Sunday, January 28, 2007

Alexandria's Fake Controversy

Alexandria Virginia is in another state, across the river from us, around the Beltway. Montgomery County folks go down there to listen to music, we have friends and relatives there -- it's not really very far, but ... even though you can just about throw a rock from our county to theirs, their news is not really "local" news to us.

There have been a few stories lately in The Examiner asserting that there is some controversy over their sex-ed curriculum. The problem is ... it's The Examiner, whose news stories do not necessarily bear any relationship to reality. You can't trust that their quotes aren't made up, that they haven't inverted the truth just to make a point. So please, take all this with a grain of salt.

On January 12th, reporter David Francis broke this exciting story:
Alexandria - A transsexual is “a person who has had a medical sex change, male to female or female to male.” A transvestite is “a person who dresses in the clothes of the opposite gender for sexual pleasure (may be of any sexual orientation.)”

This language, found in the guidance given to sex education teachers in Alexandria high school — as well as language about homosexuality and abortion — has a liberal bias and should be excluded from the classroom, according to Kenneth Wolfe. Wolfe is a 10-year member of the Family Life Advisory Committee, the panel charged with reviewing Alexandria’s sex education curriculum.

Wolfe is a political conservative who said other panel members supported the guidance. He argued the definitions and other content in the sexual orientation section, as well as the inclusion of language in the abortion section from pro-choice organization Planned Parenthood, is inappropriate. Concerns raised over Alexandria sex education curriculum guide

Well, first of all, you look through the text and try to figure out what "the guidance given to sex education teachers" means. Are these background notes for health teachers? That wording suggests that this is not something they bring up in class... and anyway, why wouldn't they? Is there a reason that Alexandria teenagers need to be kept in the dark about transgender and transvestites?

(And I should point out, their definitions are all wrong. They need some advice on some of this.)

One suspects this second-rate newspaper is scraping the bottom of the barrel to boost its readership by two or three subscribers.

On January 17th, The Examiner followed up with this shocking news:
Alexandria - A second member of an Alexandria school advisory committee charged with reviewing the school district’s high school sexual education curriculum has come forward with serious concerns and has called for the end of the class.

“Nothing would make me happier than to see this class go away,” said Marie Steinmetz, a family doctor who serves on the Family Life Advisory Committee. “I don’t think it’s the best thing for the students of the school system.”

Two of the Family Life Advisory Committee’s five members have now registered complaints about the sex education program in Alexandria’s high schools.

Steinmetz joins Kenneth Wolfe, a 10-year committee member, who said language on abortion and homosexuality in curriculum guidelines used by teachers have a liberal bias. Alexandria school advisory committee split on sex-ed class

Ah, but this one is transparent.

Look, they say this doctor would like the class to "go away." Then the story tells you stuff, again, about transsexuals, and mentions Planned Parenthood, which they describe as an "abortion rights organization."

But does Dr. Steinmetz object to the content of the curriculum? Even The Examiner can't put those words in her mouth:
Steinmetz said she thought the guidelines lean left, but that was in line with the political leaning of the city. She said she wanted to get rid of the class because it is ineffective and takes away other learning opportunities.

“As a scientist, show me the evidence that [the class] is doing what its expected to do,” she said, noting that Alexandria’s teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in Virginia.

Steinmetz added that taking the class prevents students from taking other classes, such as band or additional languages. She said sex education should be included in physical education class, and parents should be allowed to opt their children out of individual parts of the class instead of being forced to completely remove their kids. Alexandria school advisory committee split on sex-ed class

Look, this newspaper has no journalist standards. We have seen them flat-out make stuff up. We saw them say things about Montgomery County, Virginia, in a story about Montgomery County, Maryland, hoping you'd never notice. Our school district says they printed a retraction of their last story about our situation, but that story, which is entirely incorrect, is still online.

By putting the complaint that the sex-ed curriculum has stuff about abortion and homosexuality together with the fact that this doctor doesn't think sex-ed is effective, they try to make you think the doctor objects to the new curriculum. Naw, she thinks it's a good fit to the community, she just wonders if sex education is a waste of time. That's a legitimate concern, though it's pretty clear people want it in the schools.

The Examiner is manufacturing this "controversy."

