Friday, March 30, 2007

Managing the Paperstorm

I was thinking this morning that a reader unfamiliar with our situation, seeing the CRC's paperstorm in the previous post, might conclude that there're really a lot of problems with this new curriculum, and that the CRC wants to make sure they are fixed.

<British_accent>I regret to inform you, that is not the case.</British_accent>

The CRC sued in 2005 over a different curriculum, which they have now decided they liked better than this newer one. They did the same thing, threw in the kitchen sink, complained about every word in the curriculum. And they got a judge who would believe that some things buried in the teacher's resources were actually part of the curriculum, and that "the curriculum" dissed some religions, and in the long run the whole thing got thrown out. The judge ignored most of the noise, but did find a jewel in the ... stuff on the ground at a pig farm.

This time, deja vu again. They are complaining about things that don't exist, things that aren't there that conceivably could be, things that are there that conceivably don't have to be, things that can be taken out of context and made to sound bad, things that are commonsense but not published in any scientific paper, things that are published in scientific papers that violate common sense; they are complaining because the curriculum doesn't teach about homosexual sexual behavior, and complaining that it does, but in a veiled way...

I transcribed a blurry pdf file so we could have it in front of us as we watch the next stage unfold. We have gone over nearly all of these complaints many times, and I'm not going to try to explain the utter bogosity of every single item the CRC has listed.

There are two reasons they are doing this. One is, obviously, to drain the opposition dry. They make these ridiculous charges, and then somebody, some high-priced lawyer in particular, is supposed to sit down and research every one of these things and write up a response to them. This has been their main strategy all along, they try to wear you down. In the citizens advisory committee meetings, they proposed hundreds of changes to the curriculum, most of them totally absurd. And then the whole committee had to stay late, week after week, discussing and voting on these things. And how many times did they propose delaying some decision or another? Everything needed more time. It's their favorite trick, and the one thing that can work in their favor. Eventually, they might be able to drain the energy out of everybody around them, and get their way. (Heh-heh. Not everybody, but they can try.)

The other reason, I suppose, is that they think they can make the school district look bad if it doesn't take them seriously. The State Board is going to get this stuff, and they just might look at it and say, why doesn't the county provide all these materials? Or, why doesn't the county answer this or that question? And, as you see in the county's response, there are good reasons for them to refuse to play along with the Drain Game. They have done what they are required to do, and the state guys should be savvy enough to see what's going on. I imagine they've been drain-attacked by rightwingers before, themselves. It's not like any of this is original.

You may have noticed the dog that didn't bark, the reason that is not plausible here: the CRC did not ask these questions in order to learn the answers to them. These are not serious inquiries, this is time-wasting, money-wasting, passive aggression as an art form.

We can imagine a non-dysfunctional community group that had a true interest in improving the quality of a course in the public schools -- even a conservative group. We can imagine them making up a list of perceived errors or weaknesses in a planned class, and submitting that to the school district. And you know what? The school district would be wise to consider it, and to make adjustments if those turned out to improve the course. The whole community could benefit from that.

That isn't what's happening here. The CRC is a non-non-dysfunctional group, and their aim is not to improve anything, their aim is not to make an adjustment in the course content in order to accommodate conservative perspectives. No, their aim is to disrupt the process altogether, to stop the implementation of the new curriculum, because it doesn't say bad things about gay people.

I'm no lawyer, and I don't know what MCPS should do in this situation. They need to win this, but they also need to be careful not to get sucked into the vortex of nonsense that the CRC is spinning here. Answering these would only support the idea that they were valid questions in the first place. On the other hand, if the state mistakenly takes these complaints seriously, as real criticisms of the curricula, not-answering may create the appearance that the school district has no answers. Hate to say it, but MCPS attorneys have been perceived as arrogant in the past, and it counts against them, to the detriment of all of us who live here.

