Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Sentinel Reports

The Sentinel is a local newspaper that you have to pay for online. I hope they don't mind that we reproduce their story here.
CRC courts controversy and anti-gay agenda
by Kelli Gavant, Staff Writer

They claim to be a parental group fighting religious discrimination, but their opponents say they are a small group of parents obsessed with homosexuality and preventing the teaching of fact-based education.

The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) has garnered a lot of attention recently for their efforts to reverse proposed revisions in Montgomery County's sex education curriculum.

The organization, headed by Michelle Turner, a Silver Spring mother of six, formed last December in response to the Montgomery County Board of Education's approval of a new family life and human development curriculum for eighth and tenth grades. Turner said she became involved when she saw that "level-headed, civilized, non-threatening individuals were upset" by curriculum changes.

The CRC has been vocal in its opposition to content related to sexual orientation and the inclusion of a video that demonstrates how to put on a condom.

"Our objection to the proposed changes on religious grounds is primarily due to the fact that the changes in the sex ed curriculum will discriminate against those children and their families who have religious view that do not support normalization of homosexual lifestyles and who feel that there is not enough emphasis on abstinence by the MCPS [Montgomery County Public Schools] in the new changes," said CRC spokesperson Steve Fisher.

"Essentially, it's a very small group of parents who are somewhat obsessed with the issue of homosexuality and preventing the teaching of fact-based, science-based education," said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, Maryland's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. "It's unfortunate that their noise makes it appear that there is not broad support for the curriculum that will be piloted in Montgomery County because the vast majority of parents in Montgomery County want their children to receive a quality education."

On March 19, the group hosted a town meeting at Rockville's Johns Hopkins University campus. State Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel), the program's final speaker, used the podium at the meeting to promote his personal campaign to spread "the hate of the homosexual activist."

The CRC seems to be distancing itself from the speakers they scheduled, in the wake of inflammatory statements made at the meeting.

"The CRC does not endorse any of the speakers or support their topics per se," explained Fisher. "... Several members of the CRC were uncomfortable with Del. Dwyer's talk and others felt that his and some of the other speakers' information needed to be out in the public for debate and awareness, even if it was controversial."

"As far as Mr. Dwyer goes, I thought we made it clear that the speakers should not have strong religious overtones," said Turner. "When he started his comments, I was a little taken aback. But a number of the members said they were glad he spoke the way he did.", a group composed mainly of parents, formed in opposition to the CRC. Jim Kennedy is one spokesperson for the group. "They may be saying they don't agree with those extreme views," but Kennedy said, "I was there at the first meeting when they were saying those same things. They talk about taking back the government and imposing their moral standards."

Kennedy also said the CRC has distorted the curriculum "to make it sound like the school board is encouraging experimentation, promoting homosexuality, destroying the concept of the family, and so on."

The CRC has criticized the process used to pass the changes. Ironically, she sits on the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. "I didn't like that lack of opportunity for parents to comment," Turner said.

"I fully understand that some parents may have questions about the proposed curriculum revisions," said Fishback, chair of the advisory committee. "But answering such questions becomes very difficult when a well-organized and apparently well-funded group that is opposed to the sensible health education repeatedly seeks to inflame people by misstating and misrepresenting what the Board is piloting this spring."

The Glue That Binds It All Together?

Kevin Drum made an interesting observation the other day in The Washington Monthly online, one of those, well-duh things that are obvious as soon as you hear them.
...I've long been fascinated by the fact that although issues of gender and sex are at the core of so many contemporary hot button social issues, this simple observation rarely bubbles up to the surface. The dominance of op-ed pages, blogs, and opinion magazines by men is almost certainly one of the reasons.

Now, it's true that not all hot button social issues are gender related. School prayer and guns aren't, for example, except in a fairly abstract way. But take a look at the other social issues that raise blood pressure the most and the sex/gender basis underlying them is striking:
  • Sex education
  • Abortion
  • Sex/porn on TV
  • Contraception
  • Gay rights
  • Welfare (overwhelmingly a problem of single mothers)

This is not just a random, unconnected list. For the most part, social conservatives have made their peace with racial equality — in theory if not always in fact — but are still adamant about enforcing traditional sex and gender roles. This is the glue that binds all these issues together. SEX AND GENDER

My recent post about the delayed age of marriage in our society had sort of started me thinking along these same lines. I thought: this whole thing is about getting women to stay at home. And the trick there is to make them dependent on men. And of course the traditional way to do that is to keep them pregnant or busy raising a bunch of kids. And this sex-education stuff is dangerous to that agenda.

Now women work alongside men, and we all know what we're supposed to think, but there is a lot of discomfort on both sides. I could give examples, but you already know. Now that women have real careers, there is a tendency to concentrate on that, on working, before (or instead of) getting into the domestic business of marrying and starting a family, and marriages happen at a later age. That trend makes it necessary, as it never was before, for young people to learn about contraception; because people do have sex, whether they're supposed to or not, and if they don't marry till their late twenties, well, then, they'll be having unmarried sex, won't they? This means that they may be interested in preventing pregnancies, and as they have not fixed on a lifetime partner, the risk of infection is higher than for married couples. That study last week made it sound like a very small proportion of the population wait till they're married. (Hard to tell though, since the abstinence gang thinks having oral and anal sex is a form of "waiting.")

Kevin continues:
The latest example came a couple of days ago from the Washington Post in an article about the growing "Pharmacists Rights" movement:
An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

Needless to say, there don't seem to be any pharmacists out there who object to filling prescriptions for Viagra. Last year, Michigan even considered a bill called the "Conscientious Objector Policy Act," which would have allowed pharmacists and doctors to refuse to perform treatment they considered unethical. Notably, the act specifically prohibited doctors from withholding treatment on the basis of race, but not on the basis of sexual orientation. It was practically an invitation to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

This is why gender equality per se should get more attention from the liberal community: because it's the underlying core of so many emotional, election-deciding issues. I know, I know: this kind of talk is just so 70s. And it's true that the tone of feminist rhetoric — especially academic feminism — probably puts off a lot of liberal men, including me from time to time. But it's hard to make headway on all these disparate issues without understanding the core sensibility that drives so many of them. We shouldn't allow pique to get in the way of that.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a meeting of people protesting the new health curriculum. To them, it was as if these trivial changes had been proposed by Satan himself. They were so worked up, so intense about all of this.

Sitting there, I found myself wondering again, what's the issue? What's the problem? OK, there are gay people, so what? OK, almost everybody has sex, so what would be so bad about teaching them how to do it safely? To those people, the distastefulness of it, the evil of it, was just ... obvious, but I had no way of understanding why any of this mattered to them.

Maybe, as Kevin Drum says, enforcing traditional sex and gender roles is "the glue that binds all these issues together." At least it gives some of us a clue for understanding what in the world the problem is.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Wash. Times Gives Dwyer a Chance to Take It Back

The CRC wants to portray itself as a mainstream organization representing normal people in our county, but when they decided to go public with a "town hall" meeting they brought in a team of radical conservative homophobes to work up the crowd. Afterwards, their leaders tried to distance themselves from the extremism. But you didn't hear any apologies at the meeting, with their beyond-the-fringe crowd sitting there, no.

This morning The Washington Times gave one of their speakers a chance to take some of it back. Don Dwyer, a Maryland delegate from Anne Arundel County, was the featured speaker at the March 19th revival meetin', he spoke right before they asked people to contribute a little something. He worked up that crowd, preachin' in the old-time style, spreading the hate of the homosexual agenda and the fear of what it's going to do to our kids' morals.
A Maryland lawmaker last week defended his comments at an earlier meeting in Montgomery County in which he said he was "spreading the hate of homosexual activists."

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr. said he was alerting his audience to the hatred that homosexual activists have for those who oppose them and their agenda.

The Anne Arundel County Republican said he was not endorsing hatred for homosexuals.

Mr. Dwyer addressed about 200 people at a March 19 meeting organized by Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which opposes a proposed sex education curriculum in Montgomery County.

"I've been accused of spreading hate and fear among the churches throughout the state of Maryland. Guilty as charged. ... I am spreading the hate of the homosexual activist, and I am spreading my fear of what's going to happen in this great state and our great nation if the people of this world do not take a stand," he said.

Mr. Dwyer last week acknowledged his comments could be misconstrued.

