Monday, April 09, 2007

Implied Lasciviousness

Kind of an interesting little letter in The Post this morning, commenting on the editorial last week that supported MCPS's implementation of the new sex-ed curricula:
Regarding "Teaching Tolerance; Montgomery is a pioneer with a new sex education course" [editorial, April 2]: Contrary to what Montgomery County suggests, it is not necessary to teach details of any particular lifestyle to teach tolerance.

I grew up in the 1950s. My understanding of sexual practices might have been lacking in detail, but I was taught to respect all people and to tolerate however they wanted to live, as long as it did not harm me. I was required to act a certain way, not to think a certain way.

Today's agenda, promoting acceptance of all life choices as morally equal, confuses acceptance with tolerance. Although rapidly changing, our history as a nation places restrictions on what we do, not what we think.

Justifying graphic sex education as necessary for promoting tolerance is a fallacious argument.



There is a message here that I would like to comment on, which is the message of the threat of anomie.

We have heard the CRC complain that curriculum supporters accept "all life choices as morally equal," as this writer says, and I understand that to mean that people like those in the CRC are terrified of a world without clear-cut rules handed down by some authority to dictate their life's choices for them with a minimum of thinking required.

I didn't mean for that to sound that way. Well, maybe I did.

Look, we're talking about sexual orientation here. One guy falls in love with a girl, another guy falls in love with a guy. The fact is, there is no need, in this situation, for any moral judgment at all. They're in love, yay! What could be wrong with that?

This doesn't mean that any of us believe that "all life choices as morally equal." There are lots of things that are morally wrong in the world: greed, hate, unjustified warfare, destroying the environment, torture, I can think of lots of situations where a moral judgment is absolutely appropriate. These things are not just "bad ideas," they're wrong. No, there's plenty of morality on our side of this issue, that's not in question, it just happens to be a morality that makes sense, which is confusing to some people. Turns out an intelligent human being is able to make moral distinctions without being told what to think.

I'm going to keep this short, but wanted to point out two curveballs in this letter. First of all, this writer mentions "it is not necessary to teach details of any particular lifestyle," leaving you to fill the void by assuming that some details of some lifestyles are being taught. They're not. Some terms are defined, some concepts are discussed, respect is encouraged. The CRC is really pushing to include stuff about anal sex, but the school district does not agree to go there, and we don't think they should, either.

The other curveball is in the last sentence. It's almost the same thing, where she talks about "graphic sex education." What does she think is in these classes, anyway? There's nothing graphic at all, in the sense we usually mean it. For instance, there is nothing at all -- not a mention, not a hint -- of any sexual behaviors practiced by gays and lesbians. Not a word.

Sadly, the typical bleary-eyed Post reader, scanning this letter over a cup of coffee, might come away with the idea that the new curriculum is salacious. It's not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your usual perspicacity, Jim. I had the same thoughts. The letter reminded me of the old "Emily Lettella" skit on SNL. Note to readers of the Post-- MCPS's Family Life and Human Development lessons do not include "graphic sex education", notwithstanding efforts by CRC-sponsored members of the committee to supplement the current materials with what the majority of us deemed unneccessary detail, and incidental rants about "rimming" and "fisting" in public comments to the Board, among other fora. Neither did we endorse materials that tell people what to think, although we admittedly insisted on retaining the word "tolerance" in the lesson plans. The majority of the cmte coalesced around a perspective that seemed to reflect the common values of the majority of our community, which was what we were charged to do. It appears that such a moderate perspective does not meet with the approval of certain others. That happens every day in America. Democracy permits those more conservative people to attempt to persuede their fellow voters of the correctness of their opinion. This is the marketplace of ideas, CRCers--so far, your more moderate neighbors have prevailed....

April 09, 2007 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ANNE ALLEN wrote "I was taught to respect all people and to tolerate however they wanted to live, as long as it did not harm me."

That is exactly what the revised MCPS health curriculum does. It teaches it is just as unacceptable to stereotype gays as it is to stereotype people who view gays as sinners, and it does so in the very first lesson on sexual orientation. Lesson 8.1 of the revised curriculum defines sexuality as "everything about you as a male or female," and points out "People sometimes stereotype others based on their beliefs. Just as stereotyping others based on sexuality is not an acceptable behavior, stereotyping others based on personal beliefs also is not acceptable."

The curriculum is in no way graphic. It discusses emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction, not sexual behavior. The curriculum states "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors" and "A person may be a particular sexual orientation, but never express it through action."

The curriculum also explains why it's important to teach everyone about sexual orientation by citing this statement from the American Psychological Association: "Educating all people about sexual orientation and homosexuality is likely to diminish anti-gay prejudice." In her denial of the CRC's request to stay the field testing of the new lessons, Superintendent Nancy Grasmick pointed out that harassment and bullying are "serious problems" in Maryland schools.

This curriculum will not only help to reduce such negative behaviors as bullying and harassment that are based on prejudice against GLBT teens as Superintendent Grasmick pointed out, but it will also help to reduce bullying and harrasment that is based on prejudice against people who hold personal beliefs that GLBT people are sinners. That's a twofer IMHO.

MCPS did a great job coming up with a curriculum that is fair to both sides.

April 09, 2007 4:31 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

The writer lives in Washington- so her kids don't go to MCPS. Let her keep her bigotry at home.

April 10, 2007 8:21 AM  

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