Friday, April 27, 2007

Waiting

This might be a good time to update and comment on where we're at with the sex-ed controversy. First, some background information for those who haven't been following the story.

The Montgomery County, Maryland, Public School district developed some new classes for 8th and 10th grade Health. There are two new classes in 8th grade on sexual orientation, well, mainly they're about bullying and harassment, and two new classes in 10th grade that discuss sexual orientation a little more, plus a 10th grade class in condom use: five 45-minute classes in all. The sexual orientation classes in both grades focus on respect, empathy, and tolerance. Sexual orientation is presented in terms of the way a person feels emotionally, romantically, and sexually, and there is no discussion of any sexual behaviors. The condom class has a video where they put a condom on a wooden peg.

The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum formed in 2004 to recall the county school board after they had unanimously voted to adopt a new sex-ed curriculum, and we formed the same week to support the board's decision. To shorten the story considerably, the CRC complained and threw tantrums and eventually, in May of 2005, they were able to get a judge to issue a 10-day temporary restraining order based on some background materials for the classes that mentioned religion. That restraining ordermeant that classes could not be tested, and forced the school district to negotiate with the CRC, with the result being that the district threw out that curriculum and started developing a new one.

As would be expected, the "new new" curriculum was, shall we say, less conservative than the "old new" one. Though it comprised fewer changes to the existing curriculum, it did contain some materials that encouraged students to think about what it might be like to be a gay or transgender student, as part of the focus on empathy. The CRC and their allies say this is a step backward, and have tried their hardest to interrupt development and implementation of the new classes.

The school district has moved forward admirably in the face of the background noise generated by the CRC, who believe that talking objectively about sexual orientation is a violation of their religious beliefs, and that the classes will lead students to become gay. The curriculum was developed by a team of pediatricians who ensured that it was scientifically and medically accurate, then reviewed by a team of lawyers to make sure there was no legal vulnerability. The district then submitted the new class materials to review and evaluation by a citizens advisory committee, who proposed many changes. Most of these were accepted by district staff and included in the final materials. In March of this year -- last month, the new classes were pilot-tested in six schools without incident, other than CRC disruptions. There were no reports of students becoming gay after the classes; most comments suggested the classes were a little bit boring.

The CRC has two more cards to play out before this is finished. First, they have petitioned the state school board to hold a hearing and overturn the county's decision to implement the new courses. Note that the materials were accepted unanimously by the county school board and did not receive any objections from families or students when they were tested.

It is not clear when or if the state board will actually hold a hearing, or what it will be if they do hold it. The CRC is hoping for a show trial with dozens of witnesses and depositions, but the board could just review written materials and issue a decision. Or, according to an article in The Examiner (which we have not found to be a reliable source), the school board could decide not to decide, postpone any hearing until after the classes are fully implemented, and let the matter drop in that way.

If the CRC loses at the state school board level, they still have one more card to play. Their president and attorney, John Garza, has said that they will sue again in federal court on constitutional grounds. They want to argue that it is their religious right to prevent other people's children from learning about homosexuality. Note that parents actually have to ask the school, in writing, to allow their child to attend these classes; otherwise the student will work on an independent study project in the library. Nobody is forced or required to attend. Regardless, these guys think the classes violate their constitutional right to practice their religion, and want to take that to court.

We are confident that the school district's legal team has studied the class content closely, and there is no constitutional violation here. In several cases, we have thought that the school district was unnecessarily cautious in what they chose to include. Some important materials have been omitted out of fear, we'd have to surmise, that they would create an opening for a legal attack. Overcautious or just cautious, they are being very careful about what is included.

Let's just put it clearly: science is not a religion. The schools are permitted to teach state-of-the-art scientific knowledge in the classroom without fear that they are violating somebody's First Amendment rights. The CRC has tried to argue that this is "secular humanism," which they say is a religion, but ... first of all, it isn't secular humanism -- it's secular, but it isn't humanism, and second, secular humanism isn't a religion. So that's easy.

The current situation is that we are waiting to see what the state school board decides. The state superintendent already sided with MCPS in allowing the pilot testing to go forward, and we do not expect the state Board of Education to take the extraordinary measure of overruling the county, which would amount to a statement that they think one of the highest-rated school districts in the country is incompetent to develop its own class materials.