"I need to be careful about that," he said. Delegate defends remarks on homosexual 'hate'


I don't think that's his problem. I was there, I heard what he said -- I heard what they all said, the only difference was his speaking style is more dynamic than the others. His problem is not in being misconstrued, he's got a problem if his words are construed at all. He said just exactly what he wanted to say, it's what he always says, and it's what the Ex-Recall group brought him in to say.

He delivered the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum's message to their crowd in a clear, unambiguous way.

We recorded his speech. Well, Ex-Recall recorded it too, but they decided not to put it on their web site. They posted a few things, but most of their featured speakers were so far off the righthand edge of the spectrum that even those guys knew it would be bad publicity if people heard what was being said.

Listen to Dwyer HERE. You tell me how his words could possible be "misconstrued."

By the way, when the Times quoted him, there is a little dot-dot-dot in the middle. You might want to know what went there. It was simply Dwyer saying:
I am spreading hate and fear.

Today he's telling The Times that it wasn't him, it's the homosexual activist, who's spreading the hate. But last week he admitted that he himself was spreading hate and fear.

Click on the link. Listen to the recording. You don't have to take any newspaper's word for any of this, hear it for yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

In Textbooks, Texas Rules

These guys in New York are just now figuring out that Texas determines their sex education resources, and you get the feeling they don't really like it. It turns out that you can't even buy a sex-education textbook any more, in the whole country, that says anything about contraception. All the textbook companies put out abstinence-only textbooks, because that's what Texas wants. None of them put out abstinence-first textbooks, that is, ones that talk about anything but sexual abstinence.
New York state has never endorsed the abstinence-only approach and probably never will. Study after study has judged abstinence-only an educational disaster, leading to increased rates of unprotected sex, which generally boosts teen pregnancy and STD infection rates ["Abstaining From the Truth," Newsfront, Dec. 9, 2004]. Critics of abstinence-only methods say a better model is the so-called "abstinence first" approach, which advises students to remain abstinent but also teaches them about contraception and family planning.

Yet abstinence-only is about to become the national standard for health-education textbooks. How did this happen? Who decided, based on what instructional and scientific criteria?

For answers, we must travel 1,850 miles to the Austin headquarters of the Texas State Board of Education. Each fall, the Texas Board of Education considers a new crop of textbooks for adoption. The 15 elected members of this powerful group can vote to approve a textbook as "conforming" to Texas state law, which means the state will pay for local school districts to use the textbook, or to reject it, which effectively shuts the textbook out of the $400 million Texas market.

Publishers compete energetically to win the Texas Board of Education's adoption sweepstakes. In their strenuous efforts, publishers break bread and cut deals with the most powerful political players—not teachers, not school board officials, not parents or government officials, but rather Texas’ community of religious conservatives, whose support or opposition can make or break a textbook adoption. The Education Censors

It turns out there are bigger markets than Texas, for instance California and New York have more students. But sometime in the past, the Southern states started banding together in buying textbooks, because they needed special pro-Confederate history books. And the Southern states are a bigger market than any single liberal yankee state. So the textbook publishers don't even bother putting any information into their sex-ed textbooks, beyond just say no to sex.

It's not that the publishers don't try.
Consider the fate of two health-education textbooks submitted for adoption in 1994. Holt Rinehart Winston proposed a modestly worded abstinence-first textbook. Texas conservatives sharply disapproved. Even worse, the textbook used line drawings to show girls how to conduct a self-examination for breast cancer. The notion of taxpayer-funded pictures of breasts drove conservatives wild with rage. The Holt textbook went down to defeat.

Glencoe McGraw-Hill’s entry, on the other hand, received near unanimous approval. A 1995 memo by Glencoe regional vice president David Irons explained why: "Glencoe Health . . . does not contain a discussion about alternatives to abstinence . . . does not promote a Pro-Homosexual lifestyle or an Anti-Family agenda [and] is the only health text endorsed by the Texas Council for Family Values, the American Family Association . . . and Concerned Women for America." Glencoe Health went on to take 60 percent of the Texas market. McGraw-Hill subsequently promoted Irons.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like if public opinion affected other subjects. Like, can you imagine if conservatives were opposed to ... I don't know ... factoring, say, in mathematics. You can divide, you can multiply, but you can't say anything about factoring. Some people would try to sneak in references to prime numbers, but sharp-eyed censors would spot them and ban those texts forever.

Ah, but other subjects are affected:
And conservative influence does not begin or end with health education. Consider the changes made to these 2002 textbooks adopted by the Texas Board of Education:

Evolution: In Our World Today: People, Places and Issues (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill), a passage noting that "glaciers formed the Great Lakes millions of years ago" was altered to read "in the distant past" after a conservative reviewer attacked the phrase as merely "the opinion of some scientist who support [sic] the theory of evolution."

Islam: A passage in World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures (Prentice Hall) noting that the Quran teaches "the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for . . . families" was deleted after a conservative reviewer branded it "more propaganda" for Islam.

Global warming: Prentice Hall dropped an entire section on global warming from World Explorer after a reviewer charged that it would "prepare students to look to the government for solutions to problems."

Some people don't distinguish between education and indoctrination, and all of us are affected.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

What CDC Says About Condoms

The people who oppose the new curriculum are foot-stompin' serious about one thing: condoms do not prevent sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you went to last weekend's revival meetin' you would've heard several bona fide self-proclaimed experts stand up and say that condoms do not prevent STI's. Why, I believe that the hosts of that revival meetin' even posted some recordings of those comments on the Internet, even though they forgot to post the ... more interesting ... comments of their featured speakers.

So, y'know, you do start to wonder. Maybe they know something I don't know. Well, what do you do, where do you turn? I thought it would be safe enough to go to the Bush adminstration's Centers for Disease Control web site, wouldn'tcha figure?

And sure enough, I found a site called Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Bingo.

For each disease type, the document is broken into three sections:
  • Laboratory studies -- this section says whether the latex condom is permeable to particles the size of STD pathogens
  • Theoretical basis for protection -- says why a condom might help, theoretically speaking
  • Epidemiologic studies -- tells what the research says about statistical associations between condom use and the infection in question

For instance, under HIV/AIDS, we read this:
  • Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens.
  • Theoretical basis for protection. Latex condoms cover the penis and provide an effective barrier to exposure to secretions such as semen and vaginal fluids, blocking the pathway of sexual transmission of HIV infection.
  • Epidemiologic studies that are conducted in real-life settings, where one partner is infected with HIV and the other partner is not, demonstrate conclusively that the consistent use of latex condoms provides a high degree of protection.

See how that works?

Hey, just a second ... That wasn't the US government saying that "the consistent use of latex condoms provides a high degree of protection," was it?

Each section has a little box with the results summarized. Under Discharge Diseases, Including Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis, we read:
Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.

Mmm, that's not what those experts in the audience were saying last week.

Under Genital Ulcer Diseases and Human Papillomavirus, we see:
Genital ulcer diseases and HPV infections can occur in both male or female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes, syphilis, and chancroid only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected. While the effect of condoms in preventing human papillomavirus infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.

OK, so I think the conclusion here is, the research is ongoing. You still have to be careful.

The people at CDC know what's being said. They're ready for it:
... Most epidemiologic studies of STDs, other than HIV, are characterized by ... methodological limitations, and thus, the results across them vary widely--ranging from demonstrating no protection to demonstrating substantial protection associated with condom use. This inconclusiveness of epidemiologic data about condom effectiveness indicates that more research is needed--not that latex condoms do not work. For HIV infection, unlike other STDs, a number of carefully conducted studies, employing more rigorous methods and measures, have demonstrated that consistent condom use is a highly effective means of preventing HIV transmission.

OK, I understand these people's reasoning, and so do you. It goes like this: if teenagers found out that condoms work, they would use them, rather than practice chastity.

I have kids, and I don't like that thought, either. But then, I don't think my kids are so dumb they'll try everything they hear about ... but that's a different story.

We know that fifty percent of teens do have sexual intercourse, and almost everybody in American society has sex before they are married (some "abstinence" advocates use a very narrow definition of sex to refute that, but most of us would consider anal and oral sex as "sex," wouldn't we?). So if something is said by the CDC to be "highly effective," mmm, we're for that, right?

We have seen studies, which are undisputed, that show the success rate for condoms for preventing pregnancy is 85 percent when you don't know how to use them, and 98 percent -- say it again, ninety eight percent -- when they are used correctly. (Where the percent means the chance that you won't get pregnant in a year if you use a condom every time you have sex.) Well, figure that "incorrectly" means that semen gets past the barrier, that probably means that germs get around it, too.

