Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Something came up recently in a discussion, which we haven't mentioned for quite a while.

Every student has the option of refusing to take the "sex" parts of the MCPS health curriculum. Montgomery County has an "opt-in" procedure, so everybody who takes sex ed has to actually bring in a form signed by their parents that says "Yes, Johnny has my permission to take this course." You know, this is the most conservative method, it's what Kansas has been fighting about -- their absurdly-far-right state school board wants to do it like we do.

I don't think that records are actually kept, but the anecdotal wisdom is that typically about one per cent of MCPS students choose not to take the course.

What happens to those students? When the other kids go to health class, these kids go to the library, where they are given a folder of "independent studies" work to do. Boring, irrelevant stuff, we're told.

Some people say that's not fair. Some people say there should be an alternative course for students who choose not to take health. Or, I should say, whose parents choose for them not to learn about their health.

There seem to me to be a couple of basic kinds of arguments against this. First of all -- sex-ed is important. I want my kids to know what's going on and how to be as safe as possible, and I also want the kids who date my kids to have that knowledge. This is an interdependent and nontrivial lesson for us as a society. Some people might want to pretend that there's a big moral issue with talking about the birds and the bees (and the bees and the bees), but the fact is this is basic knowledge that our community needs for its young people to understand. I see in the news where countries like China and Malaysia and the Phillipines are struggling with their approaches to sex-ed, for instance how much should it be physiology and how much values? It's tough. But the US has had sex-ed for decades, we're not some developing country rising from ignorance and poverty, it was agreed decades ago that sex-ed is a necessary part of education, and every student should take it. It's the right thing to do, we've already had that debate.

So, the point is, you don't want to make it easier or more attractive for students to avoid this responsibility.

Second argument: hardly anybody opts out anyway. You don't want to put a bunch of effort into something like that. It's like developing a special PE class for kids with sprained ankles. Let 'em sit on the sidelines, they don't hurt anything, and it'll be over soon.

Those who oppose the curriculum like to say that leaving class and going to the library "stigmatizes" a kid, and they can be teased about it. Well, it seems to me that if you want to take a stand against the system, you have to risk that. Whether you want to fight for a liberal cause or a conservative one, at some point if you march out of step with the masses somebody might notice. If your way of life is so much better than the rest of us that your kid needs special treatment, hey, they should be proud, shouldn't they? Aren't they?

Of course the other aspect of this stigma business is that nobody really notices. Come on, kids are popping up out of their seats all day, throwing spitballs, drawing on each other with sharpies, text-messaging each other under the desk, they're running to the nurse for their Ritalin and their Elavil -- nobody's going to sit around and talk about one kid who goes to the library during health class. There's no stigma, they're just whining.

Developing an alternative curriculum "sounds like" a good idea, just like "presenting both sides of the issue" sounds like a good idea until you realize that bigots and liars are getting equal time with people who are telling the truth. The fact is, there is a sex-ed curriculum being developed very carefully, by teams of medical and educational experts supported by legal staff who are checking to make sure everything is copacetic. The class isn't offered as a courtesy, there's a state law requiring it -- the things that are taught in sex-ed class are very important to students, if not now, then eventually. We should do everything to see that Montgomery County students do get the best information about these important matters that touch the whole community. We should definitely not spend effort developing a content-free course for those who choose not to learn.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

copacetic: VERY satisfactory

June 27, 2006 12:59 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

It is a great word, is it not?


June 27, 2006 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

opinion of medical experts currently rewriting the sex-ed currciulum regarding Fishback curriculum:


June 27, 2006 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wyatt with Fishback obsession

June 27, 2006 1:45 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


If you take a look at the materials the medical experts provided as the basis for good curriculum revisions, as well as their memo to Dr. Weast, you will see that their view is that the curriculum revisions presented last year simply did not go far enough along the path those revisions took. At the suggestion of MCPS staff, we recommended only very limited revisions. The revisions that may emerge now likely will go further. And they certainly will not contain the "conversion therapy" matters which CRC/PFOX desire and which the American Medical Association condemns.

June 27, 2006 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And they certainly..."


June 27, 2006 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spanish Parliament Supports Rights for Apes

By Jason Webb, Reuters

MADRID (June 27) - Spain's parliament is to declare support for rights to life and freedom for great apes on Wednesday, apparently the first time any national legislature will have recognized such rights for non-humans.

Parliament is to ask the government to adhere to the Great Ape Project, which would mean recognizing that our closest genetic relatives should be part of a "community of equals" with humans, supporters of the resolution said.

Backers of the resolution expect support from the party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose government has legalized gay marriage and reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education.

"With this, Spain will make itself a world leader in protection of the great apes," said Pedro Pozas, general secretary of the Great Ape Project's Spanish branch.

Spanish media quoted the Catholic Archbishop of Pamplona as saying it was ludicrous to grant apes rights not enjoyed by unborn children, in a reference to Spanish abortion laws.

Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, arguing apes were so close to humans they deserved rights to life and freedom.

The Spanish move could set a precedent for greater legal protection for other animals, including elephants, whales and dolphins, said Paul Waldau, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University.

"We were born into a society where humans alone are the sole focus, and we begin to expand to the non-human great apes. It isn't easy for us to see how far that expansion will go, but it's very clear we need to expand beyond humans," Waldau said.

06/27/06 10:54 ET

June 27, 2006 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wyatt = blocking from this site

June 27, 2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The revisions that may emerge now likely will go further. And they certainly will not contain the "conversion therapy" matters which CRC/PFOX desire"

Sir David

There's nothing certain at all about the coming curriculum. The lawyers are combing through it as we speak and the Board is trying as hard as they can to avoid electoral accountability. The end is unpredictable.

Myriad parties, however, whether they be the medical experts or the local judiciary or the CRC, all found the rejected curriculum to be...uncopacetic.

The Right Knight

June 27, 2006 5:46 PM  

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