Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Rumination: Looking Back Over Five Years

Man, it is cold out there! I took the dogs for a walk and it was all right until the wind kicked up. Now I see they've found a sunbeam in the kitchen to snooze in. WPFW is playing some rather loud electric guitar jazz this morning, not the mellow stuff you expect. I think the DJ said they were doing a tribute to Django today, but I hear a little more Larry Coryell in this. Well I suppose, like all of us, Larry Coryell was influenced by Django.

This blog began in December of 2004 -- it's been five years. So far we have had 1,962 posts here. At first other TTF members wrote for the blog, but somehow after a month or two it ended up being me. We jumped into the sex-ed controversy with both feet, I'd never been involved in anything like that before and it was invigorating. Allies quickly came to us, it turned out our little group of parents was just the tip of the iceberg, lots of people in our county were unhappy about the far right's attempt to take over our school district -- you might remember their web site was, they came in on the back of Bush's 2004 "mandate" and hoped to replace our school board with people who would support their rightwing vision. They trimmed their ambitions back quickly when they were overwhelmed by opposition.

It turned out to be important for citizens to support the bureaucracy as the district worked on a sex-ed curriculum that would teach students a little bit about sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as showing them how to use a condom correctly. The school bureaucracy was easily influenced by noisy nuts, the district was perfectly willing to negotiate with them, to make changes to the curriculum in order to appease a tiny fraction of our community, and our job was to make sure that they were aware that the majority of us take a fair and kind view of individuals of various orientations and identities. The extremists attracted the news cameras, and even though there were only a handful of them the impression in the media was that there was a big revolt by citizens over this new liberal curriculum. Except that everywhere they went, we were there too.

In fact the curriculum that resulted is hardly liberal at all -- it is only liberal in comparison to the previous one. In the new curriculum, teachers have to read a script, they don't get to teach. And woo hoo, the big controversy was that they allowed to say, if a student asked a direct question, that homosexuality is "not a disease." Where most people in Montgomery County would want their children to get a scientific and accurate education, a tiny band of nuts was able to influence the process enough to result in a watered-down classroom presentation. But at least it was something, it went the right direction.

And when the County Council added "gender identity" to the nondiscrimination bill, the nuts regrouped and attacked again. The bill passed unanimously and the shower-nuts tried to get a petition for a referendum to recall the law, telling people that they were signing a petition to "keep men out of women's restrooms." The law said you can't discriminate in hiring and some other things on the basis of someone's gender identity, but they told everybody that perverted male predators would be lurking in women's shower-rooms if the bill became law. In the end they lost, their petitions were riddled with fraud and irregularities and the state appeals court threw them out. In the meantime they made a lot of statements that showed they were even nuttier than we realized. We remember Adol T. Owen-Williams II, of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, shouting in the County Council chamber, "Wait until little girls start showing up dead all over the county because of freaks of nature." And that was after he had shouted "Heil Hitler." It's been more than a year since the bill became law, and to date exactly zero little girls have shown up dead as a consequence. But still, if you talk to one of the shower-nuts you will find that they still believe it, they believe that the law really will result in pedophiles and predators lurking in the ladies room. The fact that it hasn't happened in reality does not affect their opinion. Which tells you something.

We have been going for five years now, and have seen a lot of action. Soon we will post the two-thousandth item on the blog. It is pleasing to pause at the start of a new year, to look back and to look forward. We have no way of anticipating what issues we will face this year or where the challenges will come from, our nation seems to be foundering in the dark water of anomie, unable to tell right from wrong, unable to make a commitment to benevolence, and though we cannot directly affect decisions at the national level we can pay attention as policies are formed and decisions are made here, where we live, in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Now PFW is playing a classical guitarist, this sounds like an adaptation of something by Mozart or Handel perhaps. The dogs are sleeping, the furnace is humming. My coffee-maker broke this morning, so it seems I will be forced to get into some real clothes and go out in pursuit of some caffeine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

MIAMI (Jan. 10) - Freakish cold weather continued to grip the South, with snow flurries spotted around Orlando and a record low set for Miami, and forecasters said Sunday that more of the same was expected.

About 100,000 tropical fish being raised on a fish farm in South Florida couldn't bear the cold. Michael Breen, 43, who owns Breen Acres Aquatics in the small town of Loxahatchee Groves just north of Miami, said temperatures dropped below 30 degrees overnight, leaving ice on his 76 ponds.

The ponds should be green because of algae bloom that feeds baby fish, he said.

"But all the ponds are crystal clear and fish are laying on the bottom. What we see on the surface died two days ago," he said, referring to the dead fish found floating Sunday morning.