So the reasonable conclusion is that condoms will be more effective in preventing infection if people are taught how to use them correctly.

Let's make sure the "Protect Yourself" video stays in the MCPS health education classes, to protect our teens from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. There really should be no argument about it, they need to learn this stuff.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Medium Lobster: Big Gay, Revealed!

Fafblog is a trip. Always. I wouldn't even know how to begin to describe the written mutterings of Medium Lobster and the always-third-person Giblets. Medium Lobster is in fine form today. Well, first, you need to know about the latest news from Alabama (the state that Maryland is not). Here's from the Montgomery Advertiser:
Gay Alabamians hoping to adopt children in this state may never get the chance. A group of state lawmakers is pushing a measure to stop them.

The Alabama Legislature is considering a proposal that would make it illegal for a person who is gay to adopt a minor. Currently, there is no state law that would prohibit a person who is homosexual from adopting children. However, because of the state's Marriage Protection Act, which only acknowledges marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples are effectively prohibited from adopting children. Bill would forbid gay adoptions

OK, so that's Montgomery, Alabama, which some people confuse with Mongtomery County, Maryland.

And here's the Medium Lobster talking about this new development:
Children of the Gay

It's good to know that even in these dark times, when California and New York City are preparing to join Massachusetts in caving to the forces of Big Gay, that some are still standing up for the forces of Western Civilization, protecting and serving humanity by constantly asking the question, "What basic rights can we strip from gay Americans today?"

Today's ray of hope comes to us from the Alabama Legislature, which is considering a proposal to ban gay adoptions in the state. As Mac Thomason points out, adoption of children by gay couples is already prohibited by Alabama's existing marriage ban, but this measure will helpfully crush those last few single stragglers thinking of raising a child.

Some may spend some misguided sympathy on the plight of a would-be gay parent, but only after forgetting the true victims of gay adoption: the adopted children, taken away from the comfort of an orphanage or an endless succession of foster homes to be raised by a gay parent - a malicious influence set on assimilating all within its reach into the vast phalanx of the Gay.

As all truly informed gayologists know, the Gay convert others to their massive, hive-like collective by implanting the young with gay nanobots, which reproduce and take over the brains of the young, inevitably transforming right, proper, heterosexual brains into diseased Gay brains, infested with bacterial bath houses and camp subcultures. With this fearsome dedication to assimilating all that is right and normal, no child can be left in the care of the Gay be any just society. (From this we can conclude that gays inevitably raise and recruit gay childen, and that gay children are raised and recuited by gays. To Dick Cheney and Alan Keyes: you are fooling no one.)

But is prohibiting gay adoptees enough? What about gay uncles, gay aunts, gay neighbors, gay friends? How can humanity protect its children from the Gay Menace when children may still be unwittingly exposed to gay people on any streetcorner? Only by either wrapping all children across the world in enormous layers of thick, gayproof padding, blinding them from contact with non-straights until the age of thirty, or by rounding up all gays everywhere and placing them in specialized degayification camps. As one of these options is patently absurd, the only sane response is self-evident. Children of the Gay

See, we sat through a three-hour song-and-dance last weekend where a parade of truly informed gayologists described Big Gay and its many techniques for sucking the brains out of our young people, and how the new health class is a tool for gayifying the kids.

But it wasn't funny.

We taped it, and even the tapes aren't funny. Listening to it puts a knot in your stomach. Because as funny as Medium Lobster is, as obvious as his satire is, there are people right here in our county in Maryland (which is not Alabama) who want to make our schools into degayification camps, people who really believe this junk. They should be made fun of, seriously, and then ignored.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Spurious Lawsuit" Defined

The Ex-Recall group is threatening to sue the MCPS school board. Who's surprised?

Well, I'm surprised. I'm surprised by the dumbness of the letter they sent, which was posted on a school listserve. This John Garza is apparently an attorney ... he starts like this:
I represent the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, Inc. (CRC), a rapidly growing and dynamic group of concerned parents, taxpayers and citizens in Montgomery County. The CRC Board has authorized me to transmit this letter to you in an effort to sound the alarm felt by many in the County about the future health effects sure to follow the implementation of the new sex ed. curriculum.

By separate letter CRC and individual parents and teachers will make demand on the Board to stop implementation of the new sex ed curriculum. This request will be made to avert several lawsuits already in preparation to be filed in Federal Court and with the State Board of Education. These lawsuits will outline the Board’s failure to follow its own procedures, the gross factual inaccuracies in the new curriculum and the unconstitutionality of setting up a "separate but equal" curriculum that offends children and teachers with deeply held religious faith so as to promote the gay lifestyle. (Not that I need to remind you, but religious discrimination is actually in the Constitution). A request will be made to establish a new, unbiased, Citizens Advisory Board which will submit a curriculum that does not offend anyone, is implemented following the established procedures, contains accurate information, and is constitutional. In addition to this future request, I write this letter to alert you to the future litigation you are seeding with the new curriculum.

In sum, they're gonna sue MCPS unless they cancel the new sex education curriculum and let these jokers plan a different one.

Man, in a way I hope they do this. There hasn't really been anything funny on TV since Johnny Carson left. Like, let me see them prove in court that anybody is "promoting the gay lifestyle." Can they even prove that there is a gay lifestyle? Let's see them prove that it is possible to create a sex-ed course that "does not offend anyone." I want to see the exhibits for that one.

He attaches something called The Legal Liability Associated with Homosexuality Education in Public Schools. Have you seen this piece of work yet? These guys in Ohio have put together this document purporting to prove why it is illegal for schools to teach about homosexuality. Here's the summary from their document:
This report has documented the concern that the health of students in many schools across the country may have been compromised and their First Amendment rights may have been denied. Attorneys have affirmed that any of these situations may constitute grounds for legal action. Accordingly, they have agreed to consider any case pertaining to harm done to students by any school-sanctioned activist organization. Please contact Citizens for Community Values immediately for assistance in contacting one of these attorneys. The Legal Liability Associated with Homosexuality Education in Public Schools

I suppose if they go through with this, you and I will end up paying for lawyers to defend the public school district, instead of textbooks and computers.

But, y'know, ya can't stop reading this stuff -- this is some ... scintillating literature. Check this out:
As a trial lawyer I see the following happening about 5 to 7 years from now. Many young people having graduated from the County School System find themselves infected with HIV, suffering from many STDs, dispite [sic] condom use, including the new extremely virulent strains now coming from Europe, having other serious medical ailments as of result of long term anal sex, including cancer. The empirical data from institutions such as the Center for Disease Control now show that those who choose the gay lifestyle significantly shorten their lifespan.

For example, Oxford University found that gay and bisexual men shorten their life expectancy by 8 to 20 years. (This recourse is banned under your curriculum) (smoking only shortens ones lifespan by 5 years). These young people find that they are not "gay" but had chosen that lifestyle as a result of the indoctrination which began early in their school life. They will point to this School Board as the group who started the slide with the new sex ed. curriculum. They will point to the "safety" Trojan horse injected into the public schools by the gay community and swallowed by the Board...

I wonder if this guy voted for the Presidential candidate who kept complaining about "spurious lawsuits?" I'll bet he did.

Irony is a hard word to define, but we may have come upon an instance of it.

And, now I'm thinking about this comment: young people find that they are not "gay" but had chosen that lifestyle... Do you see what he's saying here? He's admitting that sexual orientation is not a choice. Some people are gay and some people only choose homosexual behavior. Ah, let me wipe the tears from my eye, this is rich. What would their Dr. Throckmoron say to that?

And what's that, at the end? I didn't catch it, something about Trojans, and injecting something, and gay people, and somebody swallowing something? What is the message here, really?

To summarize this very professional legal document, the logic is this: Kids will take these health classes, become gay, get sick, and die. Then how you gonna feel?

See? They're just trying to make the world a better place.

An .. tic ... i ... pa ... -- Oh, Never Mind

We all saw the story the other day that people who are "abstinent" catch STDs at the same rate as people who aren't. They just find ways around the strict definition of sexual intercourse.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like delayed gratification is just hard, in general.

This San Antonio radio station interviews a guy with a good point:
But Dr. David Wiley, a Professor of Health Physical Education and Recreation at Texas State University in San Marcos, and a recognized expert in the field, told the [sex education] conference that abstinence only doesn't work.