The question is whether the CRC can find funding to mount one last legal assault in the courtroom. The way things have been going nationally and locally, there is little public support for their nutty ravings, actually, they have close to zero support in our county. If they can get one of the Family Blah Blah groups to back them, or get some of Falwell's lawyers to come up here like they did last time, perhaps they can get this into court. They won't win if the case is tried on its merits, but they may find another technicality to use to get their way over the will of the people -- you can't rule it out.

And so now we wait. Now and then there is a flurry of documents, letters to the editor, or whatever, but at this point the public is comfortable with the classes, and the school district is planning to move forward.

This blog has been the focus of a lot of the discussion on this topic, and will continue to be. There are lots of developments parallel to ours at the national level, for instance the ruling about late-term abortion, the report on the failure of abstinence-only education, revelations about how the religious right has infiltrated the federal government, etc. The culture wars are in a new phase, as the people realize where this was all headed and try to pull the country out of a moral nose-dive. So we'll keep talking about all these things, plus of course you'll want to know what I'm listening to on the radio on Sunday morning, right? Anyway, I might not stay so close to the immediate topic while we wait.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This might be a good time to update and comment on where we're at with the sex-ed controversy."

Yeah, this is a great time, since it's becoming increasingly apparent you have nothing new to say.

April 27, 2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I am not interested in wasting space on our server for this kind of moronic stuff. If you keep doing this, I'll delete your content-free comments until I get tired of that, then I'll ban your IP number.

JimK

April 27, 2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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

Dear anonymous,

If you acted the bully in a classroom the way you do electronically, you would get detention and a phone call home to your parents. You like to call names, make snide comments, and put people down.

Stop.

Robert

April 27, 2007 5:09 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Jim said "They want to argue that it is their religious right to prevent other people's children from learning about homosexuality. Note that parents actually have to ask the school in writing, to allow their child to attend...Nobody is forced or required to attend. Regardless, these guys think the classes violate their constitutional right to practice their religion, and want to take that to court."

Jim, you really summed up the arrogant insanity of these people. They're trying to claim its their right to force their religion on others! These people don't at all believe "All men (and women) are created equal". Attitudes like theirs are dangerous, if they were given free reign these people would be executing gays (and anyone esle they don't like) just like it says in their bible and like they do in the middle east.

April 27, 2007 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So in Canada, as in Australia, religous schools are forced to teach the acceptance of homosexuality even though this directly conflicts with their religous beliefs. In Montgomery County, tolerance has been redefined as "acceptance without expressing disapproval" which is not the dictionary's definition of tolerance.



The latest proposed addition of gender identity to hate crimes and hate speech brings the state
s laws directly into conflict with the Bible teachings that homosexuality is wrong. Freedom of religon and freedom of speech means that if I want to teach my kids that sodomy is wrong, I should be allowed to do so. And so should my Catholic school. Not so, according to similar laws in Canada and Australia, which have been used in those countries to directly infringe on religous freedoms.

So, Jim, where do you stand on this one ? And by the way, in Germany, they told homeschoolers they would take their kids away if they didn't send them to the public schools which were teaching subjects in FOURTH GRADE directly counter to the parents values.

Theresa

April 27, 2007 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, by the way, I had one heck of a time getting a blogger to publish a comment
What is up with that ?
It looks like Google has now taken over blogger or something ? can you elaborate....

April 27, 2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

First things first. Blogger has been taken over by Google, and they "upgraded" it a couple of months ago. You might need to set up a new account, if you want it to show your name etc.

I don't have any set opinion about the things you asked about, but will entertain you off the top of my head.

Religious schools in Canada and Australia ... no bells ringing for me. "Acceptance without expressing disapproval" seems like a good enough definition of tolerance for middle and high school kids.

Gender identity added to the list of hate crimes. The Family Blah Blah groups want to pretend -- as you do here -- that this has to do with speech, and it doesn't. It just means if you beat up a person because they're gay it's a different crime from beating them up because they made you mad. It should be a different crime to hurt people because of what they are, if you ask me -- you're not trying to defend assaulting gay people, are you?

Under the new laws, everybody still has the freedom of speech they always had. Theresa, you should go read the wording of the law, rather than getting it from the propaganda sites. I mean it. You seem intelligent and educated, you should be going to the source and making up your own mind.

German homeschoolers, uh, es macht nicht.

In general, I believe that that government is best which governs least. At the same time, I do not yearn for anarchy or approve of the lackadaisical mess we've got now -- I do like to see a government that governs. One of the great things about our American government is how it has been designed to protect individuals from the whims of the majority. Most Americans in these times agree that it's not OK to beat up people because of their sexual orientation.

