Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New RPC Lesson: "Low Risk of Transmitting Germs"

Yesterday the Washington Post published a follow-up article about the "gum game." The news is, this has been going on for a long time.
The "gum game," an exercise in which students were encouraged to share gum to illustrate the effects of peer pressure, was played in Montgomery County schools for nine years without incident before a parent's complaint halted it last month, according to directors of the Rockville clinic that created the lesson.

Leaders of the Rockville Pregnancy Center yesterday stressed the important work they were doing in Montgomery schools, teaching 90-minute lessons on abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases to high school students in health class through a program called Worth the Wait.

"We saw 6,500 kids last year. Who's going to talk to them now?" asked Gail Tierney, the group's executive director.

The clinic, a faith-based organization that offers counseling and support to pregnant women as an alternative to abortion, was expelled from the schools in January after a parent alerted school officials that a speaker had asked students to take turns chewing a piece of gum. Sharing gum poses a low risk of transmitting germs, on par with drinking from the same cup, health officials said. Md. 'Gum Game' Used for 9 Years: Barred Group Says Sex-Ed Lesson Was Popular in Schools

OK, this is lovely. Lovely.

The point of this exercise is that sex spreads germs. They demonstrate that in class by having students ... spread germs. (Sorry to you medical professionals who prefer terms like "bacteria" and "viruses," I'm lumping them all together.) This should work because -- everybody knows that you don't share your gum, because of the germs.

In some schools, kids refused to chew it. The Post has said that in Damascus fifteen students did chew it, and we heard about another upcounty school where thirty-six students -- the whole class -- did chew the gum.

Now the Rockville Pregnancy Center wants to minimize the risk of sharing gum. They still want the students to think that sex spreads germs, but that sharing gum doesn't. Very much.

They would like to cover their own ... behinds ... by cancelling the intended message of their in-class demonstration: aw, c'mon, it "poses a low risk of transmitting germs." Everybody does it. Just once will be all right.

It is exactly the kind of rationalization that teenage kids might make on the spur of the moment in the back seat of daddy's car after a couple of beers at a party.

Thanks a lot, Rockville Pregnancy Center.
Tierney said she was unaware until last weekend that the clinic had been barred from the school system, a decision conveyed to the county school board in a Jan. 12 memo from Deputy Superintendent Frieda K. Lacey.

"They threw the baby out with the bathwater," Tierney said in an interview yesterday.

(Is that a perfect thing for an anti-abortion fanatic to say, or what?)
School-system officials said their decision is final.

The issue, schools spokesman Brian Edwards said, was not the group's religious underpinnings -- the classroom lessons had no religious content -- but rather the wisdom of asking a group of adolescents to share gum.

"What this exercise showed is a terrible lack of judgment," Edwards said. "It is disgusting on its face. There's no question about it."

Unfortunately, some people need an MCPS official to explain that to them.
The episode has prompted a review of all groups allowed to speak in health classes, which touch on the highly politicized topics of abstinence, premarital sex and birth control. A coalition of citizen groups that favor an abstinence-only approach to sex education denounced the school board for approving new health lessons last month that introduce the topics of sexual orientation and homosexuality in grades 8 and 10.

Edwards said the decision to invite outside speakers normally falls to school officials. The Rockville group was approved on a countywide basis, which is rare, he said. He said there is no "master list" of groups approved countywide.
...
Faith-based organizations aren't automatically barred from public schools, Edwards said. The decision hinges on the content of the lessons.

"There was no indication to us that [this] group's religious views entered into what they were teaching," Edwards said. "The issue here is what was being instructed. Not who."

You know, some people might be surprised to know that religious groups come into the classroom on a regular basis, without any special oversight. We hear from groups like the CRC that their religion is threatened by a secular health program, but in fact, their side gets carte blanche to come right into the classroom, shut the door, and say whatever they want.

We're not complaining, I don't think it hurts anything most of the time, but you should notice that this does happen in our public schools.

Funny paragraph here:
The curriculum officials responsible for approving the group to speak in classrooms -- first in 1998 and, most recently, last fall -- have both retired, Edwards said. The latest approval was granted by e-mail by an administrator who reviewed an eight-page outline of the lesson. The only reference to gum in the outline is the notation "Gum game. Discuss results."

I wouldn't have known what that was, would you?

Reporter Daniel DeVise has found an interesting conflict within the Rockville Pregnancy Center's organization. The person who brought the "gum game" into class actually thought it was gross herself, and wouldn't do it at first.
Seh-Hee Koh, director of Worth the Wait, broke down in tears yesterday as she related her passion for teaching teens about abstinence. Her message, Koh said, was to help students feel "empowered to make the choices in their lives. Not their boyfriends; not their girlfriends."

Koh assumed the job last year and had visited only 11 Montgomery schools when her agency's invitation was revoked. Koh said she has continued to visit private after-school programs in the Washington region. Tierney said the lessons no longer include the gum game.

But I think The Post said they would not be allowed on Montgomery County campuses. That means after school too, right?
Koh said she did not know about the gum exercise when she inherited the lessons and did not use it in the first several schools she visited. She said a health teacher told her that her predecessor had played the gum game and that students had seemed to like it.

