Monday, June 04, 2007

Blogging for Sex Education Day

Certain waves of ideas pass through the blogosphere occasionally; sometimes one sticks, and sometimes they just pass by. Like "Friday cat blogging." I don't know why, but a lot of bloggers post pictures of their cats on Fridays. It's a nice thing, but not one that has a good explanation, except that you're burnt out after a week of fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and you just want to spend some time with the kitty.

September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, when all bloggers have to say "arrgh matey" somewhere in their post. It's about the least effective impression of a pirate imaginable, but everybody does it and it's good fun. Well, I don't do it, because I'm a cranky old contrarian and too cool for that sort of puerile silliness.

Today, June 4th, is official "Blogging for Sex Education Day." A blog called "Renegade Evolution" (motto: more volatile than Vesuvius") (second motto: "The rants and raves of a live nude girl") has proposed this idea, and I don't think it's really going to take the world by storm, but you will see more than the usual number of blogs today about sex education.

Here at the Vigilance blog, every day, more or less, is "Blogging for Sex Education Day." We're a one-topic web site, all we care about in the whole world is the Montgomery County, Maryland, sex education curriculum. That's weird, huh?

There's an explanation.

A few years ago, certain agents of the religious right decided that they were going to draw the line right here in our Blue county. A new curriculum was being developed, because according to state policy there was supposed to be something in our schools about sexual variation, and there wasn't. So they worked for a couple of years on a new curriculum, and it was really nice. It mentioned sexual orientation in a few places, in a fair and objective way, like it was supposed to do, and these extremists came unglued.

Seems from their point of view, if you're going to say something about gay people, you've got to say something ugly. You should talk about what a dirty and disease-ridden bunch of promiscuous child-molesters they all are, you should take every aspect of the negative stereotype and teach it as fact (is this what the term "gospel truth" means?) in the classroom. You should tell students that sexual orientation is a choice, and that gay people can change if they want to -- oh, and be sure to include as many lurid details of sex practices as possible, especially if they can be made to sound disgusting.

There were only a few of them, but the newspapers and (especially) the TV news loved them. And this all boiled over about the time of the 2004 elections, when the radical right felt they had a chance at taking over the whole country. They wanted to recall the entire school board for adopting this curriculum. That didn't work out, you might say, so they tried one thing after another -- letter campaigns, petitions, billboards, phone calls, picketing. After all their plans failed, they finally won a last-minute temporary restraining order that put them in a position to negotiate with the school district, and so the schools had to start over.

Turns out the extremists -- mainly a group called the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, or CRC -- dislike the "new new" curriculum even worse than the "old new" one. It was developed by a team of pediatricians, and has been studied in depth by gangs and gangs of lawyers, making sure there won't be anything when the CRC files another lawsuit. A citizens committee went over it, month after month, hour after hour, reviewing every aspect, every nuance, and approving it (though some recommended materials have not been included). This curriculum will not offend anyone, but it does include some important information for students about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The curriculum has been pilot tested, and we hear that went well. The CRC tried to undermine the testing, but that failed like everything else they try. People in our county want a good sex-ed curriculum, that's why they voted in these new school board members. There was nothing unclear about that statement, people here are progressive, they support both truth and fairness, and they have put the school board in place to reach those goals.

The citizens advisory committee will receive a report in a couple of days from the Superintendent's staff, reporting on the pilot testing and what their recommendations will be to the school board, who needs to vote on whether to go ahead and implement the classes.

There is one thing we will be watching for. The citizens advisory committee had strongly recommended the inclusion of some statements by the major medical and mental health organizations. These statements would clear up a lot of confusion, and they would also give teachers a way to answer some of the inevitable questions (though it would be better not to wait for a kid to ask the question).

Right now the whole thing is scripted, teachers can't really answer questions, and that's not only uncomfortable for students and teachers alike, it also sends the wrong message. If a kid says, "Teacher, is homosexuality a disease?" and the teacher says, "You'll have to ask your doctor about that," it does imply an incorrect answer to the question. Why would you ask a doctor if that's not what it is? It would be much better for teachers to have the answers to those easy questions in front of them, so they can give an honest and accurate answer.

The CRC has threatened another lawsuit, and so we're watching for that, too. There is no legal opening for them this time, the whole thing is so legally sanitary you could eat off it. But they'll sue, and the TV stations will put it on the news, and then ... they'll lose.

Get around the Internet today, and let's see what people have to say about sex education.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post was a big success.

June 14, 2007 9:57 PM  

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