"There have been virtually no abstinence only programs which have been evaluated which have led to behavior change," Wiley told 1200 WOAI's Bob Branson.

In fact, Wiley said sex ed itself is not a factor in determining teen sexuality.

"They don't necessarily cause kids to stop having sex, but then they don't cause kids to start having sex," he said.

Wiley said the entire concern about teen pregnancy is in response to the older ages that people are getting married today compared to previous years.

"Today our average first marriage in the U.S. is between 26 and 27. In our grandparents day teen pregnancy wasn't an issue because they were married at fourteen," he said. Research: Abstinence Only Sex Ed Doesn't Work

Well, duh. Those first ten or twelve years of waiting are not that bad, because, uh, you're a kid, for cryin' out loud. But once the hormones hit, once you're through puberty, in a normal world you'd get married right then and there.

But we don't do that. We wait.

There's still this thing about human beings, about being able to decide how we will behave. You could say that people need to exert their willpower, just bite their lip and hold out for ten or fifteen years of celibate sexual maturity. But some people'd need to have a really, really, really good reason to go against what nature has designed us for. "Because the Bible tells me so" might not work for everybody. The statistics say that a whole lot of people decide to have sex (in one form or another, maybe it ain't cheatin' but it's not necessarily safe sex) before they get married. Like, almost everybody.

Thanks for Paying for the Postage

I was starting to worry.

See, doesn't have anything like a treasury. The only money we have is what comes out of our pockets. And that's fine for setting up a web site and occasionally making some copies, renting a room occasionally, and so on. We chip in -- well, it's important to us.

But then we hear that some "group" called "Parents Against X-Rated Curriculum in MCPS" is spending money mailing stuff to people who have kids in the schools where the new curriculum will be piloted. They're sending people a letter, and they're enclosing stamped postcards -- two of 'em, one addressed to the Board of Education, and one addressed to the MCPS Health Education Coordinator, so people can complain and withdraw their kids from the curriculum.

Man, that's a lot of money on stamps. Three of 'em for every house they write to. How in the world can we compete with something like that?

Well, people have been sending in those postcards, yes they have.

From the Montgomery County Public Schools front office we have learned that people are crossing out all the stupid stuff, and writing in statements of support for the new curriculum. Of course it's early yet, but so far positive comments outnumber negative ones by more than six to one. People overwhelmingly want these changes made to the MCPS curriculum, and they're using the Parents Against Blah-blah-blah's postage to tell the school district.

It appears that someone has mistaken Montgomery County, Maryland, for Montgomery, Alabama.

Well what can I say? Thanks for covering the postage expense for us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Conservative Curriculum

We realized when we first saw the Board of Education's report that we were going to have a problem. And we immediately realized what the problem was going to be. And we understood, from that first gloomy moment, that there was no easy solution.

The problem has to do with the word conservative.

In its usual usage, "conservative" means something like "avoiding excess." A conservative suit does not call attention to itself. Conservative behavior conforms to expectations, doesn't stand out.

The new curriculum proposed by the MCPS Board of Education is conservative. By that definition.

Sadly, the word conservative has another meaning, though. It has a political meaning. I'm not sure what it means any more, I think the definition has changed, but suffice it to say: the people who oppose this curriculum are people who would be called, in this day and age, politically "conservative."

So it's hard to say the curriculum is "conservative" when "conservatives" oppose it. See the problem?

Another word might do. Like, "modest." But no, it's not really a modest curriculum, it is comprehensive so it's not modest in the sense of being small and unimposing, and it doesn't address the question of modesty.

"Moderate?" How does that work? "A moderate curriculum." No, unfortunately that sounds like it means "not very good." Like, "He was a moderate student." See what I mean?

"Restrained?" Naw, restraint has nothing to do with it. I mean, it's quite low-key, but it's really just another health class. You know, like it's no more restrained than your average precalculus class.

Hey -- how about "low-key?" Mmm, a low-key curriculum. No, I don't think that's going to do it. It doesn't matter how intense it is, that's not the issue.

So ... you see the problem, right? In fact, the curriculum is very conservative, but we can't call it that, because those other guys own the word. It's basically the same old curriculum, but with a little bit of new stuff added about sexual identity and sexual orientation, and a new video. Kind of bringing it up to the Eighties, it seems to me. Never mind the twenty-first century, with "Queer Eye" and "Will and Grace," where gay is just part of reality -- this curriculum very ... conservatively ... brings up a subject that some student's parents are uptight about, and deals with it very ... conservatively.

You see the problem?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Families With N Mommies

One thing that upsets opponents of the new sex education curriculum is the definition of a "family." The section entitled "Family -- the Basic Unit of Society" includes a list of types of families:
1. Nuclear family
2. Single-parent family
3. Married couple without children
4. Extended family (includes additional relatives and/or friends)
5. Blended family (remarriage with children)
6. Same sex parents family
7. Foster family
8. Adoptive family
9. Others

It's that Number Six that gets 'em, yep it is. When they see stuff like that, the Family Blah-Blah types say that "liberals are re-defining the family," or even better, "homosexuals are re-defining the family."

Now, I grew up the Southwest, where there's even another kind of family, not too rare. Here's the governor of Massachusetts joking about it at a roast this past weekend in his honor:
Gov. Mitt Romney traded off-color barbs with fellow politicians at a roast Sunday, even throwing his Mormon heritage into a one-liner about gay marriage, which he opposes.

"I have to admit that as a Mormon, I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman ... and a woman and a woman," he said. Romney Tells Off-Color Jokes at Roast

OK, well, there's gubernatorial humor for you.

I came across an interesting article from last year in Utah's Deseret News, talking about the Mormon's place in the "religious right."
In Utah politics, there is a different kind of religious right.

Like their counterparts in other states, the ideology of Utah's overwhelmingly conservative population can be traced directly to the door of its church. But because this is Utah, and behind that door is the LDS Church, religious conservatives here aren't like those in "Bible belt" states.

Here, despite agreeing with virtually everything the national movement stands for — a strong faith in God and a belief by many that faith should influence social policy — most people here don't consider themselves a part of the "religious right," an Associated Press survey has revealed. Utah GOP is, isn't part of religious right

(Read the rest of that article, it really is kind of interesting and well written.) Utah, I believe, gave G. W. Bush the greatest majority vote in the last Presidential election. It is a very conservative state, and the Mormons as a population are very conservative.

But there's that polygamy thing. From Richard S. Van Wagoner's Mormon Polygamy: A History:
Presently there are an estimated 30,000-60,000 polygamist "fundamentalists" living in Utah and surrounding states. The two leading groups are the United Apostolic Brethren, located in a suburb of Salt Lake City, and residents of the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale (originally called Short Creek), straddling the Utah-Arizona border and known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Many fundamentalists continue to practice marital plurality for idealistic religious reasons. Nevertheless, in recent years the fundamentalist community has been plagued by power struggles that have sometimes ended in bitter disputes, financial losses, and violence, as well as accusations by teenage girls of having been pressured into abusive relationships with older men. A third group of Utah polygamists, the Kingston group, became widely known in 1998 when a fifteen-year-old girl accused her father of having forced her into marriage with her uncle as the uncle’s fifteenth wife; she stated that both her uncle and father had beaten her when she had tried to leave the relationship. Mormon Polygamy

So the question has to do with the definition of a family, and who is accusing whom of changing the definition.

I don't see "polygamous family" in the MCPS list. But in the Southwest there are tens of thousands of such families. And I don't see any outcry about it, either. Why aren't the "family values" folks crying about Mormon polygamy?

Here's why: it's because it's all heterosexual. Duh.

The complaint is not that the word "family" is re-defined. There is really no limit to what can be called a family, there never was, and there never will be, no matter how these guys try to argue about it. You've had the old friend who's "almost a part of the family." Or the "Uncle Simon" or "Aunt Josephine" who aren't siblings to mom and dad. There's no problem with that.

(Now, some of those old-timers I've seen down in Florida, sitting in a bar with their "nieces," those just might not be family. But, hey, if they say it is, then ...)

The argument about re-defining the word -- and I know I'm stating the obvious here, but let me get it on the record -- is simply one manifestation of the anti-gay sentiment that is motivating so much political action in the present. It's not about families, it's about hatred of homosexuals.

