mom and dad may be intimidated, too,” he said. “It kind of eases up the relationship with mom and dad. It’s all about communicating.”

I know I was talking to one of my kids the other day about some things that will be in the health curriculum, oh wait, it won't be in the health curriculum. Well, it was something that was going to be in the curriculum, having to do with a friend of theirs who came out recently and told the world he's gay. So I started in a little bit about sexual attraction and sexual orientation and .. well, let's just say, they ... did ... not ... want ... to ... hear this from Dad. Naturally, as chief blogger for Teach the Facts I am a recognized expert on all of this stuff, but my own kid would rather hear it at school.

This Lawrence news story actually has another scary section to it, near the bottom:
The issue of alleged pornography may be next for the state board.

A dispute in the Blue Valley school district over assigned texts spurred [state board member Steve] Abrams and others to allege that some schools assign pornographic literature.

Conservative board member Bacon said he’d read some of the texts on the Blue Valley reading list. The list includes “Beloved” by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and “Black Boy” by Richard Wright.

“I’m thinking, ‘Who in their right mind would want to force this on a child?’” Bacon said. “To me, it screams sexual harassment. ... I think it’s important that we at least try to see if we can get some more information.”

I don't know where this goes from here. I think the Bush bubble has burst, the dream of a theocratic America is losing momentum as one bright idea after another turns into disaster and failure. But in some places, it looks like, the dream lives on. Apparently in Kansas, they've got a little group on the school board -- look, it only takes a few people -- that's going to undercut education in every way they can think of. Will the voters keep this school board? Is this kind of thing gaining or losing ground? Midterm elections later this year will give us some insights. I am very eager to see if we can get our country back on its feet.


Blogger andrea said...

Jim, as you point out, at certain times and on certain subjects, our kids would rather learn at school. I think they are embarrassed that we know about these things. While we have no trouble discussing it- our kids would like to believe we don't know.

March 20, 2006 2:55 PM  

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