Look, you can see the document they're talking about HERE. It says "**** DRAFT ****" at the top of the pages in question.

There is a section on abortion, which is of course a good idea, but one that Montgomery County chickened out on. It's also still in draft form, but the outline starts like this:
1. State Ground rules:
You may express opinions, beliefs, and values; however, this is neither a debate nor a talk show.
We are not here to argue or “convince” anyone.

You may keep your private position and opinions private. No one will be asked or forced to reveal their personal opinions. (Including the teacher.)

Proper terminology will be taught and then used. Insulting, attacking or prejudicial language will not be tolerated.

This is an information lesson. It will give you the basis for forming or defending your point of view from a position of knowledge. No final conclusions or position will be required.
2. Definition: Abortion is the intentional termination of a pregnancy by medical removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus...

OK, you know you're going to talk about something that people have opinions about. Put it on the table. I think this is exactly the right way to bring up this topic. Where our Montgomery County curriculum puts a lid on discussion, Alexandria is going to make it the central feature of the class. Why would anybody object to that? Kids can say whatever they want, they can express mom and dad's opinions in class, this should be perfect for the ... conservatives. I definitely think it's better than what our county did, which is to ignore the topic altogether for political reasons.

The draft Alexandria lesson discusses the history of abortion law, helps kids understand what the pro-choice--pro-life continuum is about, and rate their opinions on the scale. Man, this makes a lot of sense. Nobody's taking sides, they're just saying, this is what people are talking about. You'll see it in the newspapers, you'll hear about it in church, from your friends, this is what they're talking about.

The Examiner had to push the issue a little further in a January 19th article, also by the same reporter, David Francis:
WASHINGTON - Alexandria public schools are now saying controversial lesson plans on abortion and sexual orientation included in guidance given to high school sex education teachers are drafts and are not being used in classrooms.

“The lesson plans for teaching about abortion and sexual orientation ... are drafts and they are now labeled as drafts,” school spokeswoman Amy Carlini said in an e-mail exchange with The Examiner.

The lesson plans posted as the 2006 Family Life Education Curriculum guide on a public page of the Alexandria schools Web site last week gave no indication the plans were drafts. In a version of the document posted on its Web site Thursday, the abortion and sexual orientation sections are now marked as drafts.

Margaret Walsh, executive director of secondary programs for Alexandria, told The Examiner last week the material did not have to be approved by the panel to be used in schools. Only a curriculum specialist needs to approve the guidance. The panel “is doing exactly what they’re suppose to do,” she said last week, “provide advice on what they think or don’t think of the course.” Schools: Sex-ed lesson plans are drafts

The curriculum outline document says "2006" on the top, and shows no sign of having been edited. Maybe it was, but I'm not buying this story. In any case, it is clear as day now. The rest of this, OK, Alexandria develops a new curriculum, they don't have to ask everybody in the world what they think about it. At some point, you trust the professionals to do their job.

Regarding the committee member who complained, The Examiner quotes a school spokesman:
Carlini said Walsh’s explanation is incorrect. “The curriculum specialist oversees what is taught in classrooms,” she said. “He basically makes sure that what the school board has approved is what is being taught.”

If a majority of advisory committee members have concerns, they work with school staff to make changes. If the issue is unresolved, the school board reviews the matter and makes decisions about changes, she said.

So, notice this: The Examiner is pretending there is a controversy in Alexandria, because one guy -- ONE GUY -- complained about something. They have even stopped pretending that the doctor had complained about it:
In response to recent reports, the schools posted on their Web site and sent to PTA presidents a statement attempting to clarify the curriculum. It says nothing new has been added, that the lesson plans in question were not being used, and that students can opt out of the class.

Wolfe is the only member of the five-member panel who raised concerns about the curriculum based on its content. The committee’s review of the curriculum is ongoing.

Then again, on the 25th, the same reporter at the same newspaper has a non-story about PFOX wanting to include "ex-gays" in the Alexandria curriculum:
“Why is there no mention of the ex-gay community in the lesson plan when every other sexual orientation is discussed and supported? Many ex-gays and their families are fine people,” Regina Griggs, executive director of the group, wrote in a Jan. 22 letter [to the school board]. “They do not think something is wrong with them because they decided to fulfill their heterosexual potential.” ‘Ex-gay’ material requested for sex-ed

Oh, this is all so familiar ...