"The family" is a very flexible concept. There isn't, and never was, any exclusion clause for gay couples, don't let the bluenoses fool ya.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hear For Yourself

Andrea brought a little handheld tape recorder to the CRC meeting yesterday, and got most of it on tape. The quality isn't very good, but generally you can hear what's going on.

I am trying to convert the meeting from audio tape to digital, using GoldWave. Unfortunately, you can't monitor it while it records, so it's hard to know how to break it up. Then I have to clean it up, reducing the noise, maximizing the volume, equalizing it so it's not tinny -- then convert wave files to mp3. The result is not too bad, but I don't know how long it'll take to do the whole thing.

Here's a link to the first section I got converted: DON DWYER. This is Maryland delegate Don Dwyer, who was the featured speaker of the day.

It's too bad you can't see the "sieg heil" hand gestures that go with it.

(The tape came to its end right at the end of his talk, so it sounds like it's cut off, but I don't think anything's missing.)

The guy with the gay porn is not going to be nearly as good in mp3. I wish I had copies of the blurry stuff he showed us. Goes all around the country to gay conventions, gathering this funky pornography "for research purposes." It didn't have anything to do with the MCPS curriculum, of course, but he did make the audience gasp repeatedly. The Family Research Council guy made sure we all remembered every stereotype of gays. He didn't call them "stereotypes," though, he said he was dispelling myths.

I'll try to get more of this converted and posted. Maybe not today, we'll see.

Having It Both Ways

It's been an interesting weekend, I guess you'd say. The CRC coming-out party yesterday was really ... something. CNN last night had a fair and even-handed story on the MCPS sex-ed controversy, with balanced quotes from our side and Recall. They had to squeeze it in between breaking stories on the Schiavo case, but they did get it on the air.

Then this morning the Washington Post and the Washington Times switched with one another, kinda like naughty twins going to one another's classes. Looks like The Post attended the Recall bash and read the CRC fliers, but didn't bother to check their facts or get any other points of view. Well, they'll be getting some letters to the editor. They've been ignoring this story so far, and they needed to do some homework.

The Times, on the other hand, covered the story quite fairly. As you know, that newspaper tends to express the conservative voice, and we have not always felt that we have been portrayed fairly there. But I got the feeling yesterday that the pitch of the rhetoric may have frightened that reporter a little bit. Like, OK, you don't think kids should be taught all that much about sex in school. OK, you think the family should handle those responsibilities. OK, you are uncomfortable with all this "gay" stuff and would rather not have your kids asking you a bunch of questions about it. OK, that's fair, people can be conservative on these issues, we can discuss that and come to an agreement.

But what happened yesterday was not that. It wasn't about conservative values, and certainly not about a health curriculum at all. It was about hatred, and the desire of the Christian right (I don't have a better term for them) to dominate America politically. I do not want to bring up this concept capriciously, but I think we can fairly say that the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum yesterday put on a clinic on fascism. Self-righteous, we-wanna-take-over-the-world fascism.

And I think it was too much, even, for the Times.

The Post story was surprisingly poor. They followed the CRC's script by leading with the condom video, and quoted the few comments that were made about condom use (oddly, CRC supporters are against 'em). There were errors in their one-sided story, and a kind of bias that, well, it's kind of surprising, that's all. I subscribe to The Post, I look it over every morning, and it's a little strange to see an event, and then see how they portray it. Did they go to the meeting? They had some quotes, so they must have. You don't know if this is biased reporting or just lazy reporting, I'll grant that it was just lazy and amateurish, and not intentionally biased. Here's the story: Montgomery Parents View Sex-Ed Video.

The Times was more thorough. Usually they make the cucumber sound silly, for instance, and this time they played it straight.

The Times had a couple of very revealing quotes, down near the bottom.
Mr. Dwyer, who opposes the curriculum, said yesterday he himself was "spreading the hate of homosexual activists ... and the fear of what is going to happen if we don't do something about it."

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum members distanced themselves from such statements.

"We do not go to the extremes that some of the speakers went to," said Steve Fisher, a group spokesman.

Said Mrs. Turner: "This was not about promoting hate or intolerance. We want the school system to know ... we want our values recognized as well." Sex-education classes attract parental opposition

Someone commented, this is like saying you're against affirmative action, and inviting the Ku Klux Klan to speak at your meeting -- and then acting surprised when they make racist statements.

No, listen, before the meeting I went on the web and looked up all the speakers, and it was very clear what they were going to say. They said what they always say.

They hate gay people and want the religious right to "take back" America.

The CRC "leadership team" (as they kept calling themselves yesterday) must be embarrassed today by how stupid they look. They look like they didn't really mean for these speakers to get so intense. But they invited them. They want you to believe that CRC doesn't "go to the extremes." But they invited these guys, and their audience loved it -- no hush fell over the room, you might say, when extreme statements were made. They object when we characterize them as extremists -- but they are extremists. There was nothing mainstream about yesterday's performance.

Mrs. Turner told the paper "This was not about promoting hate or intolerance," but that's exactly what it was about. It was planned that way, the speakers they invited guaranteed it.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Abstinence: Then and Now

I'm going to cut-n-paste this whole post from Zen Yenta blog, just because it seems light and wise and right. Go over and read the rest of the posts there, there's a lot of good stuff.

Abstinence, then and now

It's all over the web today. An AP article that cites a study stating that many who pledge abstinence substitute risky behavior.
Adolescents who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to substitute high-risk sexual behaviors that increase the likelihood of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases, according to researchers who studied the sex lives of about 12,000 teens.

The report by Yale and Columbia University researchers could help explain why a study by the same group last year found that despite having fewer sexual partners and getting married earlier, teens who pledge abstinence are just as likely to have STDs as their peers.

Surprised? Neither am I. I do think that some historical perspective is needed. I'm here to offer it before it's too late and everyone who remembers anything about The Way It Used To Be is dead.

It was The Way It Used To Be from the beginning of recorded history up until about 1965 or 66 in the suburbs and earlier in major markets.The way it worked was that girls didn't have sex and boys did. And no, it wasn't a matter of boys having sex with each other at a higher rate than they do now. Boys tried to have sex with pretty much anyone that they happened to meet up with and girls were supposed to say "No", and a lot of the time, they did. There were a lot of side effects to this approach. Among them:

  • The Shotgun Wedding - In my generation this only happened in the case of pregnancy. In earlier ones it could also happen if a "nice girl" got her reputation compromised by a rake and her father could catch him. It wasn't always terrible. Some good marriages and some bad have come of shotgun weddings- just like other weddings. It's not what you're going to be going for, though.
  • The Girl Who Did It - This was a sad thing. There was always at least one girl who was emotionally unstable who got to be the town tramp. That was how the math worked, what with girls not doing and boys doing it. All the boys were doing it with the one girl. It was exploitive and cruel and it wasn't particularly safe sex, either.
  • True Confessions Magazines - Wherein writers pretending to be young women confessed to having had Shotgun Weddings or being The Girl Who Did It. True Confessions still exists, but I'm not sure what acts would be considered confession-worthy today. I don't think I want to know.
  • Myths, lies and other falsehoods - I can't tell you how many kids believed you couldn't get pregnant the first time.

There were other complications, too. Girls learned not to trust boys. Boys learned to lie to girls. And then it got even weirder. A lot of girls who had no intention of "doing it" couldn't quite respect a boy who didn't try to get her to do what she wasn't going to do to begin with. Boys who were in love with a girl would then be embarrassed to be seen with her if she gave him the very thing he sought. It was a dysfunctional system. It was the bad old days.

Unfortunately, sex remains a messy area of life. It always has been and there's really no end in sight. Sex among very young teenagers is problematic. Their bodies are ready but they're not ready in any other way. People can get pregnant or pass around very bad diseases. Sex is risky and kids tend not to take risk seriously enough in so many areas. But I'll tell you one thing. Girls are not going back to where they were when I was one of them. They're not going to believe that they're the only ones responsible for sexual activity in a relationship. They're not going to don a scarlet letter for doing the same thing that their male counterparts are doing.

Sex education that includes information about contraception and prevention of STDs isn't a cure-all, but at the present time it's the best tool that's available and should be used at school and at home. And good luck to you all sorting it out. Sometimes it's good to be over fifty.

The Town Hall Meeting: Personal Aftermath

A number of us attended the CRC's "town hall" meeting today. Afterwards, I went for a long drive with my daughter. We went out to the lake and all around, looked for fish in the water, got a soda, talked.