The state school board has to decide whether to overrule the county board's unanimous decision to implement curriculum that was developed with the participation of a flock of physicians, a herd of attorneys, a committee of citizens, and a gaggle of bureaucrats. The real question before the state is whether they can accept the competence of the Montgomery County Public Schools to make their own decisions. The question is not whether there is a citation in the scientific literature for the use of the word "innate," or whether when you talk about coming-out you need to discuss anal sex. The question before the State Board is whether Montgomery County is competent to make these decisions on their own, or if they need the state to tell them what to do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter was sent yesterday to the State Board of Education:

RE: Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum et al. v. Montgomery County Board of Education

Dear Members of the Maryland State Board of Education:

I write this letter as a member of the Board of Directors of the Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). We were pleased that Superintendent Grasmick denied petitioners’ request to halt the field-testing of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) health education curriculum revisions.

In light of Dr. Grasmick’s opinion, we would like to provide some additional perspective on the matter as you consider the petition.

Here, MCPS has chosen to discuss sexual orientation in 8th and 10th Grade Health Education classes. The curriculum revisions are important for the well-being of students and reflect the viewpoints of every mainstream medical and mental health professional association. It is certainly proper for any school system to base its health curriculum on information from, and conclusions of, mainstream medical and mental health professional associations. Indeed, MCPS relied upon experts presented by the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in developing and reviewing its curriculum materials.

While the revisions being field-tested do not include everything the AAP says on the subject of sexual orientation, we believe it useful for the State Board of Education to know that the AAP, in its Guidance for the Clinician on Sexual Orientation and Adolescents (published in PEDIATRICS, Vol. 113, No. 6 (June 2004) (Attachment A, available at, notes with approval the fact that in "1973, the American Psychiatric Association reclassified homosexuality as a sexual orientation or expression and not a mental disorder" (p. 1828). In this same Guidance, the AAP goes on to note that "the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one's sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual." Id. Moreover, the AAP (a) encourages its members to "[b]e supportive of parents of adolescents who have disclosed that they are not heterosexual, (b) informs its members that "[m]ost states have chapters of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to which interested families may be referred," and (c) encourages its members to "[r]emind parents and adolescents that gay and lesbian individuals can be successful parents themselves." Id. at 1830-31.

Similarly, the American Psychological Association (which is also quoted in the MCPS curriculum revisions), in its on-line publication Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality (Attachment B, available at, states that sexual orientation is not a "conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed;" that homosexuals can "live successful, happy lives;" that "homosexuality is not an illness, it does not require treatment and is not changeable;" that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association urge "all mental health professionals to dispel the stigma of mental illness that some people still associate with homosexual orientation;" and that "[s]tudies comparing groups of children raised by homosexual and heterosexual parents find no developmental differences between the two groups of children . . . . [and] that a parent’s sexual orientation does not dictate his or her children’s [sexual orientation].”

Finally, we note that while a principal gravaman of petitioners’ appeal is their assertion that the so-called “ex-gay” viewpoint – that homosexuality is a disorder that can and should be cured – should be included in the health curriculum, this approach is directly contrary to the official position of the American Medical Association, which "opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation." AMA Policy Number H-160.9916 Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population (Attachment C, available at at The AMA recognizes the dangers of the “ex-gay” approach. MCPS should not be forced to include in its health curriculum a “perspective” that has been rejected by the AMA.

In sum, MCPS has taken excellent first steps in dealing with the important issues covered by the revisions and has done so in close consultation with medical experts. For the Board’s reference, we also attach, as Attachment D, a Fact Sheet summarizing the positions of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

March 30, 2007 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I compare the letter above to what the CRC sent out excerpted in the thread below, it's clear to me which side is filled with good intention and which side is filled with hate and fear.

Thanks to the webmaster and commenters here for publicizing the facts and documents the CRC and others have filed with various agencies that most of us would never have access to otherwise. As an MCPS parent, I appreciate being informed.


March 31, 2007 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope all TTFers caught this week's cover story in Time magazine, which explained why it is crucial for public schools in America to teach Bible classes.

March 31, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, the Bible is a great book, and a central document in our society's history. I think classes about it would be a good idea. It is not the appropriate source, however, for material in science and health classes.


March 31, 2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I agree with Jim. One can't seriously teach history without teaching religion, and Comparative Religion should be a required course for high school graduation.

