Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Of All the Stupid Things

The "Montgomery County Schools" blog is a mouthpiece for the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. This is the blog that ... oh, never mind. I'm not going to link to them, you're not missing anything.

So get a load of the latest thing the CRC is whining about:
The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously against directing children to their parents with questions about sex. During the recent hearing about the new sex education curriculum embraced by the BOE, the question of how to deal with student questions was resolved against parents.

Teachers confronted with difficult questions about sex and religion or homosexuality and religion were told to direct students to a "Trusted Adult." The BOE defined "Trusted Adult" as anyone over age 18 whom the child trusts. Members of the parent group, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) [...] requested that "Trusted Adult" be defined as parents first and if no parent is available then a close family member or adult over the age of 21.

A CRC spokesman stated that it’s inappropriate to refer students to someone 18 years old to talk about religion, sex or both. The Maryland legislature will not allow a 18-year-old to drink alcohol, but the BOE wants them counseling students as young as 13 about homosexual conduct, religion and sexual variations.

Hey, maybe here's where we can find common ground with CRC. I agree: let's take out the "trusted adult" stuff and give the kids some real information. Let's tell them exactly what the mainstream scientific and medical organizations say.

Ah, there went that common ground. Oh, well.

But there's more:
The CRC requested the BOE and Jerry Weast reconsider the definition of "Trusted Adult" but so far the BOE has stood firm in its faith that local 18 year olds will be perfect sex counselors for our students as long as the child "trusts" the "adult." Stay tuned.

Now there's an issue people will rally behind.

OK, look, it's a cop-out, the schools don't want to deal with a bunch of kids' questions so they tell them to go ask a grown-up. They're embarrassed by that, I'm sure, it's really not a very good solution to the problem, especially compared to the one that the citizens advisory committee recommended.

But trying to pretend that this really means ask an 18-year-old, and that it means kids can't ask their parents ... I'm just glad I don't have to deal with these kind of people every day. Oh wait. I do. This is the CRC.

Let's just say, I'm glad these kinds of people don't have any influence over the decisions that are made in my beautiful county, where good people care about each other and care about being honest with each other.

I can't even think of a name for this rhetorical device. Misconstrual worked for a lot of the things, but this breaks the boundaries of that. I understand how it works, cognitively, you take an atypical category member and treat it as if it were a category exemplar. Like, you say, "she swims like a bird," meaning, of course, a duck or a penguin. But the fact is, people who speak the language don't do that. When we say "a bird" we mean a robin or a sparrow, those are the better exemplars of the category. Ducks and penguins are technically category members, but they are not the examples that the category label calls to mind. And when we say "trusted adult" we mean a parent or teacher, minister or rabbi or knowledgeable member of the community. The CRC saying, "The school board wants kids to ask an eighteen year old, and not their parents," is like saying, "The swimming teacher can teach your child to swim like a bird, not like a fish," meaning a duck, and a jellyfish.

Look, the CRC actually won this one -- the "trusted adult" junk is here only because the school district was afraid to include the doctors' and the scientists' statements, because they didn't want to trigger another tantrum from the CRC. But the CRC can't accept the victory, they have to turn it into defeat for themselves and for the entire concept of human intelligence.

Instead of telling students the answers to their questions, health teachers are supposed to say "Ask a trusted adult." But remember, not every family's home is the happy love-nest that all CRC members live in. "Ask a parent" works for some, but the fact is, most kids do not live in two-parent nuclear-family homes. There's no perfect solution here, every kid is going to have to figure out who in their life is the best person to go to.

And anyway, the idea that any teenager is going to do exactly what the teacher says, is going to take her at her word and seek out the first person they trust who is a minute past the age of seventeen, is ... c'mon, don't make me take this seriously.

Of course, the best solution is to simply answer the kids' questions in health class. Give the teachers the compendium of AMA, APA, AAP statements, and give the students the bullet points.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice how the CRC blogger changed
the BOE's definition of a "trusted
adult" from "as anyone over the
age of 18 whom the child trusts"
to "someone 18 years old." So

Parents are most often the
"trusted adults" in teenagers'
lives. Sounds like the CRC doubts
their own kids trust them enough
to think of them as "trusted
adults" they can turn to for
honest discussions of "religion,
sex or both."

I have no such doubts. My kids
know my love for them is
unconditional. They know they can
talk to me about anything and
that I will always provide my best
honest advice for them.


April 03, 2007 7:51 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Well, of course the CRC is worried because they know if their kids have questions- they can't get the real answers from their CRC parents. In those homes, some questions are probably cause for punishment. Didn't some CRCer(s) say that there are some things their kids are too young to hear? So how can your child ask you a question if your answer is no answer? My kids were never too young to get a real answer- geared to their age but never "No, honey, you are too young".

April 03, 2007 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, many of us live in families where members are embarrassed to discuss sexuality face-to-face. That may not represent the ideal, but it is a fact. By urging students to seek further information from a "trusted adult", the revised curriculum reflects that reality. As a parent, I would hope that my children include me in that universe. If not, shame on me!

April 03, 2007 12:38 PM  
Blogger grantdale said...

How can one "define" that the first trusted adult is your parent?

You cannot "define" yourself into a position of trust. You are either trusted, or you are not.

Perhaps it needs further clarification: such as,

"A trusted adult does not include anyone with Homosexuality Tourette syndrome. These people may be identified by their inability to discuss homosexuality or gay men and lesbians without interjection of the word "anal" at inappropriate or nonsensical moments."

Now, a trusted adult would surely include a professional school counsellor right? One who doesn't intrude with their personal beliefs? One who can draw on the resources of their professional associations, and relay that information without fear of some pitbull of a parent complaining that the counsellor told their child "something I don't want them to hear"?


April 04, 2007 8:36 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

CRC defines things to fit their mindset. That being said no one else has to use their crazy "definitions". Probably if a kid trusted their parent(s), that would be the first place to go but if your parent is unable or unwilling to talk to you- you will go elsewhere for answers. And based on what we know of CRC members- their kids are the most likely to feel the need to go elsewhere to get answers. MCPS is not undermining their families- they have done it themselves by alienating their kids(- hey, how many CRC kids go to MCPs or will take the class- virtually none)

April 05, 2007 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what happens in when the teacher says "talk to a trusted adult," the student says "I am. I trust you"?

April 06, 2007 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what happens in when the teacher says "talk to a trusted adult," the student says "I am. I trust you"?

My understanding is since the curriculum is scripted, health teachers must say they can't provide any more information than the curriculum does. However, health teachers may refer students to other adults at the school such as nurses or counselors. What I don't know is if the gag order on health teachers has also been placed on nurses and counselors.

April 06, 2007 3:17 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

well, that is something MCPSshould think about and deal with now, the current rule is wrong. I have heard that there was a gag rule in all classes about homosexuality and that there wasn't(not health class- other classes) and heard it depended on the teacher. I once told a teacher -in the 60's- that Othello as portrayed by Lawrence Olivier- was clearly about Iago being in love with Othello. I was given detention for having such an idea- so have we in Montco progressed so little in 40 years?(I actually went to school in Philly-I'm not sure what is said there now)

April 06, 2007 3:22 PM  

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