Hearing the speakers at that meeting made me really, really glad to be who I am. It made me appreciate my family, and the good people of who had the stamina, and yes the courage, to sit and listen attentively through the hatred and the self-righteous venom.

I think all of us who went will want to spend the rest of the day with our families and with good friends. What is happening here is so awfully negative, so coldly evil, that none of us will want to think about it for now.

I'll blog some details later, maybe tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Chastity Has Its Loopholes

C'mon, you gotta admit this is interesting. A study just came out:
Teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to take chances with other kinds of sex that increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, a study of 12,000 adolescents suggests.

The report by Yale and Columbia University researchers could help explain their earlier findings that teens who pledged abstinence are just as likely to have STDs as their peers.

The latest study, published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that teens pledging virginity until marriage are more likely to have oral and anal sex than other teens who have not had intercourse. That behavior, however, "puts you at risk," said Hannah Brueckner, assistant professor of sociology at Yale and one of the study's authors.

Among virgins, boys who have pledged abstinence were four times more likely to have had anal sex, according to the study. Overall, pledgers were six times more likely to have oral sex than teens who have remained abstinent but not as part of a pledge. Study: Abstinence May Lead to Risky Acts

So, they find a loophole, you might say.

Look, people, the sensible thing is just to inform teens about what to do. Show 'em the video with the cucumber, let them learn how you actually buy a condom, how to open the package, how to put it on. It doesn't mean they're going to go out and do it right now. But if they do -- or this study suggests we can say when they do -- they'll at least know how to do it right.

This might be the ticket, right here:
Last year, the same research team found that 88 percent of teens who pledge abstinence end up having sex before marriage, compared with 99 percent of teens who do not make a pledge.

So, OK, twelve percent of the pledgers actually do wait until marriage, compared to one percent of the others. The Red part of the country will want to emphasize that.

But that "waiting till marriage" thing. It's one thing to wait until you're adult, or wait until you're in a long-term, loving relationship. But "waiting till marriage?" It sounds like what they're finding is that "waiting till marriage" is basically so hard to do that people find ways to, y'know, "do it" without, y'know, "doing it."

Stop Sexy Cheerleading!

Well, we talk here about sex education, here's a story about sex and education ... I guess.

Down in Texas, one legislator has decided that some of the cheerleaders have just a little too much goin' on, if ya know what I mean.
Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

"It's just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down," said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House. "And then we say to them, 'don't get involved in sex unless it's marriage or love, it's dangerous out there' and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations." Texas Lawmaker Wants End to 'Sexy Cheerleading'

Mmm, yeah, now that's something we needed a new law for. Sexy cheerleading. The world would be a better place without that. Yeah, really.

Republicans Claim Their Leader is Not Gay

Gentlemen's Quarterly has an article on the newsstands about a guy who has a web site that outs gay politicians. They are very critical of him, and of course that is controversial, but the interesting part is down in the story:
The piece, which includes a first-ever denial that the chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman is gay -- a fact contested by many reporters and others close to the Mehlman himself -- is sure to spark a new firestorm of debate over whether outing those who oppose gay civil rights is appropriate.
"Ken Mehlman is not gay," Steve Schmidt, a senior official of the Bush campaign and a friend of Mehlman’s told Jake Tapper, an ABC News correspondent who wrote the piece for the magazine.
Mehlman has not responded to previous requests for comment on his sexuality from any publication. GQ Magazine inks major spread on gay Republicans; Bush official denies RNC Chief Mehlman is gay, contradicting earlier report

And why would it matter? you ask.

It would matter because the Republican Party has been preoccupied with making sure that gays can't marry, aren't protected by civil-rights regulations, can't adopt children, and on and on and on. So, just as a personal-interest story, you would kinda like to know what a guy is thinking, who leads an entire political party against his own interests. That's all.

It's just that this is the first time anybody has said he's straight. He still hasn't said so himself.

Can We Laugh?

[Note: sometimes I feel obligated to remind readers that these are my own opinions, and are not necessarily shared by everyone at -- JimK]

A few months ago, the local little theater in Kensington put on the musical "The Rocky Horror Show." We packed up the family and had a wonderful time singing along, doing the Time Warp, using all the props they passed out. The night we were there, the audience ran the full range from old-timers like me to high-school age kids. Costumes were optional -- it was hard to tell who was in the cast and who was in the audience.

Rocky Horror is a celebration of polymorphous, unrestrained sexuality. If you haven't seen it, it's the story of a naive newlywed couple who have a flat tire in a rainstorm, and end up knocking on the door of an old mansion where a party is being held. The house is full of Transylvanian transvestites and transexuals and ... it just gets crazier from there. Sex is everywhere, it's fun, it's wild, it's funny.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- the movie -- has been showing in theaters in every city in America, every weekend since 1975. People dress up to see it, they sing along, they get up and dance, they shout out call-and-response lines synchronized with the movie, shoot squirtguns into the air, all that stuff.

And ya know what? I don't believe that movie has ever turned anybody gay.

Oh, it may have loosened some laces, some couples may have tried stuff afterwards that they wouldn't have tried otherwise, but basically the impact of the movie was ... nothing. Everybody has a laugh at the expense of the uptight, innocent Brad and Janet, and at the straightlaced world in general, and when the movie's over everybody goes home and cooks dinner and does whatever they do, maybe humming a tune while they do it.

So it is against that backdrop that I try to make sense of people who freak out when they learn that the health curriculum will be teaching high school students that a family can have two mommies. The whole paranoid fantasy about the "gay agenda," I mean, c'mon, we're supposed to take that seriously?

I look at it this way. Rocky Horror didn't turn anybody gay. Yeah, maybe it was good for Frederick's of Hollywood, and who knows, maybe they even sold an unprecedented number of XXXL corsets. But it wasn't the end of the world. People growing up in the seventies managed to get married, have kids, raise the kids, and go gray without any big catastrophe. And look, Rocky Horror didn't just "normalize" homosexuality -- the prude's great fear -- it actively glorified it. Made the gay guy look like fun, he was the hero. Made the prudes look silly.

And what happened? Nothing.

So now here we are, the Montgomery County schools have been teaching sex-education since 1970, and teachers have not been allowed to bring up the concept of homosexuality. And if it came up in a question in class, they were told to deal with it in a "perfunctory" manner. In the meantime, the world has moved on, there are gay characters on TV, in politics, everywhere you look; kids know there's something going on, and they deserve to be told honestly what it is.

So the schools have expanded the curriculum the very slightest bit. Now sexual orientation will be mentioned, and the prudes are in full huff-and-puff mode.

I have the intuition that laughter is the missing ingredient here. The prudes have defined the topic as a v-e-r-y s-e-r-i-o-u-s one, no laughing matter. It's all sin and heaviness to them. But maybe the sin and heaviness is the problem. 'Dya ever think of that? Life can be a happy thing, nature has been kind to us, offering us love and beauty and the pleasure of living. How terrible would it be if we simply enjoyed it?

I'm willing to bet that well informed teenagers can weigh the risks of sex with the attractiveness of it, and make the right decision. They do want to live life to the fullest, and no matter what some people think, that doesn't mean that they want to experience everything right now, right here. Kids understand the importance of relationships, of love, of marriage. I say, give them the information to make responsible, life-affirming decisions and let's be happy.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


The following was written by David Fishback, chairman of the MCPS Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, and published in yesterday morning's Gazette. Unfortunately, the online version is a little scrambled -- here is Fishback's letter in its entirety.
In the last several months, the group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (formerly known as Recall Montgomery School Board) made a number of false or misleading statements about the Board of Education's decision to pilot curriculum revisions, including basic facts on sexual orientation, in its Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of eighth- and 10th-grade health education classes, a unit that students may take only if parents give their permission.

I think it appropriate to respond to two of those statements reported by The Gazette ("Sex ed lessons to debut at six schools," March 9 story).

First, the group's organizer, Michelle Turner -- who serves with me on the board's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC), which reviewed and recommended the proposed revisions -- states that the curriculum violates state law because state law confines teaching such matters to high schools.

Section 13A.04.18.03 B(3) of the Code of Maryland Regulations governs these matters. As a CAC member, Ms. Turner was given a copy of that section of the code. That section explicitly states that material on "sexual variations" may be offered "at the middle school or high school level or both." People can read it for themselves at http://www.mcps. k12. intro.htm (Item No. 8).

