Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comprehensive Sex Education Controversy

As this article on AlterNet reports, the proposal of a new comprehensive sex education program in Helena, Montana is causing controversy, stirring up opposition, and making national news. The program proposes age-appropriate progressions in the level of education that students are getting regarding sex, STI’s, and relationships, which would lead to students graduating with a more in depth knowledge in these areas than an abstinence-only program could provide.

Some of the proposed curriculum would “recognize that family structures differ” at the first grade level. At the second grade level, students would be taught to “understand making fun of people by calling them gay (e.g., “homo,” “fag,” “queer”) is disrespectful & hurtful.” At the fifth grade level students would be taught to
“Understand that during puberty, many people begin to develop sexual and romantic feelings. Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration. Define STI & recognize transmissions (gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV infection, Chlamydia, genital warts and herpes) Understand abstinence from sexual activity is the only 100% effective way to avoid STIs. Understand anyone can get STIs if they exchange bodily fluids orally, vaginally, and anally. Understand barrier methods of contraception (e.g. male and female condoms, dental dams can greatly reduce but not prevent STIs”

Well, if you’re anything like me you might be thinking, “This sounds great, what could be the problem with this?” Well, according to local pastor Rick Demato, this is an attempt to “eradicate Christian morals in America.” He also claims “the school system is inhospitable to Christians.” He has gone so far as to encourage parents to pull their children out of the public school district and either enroll them in a Christian school or home school them.

Although I respect the right of parents to decide what they believe is appropriate for their children, I don’t think that there is a problem with the school teaching comprehensive sex education. The role of a public school is not to teach according to any certain religious or spiritual belief. It is to provide basic knowledge that is applicable to all persons regardless of their specific beliefs. In my opinion, presenting all the facts and options, is doing just that. It is putting the information out there in the best way that it can to serve its entire population. If in fact, parents do want their children to only learn things that correspond with their own beliefs, (which is their right), then I urge them to look into alternative options, whether a private school or home schooling, whatever the best option is for their family. By catering to any certain religion, spirituality, or set of beliefs, the school would almost certainly be excluding other students.

This school district is certainly not the first to have negative responses to attempting to institute comprehensive sex education; they also will almost certainly not be the last to face this issue. However, it is important to remember that these schools are doing exactly what they should be doing. As we are supposed to have separation of Church and State, this shouldn’t be an issue of Christian morals; this should be an issue of what is best for the students and what will best provide them with the tools that they need to be safe and make well informed decisions about their life. Kudos to this school district, along with others for trying to better educate and prepare their students for the decisions ahead of them.

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