Breen estimated he lost $535,000 in business because of the cold.

The National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning for South Florida from Sunday night to Monday morning. A freeze watch will continue through Tuesday. Northern Florida residents will feel temperatures drop to the lower 20s and mid-teens.

On Saturday night, a temperature of 35 degrees set a record that had stood since 1970, said Joel Rothfuss with the National Weather Service in Miami.

He said a record low of 37 on Monday, which was set in 1927, could also be broken, with the forecast saying it would drop to 35 degrees again.

For the first time in at least 30 years, Miami Metrozoo shut its doors because it was too cold. Atlanta's zoo was closed because the trails were iced over, officials said. Temperatures in Atlanta stayed in the 30s over the weekend with lows in the teens. The average high for Atlanta is in the 50s with lows in the 30s.

The start of the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando was 28 degrees before dawn.

January 10, 2010 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Book review: Susan Jacoby reviews 'Condom Nation' by Alexandra Lord

By Susan Jacoby
Sunday, January 10, 2010


The U.S. Government's Sex Education Campaign From World War I to the Internet

By Alexandra M. Lord

Johns Hopkins Univ. 224 pp. $40

January 11, 2010 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Thanks for the link, Anon.

That WaPo book review contained this gem about employing abstinence-only education in the effort to decrease out of wedlock conceptions:

"It is as though the Public Health Service were asked to fight non-sexual infectious diseases without promoting hand-washing and antiseptics."

January 11, 2010 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Thanks for this review of the last five years of TTF's work, Jim.

TTFers should all be commended on work well done! MCPS now teaches a more medically accurate and up-to-date inclusive sex education program than it did before, and the County's anti-discrimination law protects more of our minority residents than it did before.

Thank you TTF! Keep up the good work!

January 11, 2010 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How 'bout that Harry Reid being pleased that Obama is "light skinned" and that he doesn't have a "Negro accent" unless he wants one!

January 11, 2010 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, thanks TTF

the county's teen pregnancy rate is higher than it was five years ago because of how your loud-mouth ranting about "how teens are all going to have sex anyway" has affected the attitude of county teens

btw, the academic quality of county schools has declined as the sex bill has affected the culture of the schools, reinforcing advocacy rather than objectivity as the goal of education

and thanks for adding another unnecessary burden to employers with the useless trans discrimination law

so far, the only person to file a complaint under the law is an employee of the bill's "author" and the complaint is against the Council who passed the bill

yeah, that was helpful

January 11, 2010 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Popping In said...

Anon, I understand your desire to inflict political correctness on the rest of the world, but you might notice that it is true that President Obama has light skin and does not have a Negro accent.

January 11, 2010 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said:"the county's teen pregnancy rate is higher than it was five years ago". Please cite the statistics and the source of the statistics to support this contention.

You also said: "the academic quality of county schools has declined as the sex bill has affected the culture of the schools..."
Sweeping generalities and unsupported opinions do little to advance your cause. Please list the ways in which the "quality of county schools has declined" and also enlighten us (with factual references, of course) as to how "the sex bill (sic.) has affected the culture of the schools"

Without such factual support for your moans, hair-tearing, and other dire warnings about the collapse of civilization as we know it, we are led to believe that you are just another of those ignorant "Tea Baggers" who have gained notoriety in the media lately.

January 11, 2010 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

the county's teen pregnancy rate is higher than it was five years ago because of how your loud-mouth ranting about "how teens are all going to have sex anyway" has affected the attitude of county teens

That's an interesting claim. Have you got any data to back it up? Let's see your stats that show the Montgomery County teen pregnancy rates are higher today than they were 5 years ago "because of...the attitude of county teens."

This WaPo article from July 2007 includes stats about teen pregnancy rates in MoCo from 2002-2005, before the MCPS sex education program was revised. During that 2002-2005 period when Bush and Company were pushing up the funding for abstinence-only education that only taught the failure rates of condoms:

The growing number of young Hispanic mothers is the primary cause for an uptick in Montgomery County's teen pregnancies, according to state statistics presented yesterday to county leaders.

In the county, which has one of the lowest overall birthrates in the United States [thanks to its comprehensive sex education program], the birthrate increased 16 percent from 2002 to 2005 among all women 15 to 19, according to a report by county staff. In the same period, births for women in that age group dropped nationally and statewide.

Births among Hispanic women 18 to 19, which have particularly driven the growth in teen pregnancies in Montgomery, have increased more than 30 percent in the past decade, according to the report.

