Friday, April 21, 2006

Citizens Committee Chair Comments on the Process

Dr. Carol Plotsky is the chair of the MCPS citizens advisory committee that is evaluating the new sex education curriculum. Yesterday she gave a two-minute presentation to the Board of Education regarding the committee's evaluation of the "framework," which is a first step toward creating a curriculum, a high-level outline of the entire curriculum from preschool to high school. The MCPS citizens committee had recently recommended a framework to the board. Here are her comments in their entirety:
Statement on Behalf of the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development

By Carol A. Plotsky, MD, Chair

Mr. President, Members of the Board of Education, and Dr. Weast, I appreciate this opportunity to speak today on behalf of the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. You have before you the report of our committee with respect to the framework for health education that you are considering today. You also have the recommendations of the superintendent, which incorporate many of our recommendations.

As chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, I am here today to share with you the consensus of the committee and, more importantly, the commitment of this committee. I understand that the membership of our committee is the result of a lawsuit and of controversy. It is likely that our committee will have many contentious meetings. However, I want the Board of Education to know that you have formed an amazing committee with incredible talent and knowledge. We came together to address this framework with strong misgivings, expecting confrontation and disagreement. However, we held two meetings in which the discussions and actions were respectful of all opinions and the task we were asked to perform.

Having said that, it is important for you to understand that while, as a group, we made few recommendations to the framework, we also raised many other issues for the health curriculum. Many of these issues were important to a majority of committee members - but which we felt did not need to be addressed in the framework. The school system's staff members who attended our meetings are aware of these recommendations and, hopefully, they will address these issues in the blueprint and the course materials.

The superintendent's recommendations have incorporated most of our changes into the materials before you today. The most significant omissions are the two places in which we added marriage to the framework - in Grade 8 where we suggested a topic "Discuss marriage and family responsibilities" and in High School where we suggested including "marriage, extended family and access to medical care" as support systems helpful to parents. There are several other changes we have suggested that were not incorporated. However, the addition of marriage in these two places was felt to be appropriate and necessary to the framework.

I would ask this Board to look carefully at the recommendations of the Citizen's Advisory Committee in making your final determination of the framework with respect to the Family Life and Human Sexuality Standard and the Disease and Prevention Control Standard. This amazing group of people has given their time willingly and has taken your charge to them very seriously, in order to make sure our children receive the best education possible.

Thank you.

As the citizens committee discusses the new curriculum, this topic of marriage will come up repeatedly, no doubt, and we will walk a fine line. For one thing, marriage can't be a requirement for having sex or a family, if only for the simple reason that gay people can't legally marry in most places. That's just an absolute, if you demand that everybody wait till they marry, you're insulting a large group of people who have been insulted enough already. I won't stand for it, and lot of other citizens committee members won't either. I'm pretty sure that any attempts to insult gay people will be voted down by this Montgomery County group. That's a civilized thing, it's how we conduct a democracy, we vote and then we move on.

Someone recently made a good point: even though a good marriage might be good for you, a bad marriage can do real damage. It's just not good for you to stay in a house with somebody who beats you, or molests your children, or spends the rent money on dope, or has affairs every time you turn around. It's also not better to marry somebody you aren't attracted to in order to placate your social group, as when gay people feel they must marry someone of the opposite sex.

Sometimes it's good to live in an extended family situation, sometimes one parent can handle the whole thing, and there's enough love to make up for the scarcity of time together. And sometimes people find themselves in a situation where they do whatever they have to, to keep on keeping on; I say, bless them, whoever they are, whatever they have to do, and good luck to them.

Same-sex couples often form strong, loving, lifetime relationships, and even though they can't marry legally, this can be the basis of a strong family: who can say that's not a beautiful thing? Some people may choose to live together without registering with the government, and I don't see why they should. It may be that most people in our society marry according to a certain tradition, and that's cool -- I'm in a traditional marriage, I think it's great -- but that doesn't mean it's the only thing, or that this is what everyone should do, or that it's a prerequisite for enjoying the richness of love and being alive.

Dr. Plotsky's comments reflect an optimism that I believe is shared by the citizens committee. Everybody knows there are differences of opinion, they know there will be some intense discussions, but at this early stage it appears that the group members are mature enough to negotiate, to compromise, and to come to an agreement that serves the community well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Health Curriculum Frameworks

The Board approved the Health Education curriculum framework following feedback and input from stakeholders, including the Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development. The framework provides the foundation for the development of curriculum blueprints and instructional guides.


April 22, 2006 9:17 PM  

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