Koh said her first reaction was, "Ew, that's gross." But she tried it at Damascus High School in early December, and students liked it. So she tried it again at Churchill, Einstein and Poolesville high schools in a series of visits through Jan. 9.

"I'd just stand back," Koh said, describing the game. "I'd say: 'It's all volunteer. Nobody has to be doing this.' My intention would be that nobody does this."

So their idea is that teenagers will be smart enough to abstain.

And they don't.

Yes, there is a lesson there.
The game occupied a few minutes in the lesson on the consequences of premarital sex and exposure to STDs. Koh shared a stack of positive reviews written by teachers and students.

Edwards disputed her account and said he'd heard no reports of teachers encouraging Koh to play the gum game. He confirmed, however, that teachers were present during all of the lessons.

School board member Patricia O'Neill said she believes the faith-based group "had no business" in the county schools.

But O'Neill said her daughter and nephew, both high school students, had a different opinion. "Their reaction was some of the best parts of the health class are the outside speakers, because the curriculum is so boring," she said.

I'm not too concerned about religious groups coming into the classes. If some evangelicals want to encourage students to practice abstinence, that's fine with me. They don't need to say "Jesus wants you to remain pure for Him," but they can give reasons for kids to wait. I understand Ms. Koh's sadness at being kicked out of the schools.

Here's the story. A group went into the schools, year after year, getting students to pass around a piece of gum and chew it. The point was that you should abstain from chewing the gum. In some county schools only a few kids chewed it, but in some, half to all the students in the class went ahead and chewed the gum.

These are about the same statistics we see for sexual abstinence.

But no problem. The Rockville Pregnancy Center's executive director says it's not that bad. Chewing gum, she means. The chances are, you won't catch anything. Chewing gum, she means.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm not too concerned about religious groups coming into the classes. If some evangelicals want to encourage students to practice abstinence, that's fine with me."

Me, too.

Patricia O'Neill has no business being on the school board with her bigoted anti-religious views.

February 14, 2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, O'neill is right, religious groups show poor judgment because their beliefs are detached from evidence and reality. That's what "faith" is all about.

February 14, 2007 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a bigoted comment, Randi.

But then, we can't expect you to be committed to American values of tolerance and inclusion.

February 14, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Tolerance and inclusion aren't "American" values, they're human values and if you want to see real tolerance and inclusion you need to look north.

February 14, 2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please

February 14, 2007 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Patricia O'Neill has no business being on the school board with her bigoted anti-religious views."

Typical. When you've got no argument, use a a personal attack. 179,450 Montgomery County residents disagree with you.

http://167.102.241.34/elections/2006/election_data/Montgomery_County_2006_General.csv

February 14, 2007 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Typical. When you've got no argument, use a a personal attack. 179,450 Montgomery County residents disagree with you."

She said faith-based organizations have no business in public schools. I say, based on that bigoted statement, she doesn't belong on the school board.

How is that any more a personal attack than her statement?

February 15, 2007 10:58 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Any organization that believes in magic is of questionable value in teaching the facts

February 15, 2007 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, they believe there is a realm beyond our physical universe. Many physicists believe the same. There are all kinds of theories about alternate universes and dimensions.

February 15, 2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, they believe in magic. People rising from the dead, global flooding, miracles, evil spirits, a magic man in the sky, that sort of thing.

February 15, 2007 4:09 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Hey, Randi, be careful. I believe in regional, if not global, flooding, from the end of the last ice age. And there is pretty good evidence that the Biblical flood was the inundation of the floor of the Black Sea which occurred ~7000 years ago when the Mediterranean broke through the Dardenelles.

February 16, 2007 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DB is right. And the flooding just may have been more than regional. You can find sea fossils virtually anywhere on the planet.

February 16, 2007 11:15 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Dana, I'm sure there's been regional flooding, but that's not what the bible describes - a global flood destroying all life on the planet excepting that which was aboard the Noah's ark. That's magic talk.

Anonymous said "You can find sea fossils virtually anywhere on the planet.". While I am familiar with sea fossils on some mountains, that was due to plate techtonics and sea floors gradually being raised over millions of years, not to a 60 day (or whatever it was supposed to be) flood. I don't buy your bald assertion that sea fossils can be found virtually anywhere on the planet.

February 16, 2007 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dana, I'm sure there's been regional flooding, but that's not what the bible describes - a global flood destroying all life on the planet excepting that which was aboard the Noah's ark. That's magic talk."

Life has been virtually wiped out in the past according to scientists. This is the theory for the extinction of dinosaurs. Point is, there are many theories and possibilities about the past. There are murder cases unsolved from a week ago- much less is unknown about thousands of years ago.

"Anonymous said "You can find sea fossils virtually anywhere on the planet.". While I am familiar with sea fossils on some mountains, that was due to plate techtonics and sea floors gradually being raised over millions of years,"

That's one of the theories.

"not to a 60 day (or whatever it was supposed to be) flood. I don't buy your bald assertion that sea fossils can be found virtually anywhere on the planet."

You know something I never understand about people like you is when you keep following cause before cause back in any situation, sooner or later some pretty fantastic things must be true. Why do you so completely reject the possibility of God?

February 17, 2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Phentermine said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:22 PM  

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