Jim

April 27, 2007 11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" -- you're not trying to defend assaulting gay people, are you?"

Clearly no, I am not defending assaulting gay people. HOWEVER, I am asserting my RIGHT to disagree peacefully. And my RIGHT to express my opinion that the behavior is WRONG without being jailed for it. That is FREE SPEECH.

So I guess it depends on how you define ASSAULT. If you can make up a definition, like MPCS JUST DID on tolerance.... well, maybe I could be jailed for it. I personally don't think it is okay for MCPS to make up new definitions for words, that have no source for the definition.

Theresa

April 28, 2007 12:13 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Theresa said "So in Canada, as in Australia, religous schools are forced to teach the acceptance of homosexuality even though this directly conflicts with their religous beliefs."

Theresa, you're lying about the situation in Canada. Religious schools in Canada continue to teach whatever they want about gays, no one has forced them to stop their demonization. And I find it VERY difficult to believe that this isn't the case in Austrailia as well.

Theresa said "The latest proposed addition of gender identity to hate crimes and hate speech brings the state's laws directly into conflict with the Bible teachings that homosexuality is wrong.".

That's not true at all. First off, there is no hate speech law, it is strictly a hate crimes law. The only time the hate crimes law comes into affect is if you physically assault someone. Unless you're planning on doing that you have nothing to fear from whatever you might say about gays - you'll still be able to teach all you want about the bible saying its wrong to be gay. The hate crimes law already exists, but this change will include gays in its protections giving gays equal rights that Christians wish to keep specially for themselves. Just as before the inclusion of gays in the hate crimes law it will still be illegal for you to carry out your bible's insistence that gays be put to death.

Theresa you also lied when you said marriage rates had declined in the European countries that adopted gay unions. William Eskridge and Darren Spedale documented in late 2006 that
a decade after
Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed their respective partnership laws,
heterosexual marriage rates had risen 10.7% in Denmark; 12.7% in Norway; and a
whopping 28.8% in Sweden. In Denmark over the last few years, marriage rates
are the highest they've been since the early 1970s. Divorce rates among
heterosexual couples, on the other hand, have fallen. A decade after each
country passed its partnership law, divorce rates had dropped 13.9% in
Denmark; 6% in Norway; and 13.7% in Sweden. On average, divorce rates among
heterosexuals remain lower now than in the years before same-sex partnerships
were legalized.

You've claimed to be concerned about promiscuity amongst gays. If you were sincere about that you'd be promoting marriage for gays, but you're not sincere, are you? As long as you say something that's anti-gay, you don't care if its a lie, do you?

April 28, 2007 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Warning, facts ahead said...

It looks like Google has now taken over blogger or something ? can you elaborate....

http://buzz.blogger.com/2006/12/new-version-of-blogger.html

April 28, 2007 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The schools are permitted to teach state-of-the-art scientific knowledge in the classroom without fear that they are violating somebody's First Amendment rights."

The new curriculum presumes to tell students what type of attitude and behavior they should respect, empathize with and have tolerance for. They are preaching a form of morality based on humanism, a religious viewpoint. This is impermissible under the Constitution.

The scientific assertion part of the curriculum, moreover, is not only not "state-of-the-art", it is ignorant. It takes hypotheses favored by homosexualists and presents them as facts. The MCPS board, a not very sophisticated group, is enchanted by the thought they are being part of the liberal, progressive elite, by pushing this curriculum into places no other school district in America has gone. They wouldn't know a scientific fact if it had a sign on it.

April 29, 2007 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"talking objectively about sexual orientation"

The talk is not "objective". It supports a certain viewpoint by demanding respect, empathy and tolerance for it. Kids shouldn't be told what they should empathize with or tolerate.

April 29, 2007 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it did contain some materials that encouraged students to think about what it might be like to be a gay or transgender student,"

Schools are in a position of authority and, for those without the resources to go elsewhere, public schools are mandatory. "Encouraged", then, is a euphemism. Schools have no right to push this fringe mentality on kids.

Hopefully, CRC can use this revealing quote by Kennedy, a member of the stacked CAC, in its court case.

April 29, 2007 7:41 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Nice try, Anon. The new curriculum does teach respect, empathy, and tolerance for sexual minorities. It does not say anything about any attitudes or behaviors that "they should respect, empathize with, or have tolerance for." You're making that up.

