Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Letter in the Post

I noticed this little letter in the Washington Post this morning.
I object to the pilot curriculum being rolled out at several Montgomery County public schools ["The Wide Spectrum of Sex- Ed Courses," Metro, March 18] for the following reasons:

  • The recommendations for changes in the curriculum made by the advisory committee to the Board of Education were largely ignored.
  • The new curriculum was not written by health-care professionals.
  • There was no parental input in the writing of the curriculum.
  • Children whose parents opt out of this curriculum are being discriminated against for not participating. Students are sent to media centers to complete independent projects, with little guidance or specifics. In other words, students who opt out are not given the same level of instruction as children who remain in the sex-ed setting.
  • And the curriculum states that homosexuality is "innate" but fails to include a citation to support this statement.



Shall we? Oh, let's.

The recommendations made by the advisory committee were largely accepted. I'm on that committee, and I know. Hundreds of suggested changes were voted on by the committee, dozens were accepted by the group, and most of these ended up being adopted by the school district. Some weren't -- some of my favorite suggestions were not, for instance, and I still hold out hope that some will be adopted after we learn something from the pilot testing. But ... there simply wasn't room for everything, and not everything fit the MCPS vision for what should be taught.

The new curriculum was written by health-care professionals. A team of pediatricians recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics drafted the initial framework for the 8th and 10th grade curricula, and selected materials that they considered to be appropriate.

So far, this person's comments are one hundred eighty degrees wrong.

Regarding parental input -- the school district did not go out and ask random parents to write parts of it, this part is true. Does that ever happen? Would you want parents writing the algebra curriculum? I can hardly see this as a criticism. The curriculum was rigorously reviewed by a committee of community citizens, most of whom were parents. The information is on the Internet and easily obtained from the school district, if parents are interested. Anybody can look at it and comment.

Children who opt out -- this is a weird one. OK, you have a choice: take the class, or don't take it. If your parents sign the permission slip, then you take the class. If your parents don't sign the permission slip -- this person seems to think the schools are obligated to create something equally stimulating for them to do? No, it only means you don't take the class. You get some instructional packet to work on in the library, it's not much, but that's the choice -- take the class or don't take it. It's certainly not "discrimination" to send a kid to the library when their parents won't let them do what the other kids are doing.

The "innate" thing -- what can you say? I will address this seriously. As a researcher, I know that the only certain way to establish a causal relationship is to conduct an experiment. You manipulate an independent variable and observe changes in the dependent variable. It's really the only way to know for sure that one thing causes another.

But sometimes you can't manipulate the independent variable. You can't manipulate somebody's genes before they're born, for instance, or you can't raise them in a certain way, just to see how they turn out.

So it is impossible to prove one way or the other, what causes something like sexual orientation. The closest that science can come will be to identify mechanisms, for instance, brain structures, genetic patterns, precursors and correlates. And that research is coming along, new findings are coming out every month.

But -- listen, there are some things science doesn't really need to prove, for us to agree they are true. The fact is, everybody understands that their own sexual orientation is innate. You didn't sit down at the age of twelve or thirteen and make two lists, one titled "What I Like About Boys" and the other "What I Like About Girls," and choose one. No -- it just happened. Everybody knows this. Straight people as well as gay people all say the same thing, and there is no serious reason to doubt everybody in the world. The only people who "choose" are those who realize they are homosexual and decide, for social reasons usually, to pretend they are straight. But even for them, they are innately homosexual, they are just acting as if they weren't. Everybody knows this is true, and the argument against innateness is sophistry.

Those in the scientific and medical communities who study these things have looked at it from every angle, and have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice, it is something innate. How it develops is probably a complex topic, and there is a lot to learn about it, but respectable, mainstream experts agree it's something innate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was this letter an example of the success of the CRC phone exercise? Seems like the same old points, reguritated on command. I hope, Jim, you will respond to this letter, point by point, as you have so cogently done here. Lies need to be publicaly confronted and deflated before they cause even more damage to the democratic process through which these curricula changes were made.

March 27, 2007 11:31 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

"If your parents don't sign the permission slip -- this person seems to think the schools are obligated to create something equally stimulating for them to do? No, it only means you don't take the class."

That's right. This procedure is exactly the same when a student does not bring in a permission slip to go on a field trip. Students without permission slips are usually sent to the library. But most field trips are only for a day or less. Students who are not permitted to take the multi-week human sexuality course might be approved by both their parents and teacher to work on an assignment of independent study.

The CRC's hope was that sufficient numbers of students would not receive permission for health class so MCPS might justify the expense of offering an abstinence-only course. But even after two letters and one robo-call by CRC once again misusing information from school PTA directories, fewer than 7 students per school have not received parental permission to take the course. This paltry number fails to justify the added expense of offering an abstinence-only course.

March 27, 2007 11:42 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Unfortunately the Post seems to want to bend over backwards to prove they being even-handed in this situation- although they seem to be CRC supporters After Michele Turner wrote a letter with similar mistruths a few weeks ago. and several people responded to the Post(maybe more but I know several)- the Post did not print any of the letters. I suggested the Post might want to check the facts- but fact checking seems to be lost these days by reporters and editors. I will write to the ombudsman- but it can be hopeless with the Post. When the WATimes is more factual than the Post(although the Post will claim they just printed the letters), what can I say???

March 27, 2007 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, if Ms. Pollard's children's teachers are giving useless worksheet packets as "independent study" or refusing to grade them seriously, then there is a problem that should be addressed.

It just doesn't have anything to do with the health curriculum, that's all.

I think everyone in TTF agrees that students should have alternative units that enhance the overall health curriculum. However, I wonder from Ms. Pollard's letter if she doesn't believe that independent study is itself a poor substitute for classroom instruction. Too bad if she believes that. Independent study can be very rewarding and stimulating for students with lively intelligence.

March 27, 2007 4:51 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

I would also say that independent study is not an issue of discrimination- just a typical CRCer's misuse of the word. You could have a boring teacher or a bad teacher or a teacher who gives out make work(I'm sure we have all seen that) but that one instance or class isn't discrimination

March 27, 2007 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an idea for the poor children who opt out. They could go somewhere -- it doesn't have to be the library -- and share a piece of gum.

March 27, 2007 10:59 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Though I was not opted out for what passed for sex ed in my days, I did spend alot of time in the school library. For those that are curious about the world around them and are self-motivated learners I can hardly think of a better place to be sent. Another reason I liked the school library is because it was close by, whereas the public library was too far away.

March 28, 2007 5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it is really the Library that bothers them. It is the fact that they don't believe their offspring will learn anything unless an adult is standing in front of them telling them what to think.

And they do believe that their children learn uncritically when someone is standing in front of them telling them what to think. That's why we are murderers for not warning of "the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle" during these two 90-minute sessions spaced two years apart in the 13-year MCPS academic program.

Whoops, I almost pressed the "publish" key before I remembered the additional 10 minutes (or so) of the condom demonstration video.

Maybe that's the straw that broke the camel's critical thinking skills.

Or maybe it really IS the Library.

March 28, 2007 12:29 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

The library is a dangerous place- these kids could get hold of books and learn something that disagrees with their parents.

March 28, 2007 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



The ministry of The Reverend Jeanette Marie Pollard, RN, BSN, MSN, M.Div.



November 12: "Sex Education in the Public Schools", with guest Atty. John Garza, Rockville, MD, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum


...hhmmm.... wonder where she got her misinformation for that letter???????


March 28, 2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Wow, Purist, good catch. Funny how she leaves the letters off her name when she writes the paper.


March 28, 2007 10:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home