Monday, April 02, 2007

The Post Gets It

The Washington Post this morning made an editorial statement in strong support of MCPS in the development of the new curriculum. It's kind of long, but here is the whole thing:
WHAT SCHOOLS should teach children about sex is always controversial. Small wonder that so many places dodge the issue by teaching nothing or very little. Not so Montgomery County, where school officials bravely broke new ground last month with a pilot program that explores homosexuality and other issues of sexual identity. There is fierce opposition, but school officials are right in their resolve to offer a curriculum that promotes tolerance and acceptance.

The effort to update sex education dates to 2004, when a citizens advisory group deemed Montgomery's sex ed program horribly old-fashioned. Among its recommendations was discussion of sexual orientation and demonstration of the use of a condom. A costly, emotional and at times comical -- yes, we are thinking of the cucumber video -- battle resulted. As The Post's Daniel de Vise reported, a determined group fought the Board of Education at every step. It went to federal court to block a previous version that was in fact problematic.

School officials learned a lesson from that bungled effort. The new curriculum was painstakingly developed, with the help of medical consultants and a 15-member citizens advisory group. The revised lessons have been attacked from both sides. The conservative citizens group believes that an alternate view of homosexuality as immoral should be presented while more liberal members of the community think the curriculum should offer more to students who might be confused about their sexual identity. School is not the place for ideology -- either from the right or the left. Any parent who doesn't want his or her child exposed to the lessons can simply refuse permission, and an alternative lesson is provided. The curriculum is posted online and schools hold special informational meetings for parents.

A challenge to the program is pending before the Maryland State Board of Education. State School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick was careful not to prejudge the case, but it was encouraging that she noted the value of teaching tolerance. If there are weaknesses with the new lessons, it is likely that they will be detected in the field tests. There will be a chance to fine-tune any issues before countywide implementation, planned for fall.

Initial reviews from students judged the lessons to be, if anything, a tad boring. As one student said, "nothing new." That may be because the schools stuck to a strict script out of concern about the inevitable court challenge. It may be that today's more worldly eighth- and 10th-graders have already gotten their sexual education from movies and television. Or, as we like to think, maybe it's because this generation of students is already far more tolerant and understanding than any that preceded it.

There's nothing to add to that. There really shouldn't be any controversy about this curriculum, it's accurate, it's fair, and it's the right thing to do. The state has been asked to rule whether Montgomery County is capable of developing its own classes, and it is nice to know that as weighty an opinion as The Post's agrees with MCPS. The fact is, the MoCo community supports its school district, and the state ought to respect that. If there are problems with the classes, they should become obvious in the (well-attended) pilot tests, and they can be fixed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder which condom demonstration the Post thinks MCPS teens would find more memorable, the "comical" cucumber video or the "boring" clinical version.

April 03, 2007 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer is not self-evident. After the current Citizens Advisory Committee gave its critique of the initial version of the clinical video, Staff came back with an improved version that I think is very good.

Will it be more effective than the earlier, jazzier version? I don't know. When the earlier version was presented to the old Advisory Committee, I asked why a cucumber was used. The answer from Staff was that they thought using an anatomically correct model of a penis would create more controversy. People now involved with the CRC were on the Committee then. None of them suggested using an anatomically correct penis instead of a cucumber. Their position was that there simply should not be a video, so I guess they saw no reason to contribute their perspectives on how it could have been done better.

Now we have an anatomically correct penis, and even some of the CRC people do not seem disturbed. Good. Still, their silence when the first video was presented to the Committee speaks volumes as to their entire approach.

Since the subject is sex, I suspect that will be enough to cause students to pay attention.

April 03, 2007 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing the CRC hated in the first video was that it showed a girl putting a condom on a guy, tacitly encouraging girls to have sex. They like this one better because it shows a guy how to put a condom on another guy.

April 03, 2007 1:16 PM  

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