Second, Ms. Turner asserts that CAC "rejected scientific, peer- reviewed material that ran contrary to their 'politically correct' mindset." In fact, most of the materials to which she refers dealt with sexually transmitted diseases, not sexual orientation, and were not recommended for inclusion as teacher resource materials in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of the curriculum because similar materials were already included as teacher resources for the curriculum's sexually transmitted infections unit. It would have been redundant. Notably, those rejected materials dealt only with same-sex transmission of sexually transmitted infections, not heterosexual transmission, and it was clear to the majority of the committee that the materials had been offered solely for the purpose of stigmatizing gay people.

The other articles offered by Ms. Turner's allies as teacher resources from peer-reviewed publications were either irrelevant, excerpts taken out of context to suggest something the author did not intend, or contained epidemiological conclusions based on self- selected samples and without control groups -- defects that, according to a medical and epidemiological professional on the CAC, made the articles of dubious value.

In fact, the proposed revisions in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit -- which do nothing more than present some basic definitions, a brief discussion of stereotyping, and a few myths and facts about sexual orientation -- are based upon the conclusions of every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association, namely, that homosexuality is not an illness, and that most experts do not believe it is a choice. This is something that Ms. Turner and her allies repeatedly ignore in their public attacks on the Board of Education and the majority of the CAC.

A public discussion of the proposed curriculum revisions is certainly appropriate. People may read it for themselves at http://www.mcps.k12. (Item No. 4). There may well be improvements that could be made in the proposed revisions. But a reasoned discussion, worthy of the traditions of Montgomery County, is made more difficult when a group like the CRC misstates or misrepresents the facts.

David Fishback, Olney

The writer is chairman of the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Marry Who You Choose in California -- For Now

Since we have taken up this issue of the MCPS sex-education curriculum, we have found that it is interwoven with other issues where a certain rightward-leaning element is determined to impose its own values on the rest of the country. That is really the issue here, in Montgomery County, where the holier-than-thous cannot stand the thought that our kids would learn, in the public schools, that anyone behaves outside the bounds of their own narrow proscriptions.

Personal freedom is under attack everywhere you look, it seems. Like, can you believe that anybody really feels the federal government needs to pick anybody's marriage partner for them? Wouldn't you think that here in America you could just fall in love with someone and marry them, without asking the government if they meet the official criterion?

Ah, so here's this judge in California, where the voters said they want the state to make sure nobody marries anyone of their same sex. The law gets appealed, the case goes to this judge -- Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer -- and he says, strangely enough:
"It appears," he wrote, "that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage . . . to opposite-sex partners."

Of course, the "family values" crowd is outraged that a judge would rule in favor of the outrageous freedom to choose who to marry.
Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, which is battling same-sex marriage in several states, blasted Kramer's decision as "judicial arrogance."

"You've got one judge that thinks they know better than the 60 percent of Californians that voted" for the 2000 ballot initiative, Perkins said. "It underscores the need to rein in these rascals in robes with a national marriage amendment." Calif. Judge Backs Same-Sex Marriage: Ban Ruled Unconstitutional; Appeal Likely

Now, this is a fascinating argument, that everyone should do what the majority does. Granted, most people are straight, some people are creeped out by two guys kissing or whatever. OK ... so what? Ya gotta make a law against it? According to these guys, yes.

Let me point out, it is a judge's job to interpret the law in terms of its constitutionality. The whole reason this process exists -- this important process we call "checks and balances" -- is just so that the majority doesn't impose its own preferences on the rest of us. In common conversation, the name for this is "freedom." I know it sounds weird these days, but people have something called "rights." In America, you don't have to do whatever the majority does. It's called "liberty," and we'd better take it back pronto.

Of course this story is not ended. Somebody is going to have to contest this. If you just let people marry whoever they want, uh, they might choose somebody "the majority" doesn't approve of, which would lead immediately to the downfall of our society, I'm sure.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Evolution in The Post

Of course this web site is focused on one narrow issue in one little county in the little state of Maryland, USA. We work here to show support for the MCPS Board of Education's new sex-education curriculum, which is soon to be piloted in the schools, and which is under attack from extremist groups.

But we are fully aware that our little county's fight is part of a bigger conflict that goes on all across America, and not just over sex-education but other topics as well. One that very well parallels our specific battle is the fuss over the teaching of evolution in the schools. In the broad perspective, this widening battle is sometimes referred to as "the culture war."

So here ya go, from the front page of this morning's Washington Post:
WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator.

The growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology. But 80 years after the Scopes "monkey" trial -- in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching evolution -- it is the anti-evolutionary scientists and Christian activists who say they are the ones being persecuted, by a liberal establishment.

They are acting now because they feel emboldened by the country's conservative currents and by President Bush, who angered many scientists and teachers by declaring that the jury is still out on evolution. Sharing strong convictions, deep pockets and impressive political credentials -- if not always the same goals -- the activists are building a sizable network. Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens

There is really no controversy about evolution in the scientific community. It is clear that organisms adapt over generations through the process of differential reproduction due to fitness. The process is clear and unambiguous at the level of the species or population, and the mechanism is well understood, the functions of genetic patterns on the chromosomes that are inherited from parents with the occasional mutation. It's just too well understood, there really is no question about it.

And y'know, I am tempted to go on and on here, but will stop myself. Suffice it to say, there are adults in America who insist that the story of Noah's ark is literally true, and that every animal alive today is actually descended from the ones that rode with Noah. And that God literally made the world in a week. And those people are pressuring the public schools to teach their beliefs, at least some version of them. They are highly motivated and have a lot of money.

It is imperative for America to pull itself out of the dreamworld of religious myth and into the sunlight of verifiable fact, and this will require a gigantic reinventory of the place of myth in our culture, and a method for reconciling disputes between faith and fact. We must not allow the abandonment of faith, but our future requires us to grant priority to the well-supported fact. I am sure it can be done.

Click on the link to this story. It's a kind of long one, but well-researched, well-balanced. The "intelligent design" folks get their say. Maybe you'll agree with them that the public schools should teach kids what the majority of Americans believe, rather than what science has found.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Metro Ride

I ran into an old friend the other day at the Metro station, and started telling her a little bit about what I've been doing with Of course she was surprised. People who know me know I'd rather hang out with the kids, or goof around with the computer, or play some music with some guys, than get involved in some "political" thing. We got on at Twinbrook, didn't get seats, had to stand.

"We're just supporting the new curriculum," I told her.

"What's in it, that people are complaining about?" she asked.

"Well, for the first time, the health teachers will be able to talk about gay people," I said.

Here I could see her eyes sort of grow blank. She looked away from me. "I'm not sure that's something the schools need to teach," she said, "We kind of like to take care of that stuff at home."

"Of course," I said, "We talk about these things at our house, too. But what facts do you have?"


"Like, do you know the difference between sexual identity and gender identity?"

The blank look was gone, at least. She looked over at me as we rocked along the Red line.

"I know what sex I am," she said. "I figured that out in the bathtub, many years ago."

"OK, so you know your biological sex. But you didn't answer my question. Do you know what sexual identity is?"

"Sure I do," she sputtered. "It's what sex you, uh, identify with ... right?"

"There's more to it than that. According to the curriculum, your sexual identity is made out of your gender identity, which is how masculine or feminine you are, your gender role, which is the kind of stuff that's expected of you as a woman or a man, and your sexual orientation -- whether you're straight, bi, or gay."

"Oh, OK," she said, softly.

We sat in silence. I read The Express over somebody's shoulder, swaying as I held onto the overhead bar.

"So," she said, "I guess there probably is more to it."

"Yes," I said. "You and I can teach a lot of stuff to our kids about sex. We can help them understand how it works, we can teach them what our religions believe about sex and love and marriage, but we're not experts. You oughta see these health teachers -- they're something else! They know this stuff inside and out, and they are very cool about it. It's not an embarrassing thing, it's a health thing to them"

"Yeah, I can see the point," she said. "So what's this that you're fighting about?"

"Some people don't think we should teach this," I told her. "They think if you tell kids about homosexuality, they'll think it's all right to try it. They think teaching kids about sex will encourage them to experiment."

This friend and I both have boys the same age, now freshmen in high school.

I asked her, "Do you remember when Bobby took sex ed last year?"

She looked at me. "Last year?"

"Yeah, in eighth grade. The boys had sex education in eighth grade. Remember?"

"Uh, no," she said, "I guess he never said anything about it."

