Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Results Should Be Reported Soon

Pilot testing of the new sex-ed classes was conducted in six schools in March. As far as we heard, the testing was more or less uneventful, despite the CRC's best efforts to disrupt it. So far there are still no reports of any students becoming gay as a result of exposure to the material. About the worst anybody reported was that the classes were boring.

They were boring because the teacher's role is strictly scripted (say "strictly scripted" real fast ten times). Teachers were not allowed to answer students' questions, even.

You can see why the district wanted to prevent teachers' ad-libbing. For one thing, sexual orientation is not something most teachers have been trained in; they probably don't know much about it. So if they start answering questions off the top of their heads, it's not guaranteed that what comes out of their mouths will be absolutely accurate.

That's one reason.

Of course the real reason is that there is so much focus on these little classes that the district can't afford for anything to go wrong. Imagine if a teacher said something like "There's nothing wrong with being gay" to a classroom of 10th-graders that included a CRC kid. The Right Blogosphere would explode with complaints, papers would be filed, the schools would be accused of promoting something-or-other, and this thing would drag on forever. The school district is afraid of a lawsuit, and that makes sense, because the CRC has said they will sue. A gang of lawyers has gone over the classroom materials again and again to make sure there's nothing sketchy in them, but MCPS can't take a chance on some teacher saying something that the anti-education groups can use in court.

It's easy to relieve this situation without jeopardizing the schools' position at all. The citizens advisory committee had strongly recommended the addition to the curricula (both 8th and 10th grades) of some written materials created by the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association. There were informative brochures and journal articles that provided guidance to members of those organizations in understanding sexual orientation and gender identity and dealing with various related issues. These materials spell out exactly what the experts have decided about homosexuality, and explicitly note that they do not consider it a disorder or disease; that they believe gay and lesbian people can live normal, full lives; that gays and lesbians can be perfectly good parents, etc.

These documents should be provided to teachers and handed out in class. It's not to late to add them.

It is not possible that the school district would be legally vulnerable if teachers quoted official documents from these respected organizations.

I don't see how it will be possible for teachers to read these lessons verbatim to classes for the next however-many years. Well, whatever, it isn't my place to tell them how to teach, but I do expect that as they get comfortable with the new material they will be able to relax a little in class and deliver the lessons naturally, at least. And that would be a lot easier if they had some materials to prepare them for the inevitable questions.

There has been some talk among citizens committee members about the possibility of scheduling a meeting to learn the results of the pilot testing. The point of the testing was to find problems with the classes and correct them, and the citizens committee should be made aware of that information. I haven't heard a date for any meeting yet, but I understand discussions are being held, and I'll let you know when a date is set. There will probably also be a report to the Board of Education; if that is presented at their regular meeting you ought to be able to watch it on the web or on TV.


Blogger Robert said...

Does MCPS have a diversity coordinator or some such position to encourage understanding of people whose religion, national origin, sexual orientation, race, ability, gender identity, etc., may differ from our own? While sex ed is one vehicle for students to learn about lgbt people, it is limited and focused on sexuality. The diversity of the population in schools is a more essential notion. The Human Relations Committee at my school looks at ideas around diversity (though it is a terribly slow process, with unspoken barriers).


May 23, 2007 12:01 PM  

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