It also doesn't teach any kind of morality, unless you think there are people who oppose empathy, respect and tolerance on moral grounds, which would not be like any morality that has existed before, except perhaps that of individuals like Fred Phelps who worship a hateful God and serve him by hating.

And good luck with that humanism angle. I'll really enjoy seeing how they support that one.

Nobody knows what a "homosexualist" is, Anon, so your last paragraph loses steam before it gets started. Reasonable people with knowledge of the facts support the point of view presented in the new curriculum.

And as for your last assertion, implying that nobody else teaches about sexual orientation, you're just wrong about that. It's quite common. People want it, and schools around the country teach it.

JimK

April 29, 2007 9:44 AM  
Anonymous MCPS Mom said...

Anon wrote "Kids shouldn't be told what they should empathize with or tolerate."

How about this? Do you think it is OK for the curriculum to teach this to kids?

"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."
Additional lesson 8.1. Page 9 (Page 15 of 132 of the PDF file found at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2006-07/2007-0109/BoardHealthEdPaper1-9-07.pdf )

April 29, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous religion is the belief in god(s). Humanism does not believe in god(s) and therefore is not a religion.

Anonymous said "The new curriculum presumes to tell students what type of attitude and behavior they should respect, empathize with and have tolerance for... Kids shouldn't be told what they should empathize with or tolerate.".

So, in other words, when schools have taught that students should respect, emphathize with, and have tolerance for blacks, jews, catholics, etc. you oppose that? It naturally follows that if students should respect and tolerate some groups that hurt no one, that they should respect and tolerate all groups that hurt no one, and that includes gays.

Anonymous said "Schools have no right to push this fringe mentality on kids."

The idea that we should respect all people who harm no one is hardly a fringe mentality. You're the the one on the fringe if you oppose that - obviously we owe it to society to teach kids this value which is the foundation of society.

April 29, 2007 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Webster's definition of religion:

"a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith"

April 30, 2007 6:50 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Typical, Anon. Look HERE. This is the fourth definition of the word "religion."

The first is "the service and worship of God or the supernatural."

JimK

April 30, 2007 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim

When you have an unsubstantiated faith in humanism, it amounts to belief in something superstitious. There is no evidence supporting humanism. Quite the contrary.

BTW, all definitions in Webster's are valid. The context is the key. For the writers of the Constitution, the existence of God was a given. Their point was to protect people from being forced to adhere to systems of belief against their conscience.

Further, common usage does not necessitate worship of God for a system of belief to be a religion. Buddhism, for example, is considered a major world religion and does not concern itself with God. It is a religion because, like humanism and atheism, it is a viewpoint about the nature and purpose of life.

Do you not know or understand this? Whether your response is ignorance or a feign, it is, indeed, typical JK.

April 30, 2007 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...point was to protect people from being forced to adhere to systems of belief against their conscience.

Does that include protection from Anonymouses who try to force others to accept their Anonymouse opinions about which particular label (e.g. "humanism") Anonymouses want to assign to others' faith?

April 30, 2007 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Does that include protection from Anonymouses who try to force others to accept their Anonymouse opinions about which particular label (e.g. "humanism") Anonymouses want to assign to others' faith?"

This is classic liberal syndrome. I hope kids in political science class are reading this.

To liberals, anyone who articulates any opinion which is not politically correct is trying to "force" others to accept it.

Could we have a description of this nebulous "force" being used to force others to think our way?

Maybe they think this because liberal opinions actually have no force.

Or maybe they don't think it.

Or maybe they don't think.

April 30, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

OK, Anon, good point. You think these classes are an expression of "humanism," which you also think is a religion. Nobody else thinks either of those things.

So the conversation is ended, unless you want to agree with the others here about what a religion is.

Your supposedly "conservative" way leads to a stalemate. People are not going to accept your idiosyncratic definitions or your frame, and you won't accept anybody else's, so communication is finished. Poli-sci students, there's your microcosmic example of what the Bush administration means by "diplomacy."

The alternative would be for people to agree on concepts; those who seek resolution might notice they are "forced" to change if the discussion is to proceed. They might also not accept that all the changing should happen on their side of the table.

JimK

April 30, 2007 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nobody else thinks either of those things.

So the conversation is ended, unless you want to agree with the others here about what a religion is."

So by nobody else, you mean nobody here. Common usage of religions includes Buddhism, Taoism, Confuscionism, et al. Virtually everyone refers to these guiding philosophies as religions. None is theistic. If you don't consider them religions, you're not using the common form of the language. Can you make any distinction between the nature and reach of these philosophies and humanism, a philosophy that permeates one's life?