Trying to understand why this group's teen birth rate rose so high, the WaPo reports:

A survey of Latino teens and adults by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that a significant portion of the Latino community does not see teen pregnancy in their community as a big deal, according to the Montgomery report, and only a small number thought it prevented teens from reaching their goals.

"The whole cultural piece is enormous," said Pilar Torres, executive director of Centro Familia, a Silver Spring group that promotes child care and education for Latinos. "We're not understanding why these girls are getting pregnant. It's totally different for this community."

The National Campaign survey showed that Latinas were less likely to talk to their parents about sex than other teenage girls. Advocates for curbing teen pregnancy said that more communication among parents and their children is critical.

Birth control remains a taboo topic for many Latina women visiting the Teen Connection, a Silver Spring-based clinic, said its executive director, Karen Butler-Colbert.

"These girls don't want to become pregnant, but they don't know much about contraception," she said.

Since the fall of 2007, the MCPS sex education program has added a clear and medically accurate condom demonstration to its abstinence based comprehensive sex ed curriculum. The stats from 2007 forward will show if this addition has helped reduce the teen pregnancy rates for Latinas or not.

January 11, 2010 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please cite the statistics"

when both of these stats came out, I posted comments here

go ahead and search for them

the teen pregnancy rate is also increasing nationwide as valueless comp sex ed rhetoric has spread

TTF was actually part of an insidious national movement that has now peaked

the backlash is coming to the rescue

January 11, 2010 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Searching this website for "Montgomery County teen pregnancy stats" yields four hits, none after 2006.

If you produced these stats after the 2007 revision was launched once, you should be able to produce them again for us.

Unless you're lying.

January 11, 2010 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

The Roman Catholic Church opposes all contraception. Does this have an impact?


January 11, 2010 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it really doesn't, Robert

American Catholics basically ignore the teachings of their church

January 11, 2010 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you produced these stats after the 2007 revision"

I never put them up.

Jim posted them and I commented.

Don't know what years were covered except that any years in the stats after TTF began its noisy campaign showed teen pregnancy going up.

Prior to that, the rate had been sliding for years because of growing abstinence programs.

January 11, 2010 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Prior to that, the rate had been sliding for years because of growing abstinence programs.

Not according to the data cited in the WaPo article above.

the birthrate increased 16 percent from 2002 to 2005 among all women 15 to 19


Births among Hispanic women 18 to 19, which have particularly driven the growth in teen pregnancies in Montgomery, have increased more than 30 percent in the past decade

January 11, 2010 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one, Popping In! Keep on trying!

January 11, 2010 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked you for statistics to back up your assertions. Your response: "when both of these stats came out, I posted comments here... go ahead and search for them" ineffectively covers up your lack of factual data to be a convincing argument.

As to my second request: "Please list the ways in which the "quality of county schools has declined" and also enlighten us (with factual references, of course) as to how "the sex bill (sic.) has affected the culture of the schools" went completely unanswered, as I suspected it would. You are simply talking off the top of your head and are, as usual, suffering from a diagnosis known as "diarrhea of the mouth".

January 12, 2010 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, RT, both discussed here before with the stats as well as the corruption of the academic culture by biased advocacy

January 12, 2010 2:21 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...


Five years. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime. Your commentary and analysis, as well as your direct activities and those of others in TTF, made a big difference, and provide to others a textbook example of how communities can mobilize to resist attempts by the Right-Wing fringe to mislead the citizenry and to force their views on the rest of us.

It is unfortunate when one side of a debate about public policy is so convinced of the correctness of their positions that they seem to have no compunction (or perhaps no awareness) about lying about simple facts. When I first was appointed to the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, I was prepared to engage in honest debate with people who might disagree with me. I was shocked at the degree to which opponents simply lied and sought to mislead others.

We -- other members of the Advisory Committee and, later TTF and other supporters of LGBT people -- consistently avoided stooping to such tactics. We carried on the discussion by using facts, not made-up accusations, and, in the end, prevailed. Political leaders in our community ultimately responded well. By pushing back against the lies of the Right Wing, we created space that helped political leaders do the right things.

And that may be the most important lesson of the last five years. By refusing to be silent, standing up to would-be bullies, and maintaining high standards in the public square, we can defeat the bigotry pedaled by the extreme Right. "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to remain silent." We did not remain silent, and the forces of darkness did not prevail.

Thank you, again, Jim.

January 12, 2010 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got five years, stuck on my eyes

We got five years, what a surprise

We got five years, my brain hurts a lot

We got five years, that's all we've got

January 14, 2010 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What brain?

January 15, 2010 8:07 AM  
Anonymous visit to the planet of females said...

what are you, a trekkie?

January 15, 2010 9:28 AM  

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