Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sex in the Classroom

In response to the Sex-Ed fiasco in Maryland:

When we evaluate the public school system's curriculum choices, we must first define the goals of public education. It seems few are doing this--everyone wants to mold the system to fit their personal convictions. Your personal convictions, however, may not be your child's personal convictions. Even at a young age, I disagreed with my parents on many topics, and I made decisions they did not always agree with. To make the right choices, children need both parental advice and unfettered education. Without the latter, they will rely on guesswork, ignorance, and peer guidance to fill in the holes when they disagree with parental advice.

Let me try to show you why personal convictions may not be best for educational choices:

It's hard to think of your "baby" learning about sex. By the time your child is 13, however, it is already too late to begin sex discussions. Their peers, and maybe even your baby, are already having sex. Dr. Smith from next door hid her pregnant daughter all summer and then dropped her new grandbaby off to a nice, childless-young couple just before little Miss Smith started fall cheerleading camp. Reverand Jones found out that his son drove his girlfriend to an abortion clinic and, for $500 of his allowance, got a clean slate. Those are two of many true stories I could tell. If all your children have is you or the Church telling them not to have sex, who is filling in the missing information when they decide to make their own choice?

Need another reason to believe me?

I worked at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health with a group that was determining which age group would most benefit from the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine (gential warts). Through their exhaustive studies--cohorts composed of thousands of people--of STD and pregnancy rates, they discovered girls between 10- and 12-years old should be vaccinated (Gulp). Based on early polls, they knew this wouldn't fly-- parents didn't think it was necessary to vaccinate their child against an STD because their kid wasn't having sex. We knew this wasn't true because we had the actual numbers--it's amazing what a child will tell a perfect stranger as opposed to their own parents. So, it was decided to market the HPV vaccine as a cervical cancer vaccine. Scientific fact: Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the HPV virus. Yep, parental blindness and denial almost kept children from being protected from cervical cancer. I wonder how many mothers would choose the vaccine for their young daughters if they knew what they were actually trying to prevent. By the time women hit college age, as many as 1 in 4 will have contracted the HPV virus, many without knowing. You can get it even if you use a condom. Does your child know that? Where do you think they are going to learn that...from you?

Second point:
I know a lot of people have issues with teaching sex and/or homosexuality in the classroom. There are fears that if you learn about something, you will do it. That's why Nancy's "Just Say No" program worked so well--oh, wait, it didn't work at all.

Scientific FACTS:
In rodents, in utero exposure to many things, including maternal stress and chemicals such as Cox inhibitors (aspirin) can change the sexual orientation of brain structures and/or adult sexual behaviors. You can feminize male brains and masculinize female brains. I can give you the references if you'd like--there are too many to list.

In humans, studies have shown that structual changes in the brain are related to alterations in gender identification and male sexual orientation. It is believed that these changes happen in utero via abnormal hormone regulation and/or environmental factors. There is little evidence that postnatal-social factors influence gender behaviors and neurobiology (at least for men, the data for women are a little less clear), meaning that being gay is not a fad. You can find a recent review of these data here: Swaab (2004) Gyn Endocrin. 19 (6) 301-12 if you're interested. This would go against a lot of religious beliefs, but, if you think back, the church also used to take the stance that alcoholism was a choice and could not possibly have genetic influences. oopsie. I would rather have my child know that their behaviors are normal and a part of who they are than to walk around feeling condemned, in the waiting line for hell, because they are too weak to control their "choices". That's like telling people that they should feel ashamed of themselves and be excluded from society because they were born with brown eyes or black hair or with a physical impairement...hmmm, why does that sound familiar?

When you choose educational curriculum, you must choose to teach that which gives all children the greatest knowledge so that they are equipped to move forward, making the best decisions for themselves and having all the tools necessary to grow intellectually. Public education is meant to benefit all students, including homosexuals, transvestites, those who have been raised to believe that premarital sex is not wrong, and those who have chosen to go against their parents' and/or church's wishes. America was not founded on the premise that we should make all people follow Christian beliefs and rules--America was founded on freedom of religion, culture, opinions, and beliefs, and our educational system should reflect that.

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