Monday, January 03, 2005

New Sex Education Curriculum Raises Eyebrows, and Strong Support

It all started at the Einstein High School listserv, when a group of parents began expressing oppossition to an announcement of a meeting to disrupt the new Family Life and Human Development Curriculum, approved by the Montgomery County's Board of Education (BOE).

The meeting announcement, made by Michelle Turner, with four children in county schools, and the dissenting member of the Family Life and Human Sexuality Committee, read:

“For those of you with concerns regarding the teaching of sexual orientation and variation to 8th graders and how to put on a condom for 10th graders, along with the "new"definition of what constitiutes a family, you are invited to attend a meeting with parents, and a teacher or two...This meeting is to discuss concerns over the new curriculum that is scheduled
for introduction next semester and how to either alter it or remove it.”

This brought up an onslaught of emails repudiating not only the meeting, but also subsequent comments disregarding homosexuality, and the need for a more comprehensive sex education curriculum that emphazises abstinence, but includes accurate information about contraception, and sexualy transmitted diseases.

As a small but very vocal group of parents, and church leaders is organizing meetings, letter writing, and other efforts to oppose the new sex education curriculum, and ultimately recall the entire BOE on charges of promoting and normalizing homosexuality, another group is also organizing to support the curriculum, the Board, and the tolerance their community prides on.

A new website, Vigilance, http://teachthefacts.org/vigilance.html, guided by Wendell Phillips's “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” has been set up by two Einstein parents.

“We put up this website for two main reasons,” says Jim Kennedy, one of the creators. “First, it is important to get the facts to people, both facts about the MCPS curriculum and information about the debate over sex education as it unfolds locally and nationally. Second, we hope that the web site can become a kind of center for people to organize and come together to bring common sense and truth to the discussion.”

For Kennedy, the new curriculum teaches facts about sexual behavior without conveying values that any family should be uncomfortable with.

“It presents facts about homosexuality, for instance, without advocating homosexual behaviors. Some beliefs cannot persist in the presence of facts, and some people who hold those beliefs want this information removed from the schools. A number of us, though, do feel that Montgomery County students should be provided with accurate and complete information, both for understanding their own developing lives and to teach them tolerance and respect for others,” concludes Kennedy.

Maryam Balbed, the other creator, says that as a woman of color, she feels “it's necessary to speak out against bigotry in all forms.”

And now, more parents and concerned individuals are joined a group called “Teach the Truth,” whose main purpose is to reaffirm that students should be taught the scientific truth, and not indoctrinated in a specific set of beliefs.

Another Einstein parent, Nancy Greenfield, not a member of the group, expressed in the listserv that she was “tremendously concerned about the growing intolerance and
homophobia... in our community and our country. What about the health issue of suicide among gay teenagers. Why is there such a fear of discussing the fact that there are children in our community who are indeed gay.”

She also touched up on one of the main concerns of the group that supports the changes: those against the curriculum could have their children opt out of the classes.

“As far as teaching children about condom use...do we really think that encourages children to be sexually active? I am a sonographer. I regularly scan pregnant 13 and 14 year olds. They ARE, unfortunately, having sex. But perhaps with condom use they would not be pregnant. If you do not want your child discussing these issues, have them opt out. That is your perogative. But don't use your sense of morality to keep the rest of our children from having these important, sometimes lifesaving, discussions.”
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