This is very similar to the way things started here in Montgomery County, except for one important factor. The political climate in December 2004 seemed to support an attack by anti-gay, anti-choice radicals. There was some reason, after the 2004 elections, to think you could recall the whole school board as part of the movement away from democracy that had hit its stride at that time. Now ... nobody accepts it. It seemed like a good idea to some people at the time, to force the whole country to be good Christians, but the problems with that quickly became apparent, and people have now realized that the American Way is still the best. Freedom and tolerance work, at least; it may not be pretty all the time, but people simply can't live under Puritan lockdown.

So here, in 2007, you've got one guy in Alexandria, and one newspaper that thinks they can make a name for themselves, trying to start a controversy over ... nothing. Alexandria is not some little Podunk town somewhere, and I doubt that the people there will put up with this any more than people in Montgomery County did.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

jim you make stuff up all the time and TTF group made up to make a name for itself is hardly a reliable news scorce.

January 28, 2007 2:31 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

anon- you are really sad.

January 29, 2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There was some reason, after the 2004 elections, to think you could recall the whole school board as part of the movement away from democracy that had hit its stride at that time."

I don't remember any move away from democracy. Why isn't a recall movement democratic? The majority votes to change its mind: seems like democracy at work in its most dynamic form.

"Now ... nobody accepts it. It seemed like a good idea to some people at the time, to force the whole country to be good Christians,"

When was someone suggesting that? I don't recall it and I was in the country in 2004.

"but the problems with that quickly became apparent,"

What problems developed? Since it was so apparent, there must be a myriad of examples.

"and people have now realized that the American Way is still the best."

You mean that Norman Lear fringe group? I don't think anyone ever thought Bea Arthur was the best.

"Freedom and tolerance work, at least;"

A land without rules and standards? Never worked anywhere, at anytime.

You need to read up on the meaning of freedom and tolerance. You don't understand the concepts.

"it may not be pretty all the time,"

no comment

"but people simply can't live under Puritan lockdown."

When was the last time someone suggested that? Got any quotes? Was anybody ever locked down? Did anyone even get a look that meant a great deal?

I think a lot of people are unaware of this whole Puritan lockdown that was going on?

Of course, they don't have as rich a fantasy life as your typical TTFer.

January 29, 2007 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is there a reason that Alexandria teenagers need to be kept in the dark about transgender and transvestites?"

Yes. Fictional comedy is not conducive to a serious academic environment.

They can get entertainment at home. Most people get a couple hundred cable channels.

January 29, 2007 4:35 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

"There was some reason, after the 2004 elections, to think you could recall the whole school board as part of the movement away from democracy that had hit its stride at that time."

I don't remember any move away from democracy. Why isn't a recall movement democratic? The majority votes to change its mind: seems like democracy at work in its most dynamic form.


No, electing officials is the way our democracy works. What you are describing is anarchy, the common term is "mob rule."

"Now ... nobody accepts it. It seemed like a good idea to some people at the time, to force the whole country to be good Christians,"

When was someone suggesting that? I don't recall it and I was in the country in 2004.


I am simply talking about the attempted takeover of the country by the religious right. The "Justice Sunday" theocratic movement -- you can pretend not to know what I'm talking about, it will work for you better than trying to discuss.

"but the problems with that quickly became apparent,"

What problems developed? Since it was so apparent, there must be a myriad of examples.


There are. Corruption in government, Congressmen in prison, irrational unjustified wars, stupid attempts to prevent gay people from marrying, prominent anti-gay preachers and politicians falling out of the closet, the country going billions of dollars into debt on the back of a war and bridge-to-nowhere pork bills, government re-writing of science reports, abstinence-only education, plundering the environment, insane gasoline prices, insane medical costs ... I could go on.

"and people have now realized that the American Way is still the best."

You mean that Norman Lear fringe group? I don't think anyone ever thought Bea Arthur was the best.


I don't know anything about any Norman Lear fringe group, I am talking about the American way of liberty and respect for the individual and tolerance for differences.

"Freedom and tolerance work, at least;"

A land without rules and standards? Never worked anywhere, at anytime.



If I'd said that, you would have a point. I didn't. You don't.