"Your supposedly "conservative" way leads to a stalemate. People are not going to accept your idiosyncratic definitions or your frame, and you won't accept anybody else's, so communication is finished. Poli-sci students, there's your microcosmic example of what the Bush administration means by "diplomacy.""

Again, you are universalizing the small TTF world.

"The alternative would be for people to agree on concepts; those who seek resolution might notice they are "forced" to change if the discussion is to proceed. They might also not accept that all the changing should happen on their side of the table."

Well, when you're clearly wrong, as in this case you are, the wisest course is just to admit it and move on. You just got confused. Happens to everyone sometimes.

April 30, 2007 3:05 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, you've got it all wrong (like that's a big surprise). The way the dictionary works is that most common meanings for a word are given first and then less common loose meanings are given that deviate from the typical meaning. The constitutional meaning of religion is a strict definition which refers, as Jim said, to a belief in god(s) or the supernatural. It does not refer to the loose definitions of religion. For example some people say they are so into football its a religion for them, or that even school itself is a religion for some people. That's the type of meaning you assign to humanism as a religion and it is not the sort of teaching that is unconstitional. It is the teaching of beliefs in god(s) or the supernatural, the strict definition of religion, the first meaning in the dictionary, that is refered to in the seperation of church and state.

And you are wrong about Confucianism being a religion. My dictionary pointed does not define it as a religion (as it does with Buddhism and Taoism) but rather "the system of ethics, education, and statesmanship taught by Confucius". Similarly Buddhism and Taoism are religions precisely because they deal with god(s) and the supernatural. Note from the following webpage on Taoism:


http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/gods.html


"The religious current of Taoism evolved its own pantheon of deities that were worshipped in temples by the various sects. These Taoist deities, like the Buddhist or Hindu pantheon, represented different qualities and attributes and various ceremonies, depending on circumstances were conducted to appeal to them.".

Note the specific reference to gods in Taoism and despite somes description of Buddhism as non-theistic, the reference to gods in Buddhism as well. While some Buddhists consider Buddha a man, other's consider him a god. There's even a joke that demonstrates this which I frequently use myself: My boyfriend has the body of a god - Buddha.

To further demonstrate the supernatural (and hence the reason for designating it a religion) nature of Buddhism note the following from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

"After attainment of Bodhi, it is believed one is freed from the compulsive cycle of saṃsāra: birth, suffering, death and rebirth."

Buddhism is obviously dealing with the supernatural, with magic, that's why its a religion. Also:

"It also refers to taking a middle ground between certain metaphysical views, e.g. that things ultimately either exist or do not exist.[16]

An explanation of the state of nirvana and perfect enlightenment where all dualities fuse and cease to exist as separate entities (see Seongcheol).
"

Once again, lines like these show how Buddhists accept that their religion can both be theistic while some claim it is non-theist - it can be whatever you want and that's why its a religion, it allows for the belief in god(s). This also shows how distinct Buddhism is from a non-religion like Humanism. Humanism deals with what is real and provable, not such mystical supernatural nonsense as we find in Buddhism.

And further evidence as to Buddhism's reliance on god(s) and the supernatural comes from this web site:

http://huizen.daxis.nl/~henkt/buddhism.html

"Rational thinkers who want to get a grip on often counterintuitive creative Zen thinking, should muse on the following Buddhist explanatory joke. It expresses Zen thought as view to see life as a tough but not at all scientific excercise:

Suppose an individual seeker gets close to Zen heaven--he laughs about wealth, status, sex, and after long struggle doesn’t long anymore for food, drink, and at last even loses interest in breathing and living. Does this make him ready to enter heaven? Not at all. He only still has one desire left--the thrill to enter here. Only after conquering this last drug of his mind too he will be in the right state of mind only to START thinking about reaching Nirvana.
".

Note the clear reference to the magical sky kindom of heaven. This is why buddhism is a religion and humanism isn't - you won't see humanist writings refering to heaven, or magically ending the cycle of life/death/rebirth. Humanism deals with what is real and here and scientifically provable, it rejects the idea of the supernatural and god(s) that's why its not a religion. Humanism puts people first, not mystical supernatural hocus-pocus, it is not a religion in the strict constitutional sense that is referred to in the seperation of church and state.

April 30, 2007 10:30 PM  

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