March 31, 2007 9:49 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Why is it that the Anon thinks TTFers don't know the Bible or teach it to their kids? I often find people claiming something is in the Bible- but they can't find it - often because someone else told them it was there or what it said-and it isn't even there. A co-worker insisted Lucifer was in Isaiah. Well, he isn't -it is bad translation that most churches reject(of course, why use a scholarly translation- just say what you want)
Pretty interesting in Time when it said that a poll taken showed something like half of the people didn't know the names of one of the Gospels(I'm Jewish and know the names- what are these other people leraning?) nor the name of the first book of the Bible. CRCers only seem to like the Bible for how they can twist it to condemn people they don't like. Anyone catch Crossing Jordan this week- see where "hate the sin, love the sinner" bs leads?? Over the top -but not unreal. One character does say of the killer "She couldn't get her mind around God's message is of love and acceptance". Too bad the same can be said of CRC/PFOX and FOTF- all claiming God is with them.

March 31, 2007 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Time piece (,9171,1601845-1,00.htm)
discussed pros and cons of teaching The Bible in public schools and concluded:

"...if an elective is offered, it should be twinned mandatorily with a world religions course, even if that would mean just a semester of each. Within that period students could be expected to read and discuss Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, a few Moses-on-the-mountain passages and two of Paul's letters. No one should take the course but juniors and seniors. The Bible's harmful as well as helpful uses must be addressed, which could be done by acknowledging that religious conservatives see the problems as stemming from the abuse of the holy text, while others think the text itself may be the culprit. The course should have a strong accompanying textbook on the model of The Bible and Its Influence but one that is willing to deal a bit more bluntly with the historical warts. And some teacher training is a must: at a bare minimum, about their constitutional obligations.

And, oh yes, there should be one faith test. Faith in our country. Sure, there will be bumps along the way. But in the end, what is required in teaching about the Bible in our public schools is patriotism: a belief that we live in a nation that understands the wisdom of its Constitution clearly enough to allow the most important book in its history to remain vibrantly accessible for everyone."

If you think the battle over sex ed is tough, just imagine the battle over Bible ed. No such class will ever satisfy some religious adherents. The judiciary got it right. If you want your children to receive religious instruction in school, send them to a religious school.


March 31, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Last night Bill Maher asked one of his guests, a right-wing talk show host whose name I don't recall, never having heard of him before, if he supported the Ten Commandments. This fellow had claimed he did just moments before, but when Maher asked him if he accepted the admonition not to curse and not to work on Sunday (sorry, Bill, but it's Saturday, not Sunday), he refused to answer.

So he accepts The Ten Commandments (and, again, without any discussion of which version of TTC) as a right-wing talking point, but not explicitly because he doesn't even know what they are.

Stephen Colbert nailed this last year when he asked a Republican congressman to name three and he couldn't even begin. Truly pathetic.

March 31, 2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

You know the right makes up their own commandments- the real ten don't matter. "thou shalt have no other gods before me"- I think they worship Rush,Bush, Rove and Coulter way more than the real God. And let's not even start with "you shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord". I am on my way to Giant to smash the lobster tank- they are abominations and I want to protect people from sinning.

March 31, 2007 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anecdotal evidence in the NY Times: (

Repressing a middle school student's sexuality, even implicitly, makes him or her miserable. And it's bad for their academic success!

Read the story. It's heartbreaking.

April 01, 2007 2:20 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Andrew B. writes,

Repressing a middle school student's sexuality, even implicitly, makes him or her miserable. And it's bad for their academic success!

Read the story. It's heartbreaking.

I read the story and I think this young man's parents are to be commended, and that Zach himself is a model of courage. He is blessed to have such wonderful, kind, supportive, understanding parents.

Help me out here...what exactly is "heartbreaking"? Was it the part where he took action and punched an anti-gay bully in the face? Or was it the part where he told his mom and she was 101% supportive? Truth be told, all adolescents go thru difflicult phases, whether or not they are homosexual. I remember what life was like for me at Zach's age and there is NO way I would ever want to go back to that time.

I read this article and I intend to pass it along to my friend, who in turn will likely pass it along to the 200+ readers of his e-newsletter.

Thanks for the hat tip...

April 04, 2007 4:03 AM  

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