You need to read up on the meaning of freedom and tolerance. You don't understand the concepts.

I'm quite comfortable with the concepts.

"it may not be pretty all the time,"

no comment


I didn't think so.

"but people simply can't live under Puritan lockdown."

When was the last time someone suggested that? Got any quotes? Was anybody ever locked down? Did anyone even get a look that meant a great deal?

I think a lot of people are unaware of this whole Puritan lockdown that was going on?


Hahaha, Anon. Great, very good. Ask James Dobson if he has any idea what I might be talking about.

Of course, they don't have as rich a fantasy life as your typical TTFer.

Or the brains and good looks.

JimK

January 29, 2007 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ JimK it is one thing to talk to yourself it is another thing to blog an argument with yourself have you gone insane?

January 29, 2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

OK, you know you're going to talk about something that people have opinions about. Put it on the table. I think this is exactly the right way to bring up this topic. Where our Montgomery County curriculum puts a lid on discussion, Alexandria is going to make it the central feature of the class. Why would anybody object to that? Kids can say whatever they want, they can express mom and dad's opinions in class, this should be perfect for the ... conservatives. I definitely think it's better than what our county did, which is to ignore the topic altogether for political reasons.

What can I say other than I completely agree.

And yes, it is a fake controversy...

January 30, 2007 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No, electing officials is the way our democracy works."

An over-simplification. There are checks on these individuals, to keep them honest and mindful of their constituents. The recall provisions that exist are one of those checks.

"What you are describing is anarchy, the common term is "mob rule.""

No, anarchy is anarchy. The recalls that happened were lawful. No pitchforks and torches were involved.

"I am simply talking about the attempted takeover of the country by the religious right. The "Justice Sunday" theocratic movement -- you can pretend not to know what I'm talking about, it will work for you better than trying to discuss."

Letting Congress know what kind of judges we want is hardly an attempted coup. Liberals were also chiming in.

""What problems developed?"

There are. Corruption in government, Congressmen in prison, irrational unjustified wars, stupid attempts to prevent gay people from marrying, prominent anti-gay preachers and politicians falling out of the closet, the country going billions of dollars into debt on the back of a war and bridge-to-nowhere pork bills, government re-writing of science reports, abstinence-only education, plundering the environment, insane gasoline prices, insane medical costs ... I could go on."

What a shame you didn't. Before responding, let me double-check that you meant to say what you said:

All these situations are the result of the religious right "trying to force everyone to be good Christians"?

"I don't know anything about any Norman Lear fringe group, I am talking about the American way of liberty and respect for the individual and tolerance for differences."

Since you capitalized American Way, I thought you meant the nutty Norman Lear group, People for the American Way. The ideas that grew into our American way of liberty and respect for the individual and tolerance for differences were germinated in the Protestant Reformation notions that each individual is accountable directly to God. These qualities are still more prevalent among evangelicals with their mission to reach out to all humanity. Secular Humanism with its "political correctness" is the antithesis of these ideals.

""but people simply can't live under Puritan lockdown."

When was the last time someone suggested that?"

Hahaha, Anon. Great, very good. Ask James Dobson if he has any idea what I might be talking about."

Now we're getting somewhere! Give us some quotes from Dobson that suggest or even hint at a "Puritan lockdown".

"Of course, they don't have as rich a fantasy life as your typical TTFer.

Or the brains and good looks."

Too easy.

January 30, 2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous said "The ideas that grew into our American way of liberty and respect for the individual and tolerance for differences were germinated in the Protestant Reformation notions that each individual is accountable directly to God. These qualities are still more prevalent among evangelicals with their mission to reach out to all humanity. Secular Humanism with its "political correctness" is the antithesis of these ideals.".

That's a joke anonymous. You and your right wing Protestants don't respect people's right to freedom from religion. You don't respect that difference, everyone is supposed to submit to your vision of god. You don't respect or tolerate people who love somone of the same sex, you do everything you can to stomp out that difference and to oppose those individuals. Secular humanists support people's right to live their lives however they choose as long as they aren't harming anyone, you highly religious types don't. Liberty means the freedom to pursue happiness as one sees fit, the freedom to marry the one person you are most attracted to without the government dictating the gender of that person to you.

January 30, 2007 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Phentermine said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:39 PM  

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