"And he didn't run out and start trying stuff, did he?"

She laughed. Her kid is the ultimate jock. Even at fourteen he is completely unaware of girls. "But they didn't teach them this gay stuff last year, did they?"

"No," I replied. "Last year the teachers weren't even allowed to bring it up. And think, Jeff was in their class, too."

We both know Jeff. His poor father is really having a hard time. It has been clear to the rest of us for several years that Jeff is growing up to be gay, but his dad can't quite get a handle on it. He's in a state of denial. Jeff's a pretty good basketball player, but ... gay.

I continued, "So Jeff never got a good explanation for what was going on. Can you imagine? He must feel like a freak of nature. And the other kids tease him, and they never really learned anything about it, either. Maybe they would go a little easier on him if they knew what this was about."

"Yeah," my friend said. "It might have been a good thing if they could've learned a little bit about it."

"Well," I said. "Some people are really putting up a fight to make sure the schools don't start teaching anything at all about this. I really feel that they need to. This isn't the Dark Ages, kids are hearing about these things, and they just need some facts. Gay people aren't sick, they're just people, and they just happen to feel different from us. It's time to start lightening up about it. And anyway, this is Montgomery County, it's not Alabama or someplace"

My friend gazed out the window, lost in thought. Pretty soon we got to Metro Center, and she got off the train. I'll probably run into her again in a couple of months. It will be interesting to see how she feels about it then.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blogger Solves Cucumber Problem ... Almost

A blogger named BlogDog at the Pugs of War web site thinks he's solved the problem:
I believe they could save the trouble of putting condoms on the cucumbers simply by using seedless cukes in the first place.

Mmm, good point there, BlogDog. Seedless cukes, good. That would take care of the pregnancy part of the problem.

Unfortunately the poor cucumber would still be vulnerable to infection.

But keep thinking, you're on the right track.

Higher ground

As I mentioned in my previous post, the sex-ed discussions have provided our community with incredible opportunities—we've been given the opportunity to think more deeply about the many issues being raised, and to get clearer on what exactly we believe about tolerance, fairness, and justice. We have the opportunity to decide what kind of community we really want to live in, and how we want the many different faiths represented in our community to interact with our childrens' education.

Not all of us believe in God, but for those of us who do, that belief is often a primary force in determining perspectives on just about everything. It can be very difficult to separate a person's religious or spiritual beliefs from the more mundane aspects of life, because God is seen as a part of it all. Many of us believe that God is there when we are born, when we grow, when we learn and struggle, when we're happy and sad—many of us believe that God is there through everything we go through, and is as close to us as our breath. No relationship is more intimate, or more powerful in shaping who we are, and how we see the world.

And it can therefore be extremely difficult for any community to decide the right balance between respecting individual religious beliefs, and creating enough of a separation between them and our institutions to not infringe on the rights of others who believe differently.

Schools should not be in the business of telling any child what their religious beliefs should be. But, there are times, when the best scientific data available conflicts with specific religious how should schools handle that? We need to be sensitive to the many different beliefs in our community, and where possible, children should be given alternatives.

But the onus is not only on the schools, but also on religious people. I don't believe that my views about God should be given precedence over other peoples' views in a public institution. I can't limit myself to just thinking about my child, or the children of people who believe like me. As a member of any community, I have to also be concerned with people who aren't like me, and who don't think like me.

Regardless of whether God is seen as immanent or transcendant, the belief in God is about believing in a being higher than us, and more filled with all of the higher qualities of humanity—more love, more understanding, more forgiveness, more peacefulness. So those of us who see God as a reality are called to manifest more of those qualities, not less. We will never all agree on whether Jesus actually lived, or whether or not he's the messiah. The many faiths and denominations in our community will never agree on every aspect of theology.

Since we know we will never resolve all of our community's theological differences, we need to find a place where all people have the opportunity to come together, regardless of faith, denomination, or culture.

We need to find a common ground, and as Jim Wallis said "higher ground is always the common ground."

The place where we all have a chance to come together is through an absolute and unwaivering commitment to valuing every human being in our midst.

We can argue all day about sexual orientation—what its origins are, and whether or not gay people can change to straight. But regardless of what anyone believes about that, to view a human being only through the prism of sexuality, is to diminish that person based on one aspect of his or her existence. None of us are that small, and as a community, we can't be so small that we casually gloss over the reality of who our neighbors really are—and focus on nothing more than sexuality.

The belief in God invites us to a higher ground. Those of us who share that belief are asked to be bigger than squabbling with our neighbors. We're asked to listen more, learn more, and speak less. We're asked to connect more deeply with other people, and not to separate ourselves through the wall of judgment.

Judgment, closes doors.

We have a huge opportunity. Through learning about and discussing these issues, we have a chance to become a healthier, wiser, and stronger community.

The Rabidly Self-Righteous

Wow, the Ex-Recall folks are going rabid, now that the pilot schools have been announced. Truth is irrelevant, they just wanna bite somebody.

On their blog, paranoia strikes deep. Here's from a blog post titled, "'Zealots' and 'Extremists' or The Intolerance of the Left":
As we have seen, right here in our own Montgomery County, the 'politics of deceit' mandates that people who speak up about the bias of the left (or the bias of the new curriculum or the bias of the CAC) must be silenced. Their most effective weapon is to brand people 'homophobes', ' zealots', 'religious extremists' and the like. We have seen this name calling happen already on PTA list servs, newsletters and on certain websites and blogs where 'supporters' of the new curriculum try to close down any chance for a rational dialogue in this way.

'Homophobes', ' zealots', 'religious extremists' and the like. Uh, yeah? And the part that's wrong is ... what? The part that I disagree with is the idea that saying these things is "our most effective weapon." No, I'd say "telling the truth" is our most effective weapon. And the truth is: yeah, we do see them as a bunch of radical extremists trying to impose their bizarre beliefs on the public school district. Homophobes, zealots, yeah, we see that. I don't have to say it nice, I prefer to say it straight.

Ex-Recall wants you to think they're under attack for "speak[ing] up about the bias of the left."

Well, I can only speak for myself. I'm just a blogger here, a kind of ordinary, kind of rednecky straight white guy, and I'll tell you -- I was kicked out of "The Left" years ago. I am not a "good liberal." Nice try, but that is not what this is about. I'm a freedom-loving red-blooded American, in cowboy boots, no less, and I don't like a bunch of holier-than-thou religious extremists telling me what my kids should be learning in a public school. It doesn't matter what I think about abortion, or affirmative action, or immigration, or welfare, or social security, or the war in Iraq, or anything else -- no, this isn't "The Left" speaking. I just don't want these radicals taking over the schools. See? It's not a "lefty" thing, it's an "American freedom" thing. Gay people have the right to be whatever nature made them and by giving them that right and the respect that goes with it, I take for myself the right to be whatever kind of person I am, warts and all. They don't have to explain themselves to me, and I'm not explaining me to anybody.

Liberty works that way: you give a little, you take a little. You put up with people, and they put up with you.

Ex-Recall's shrill press release calls David Fishback, the chairman of the citizens advisory committee that proposed the curriculum, a "gay activist." Doesn't it seem a little strange to be a straight "gay activist?" How would it sound if you called a white guy a "black activist?" No, that isn't "gay activism," the curriculum recommended by the committee is simply common sense.

The Ex-Recall people are extremists who have, for some reason I'll never understand, decided that gay people are going to be the downfall of our society. They have even found a couple of obscure quotes in the Bible, saying that homosexuality is just as bad as letting your meat touch your cheese, and so they think God backs 'em up on this. In the 1950s it was rock-n-roll, then it was Negroes, then it was hippies, then video games, and now it's gay people who are going to send us to hell in a handbasket, according to these guys.

So all of a sudden it's earth-shatteringly important to keep all of our kids in the dark about the very existence of homosexuality. If we talk about it in the schools we'll "normalize" it, they say, we'll "promote" it. Well, some kids are growing up in families (yes, families!) with gay parents; some kids are growing up gay themselves; some kids are growing up teasing gay people and hating them without ever thinking about it. The schools are teaching about sex and leaving this important subject out? Naw, it's time to talk about it. At least tell the kids what it is.

And look, here's "Bianca M.", representing the Ex-Recall group, telling some conservative web site that "We have recently obtained a copy of the new condom video in which the school system now wants to instruct children in anal sex."

Now, I saw the video, and I know it doesn't do that. It might mention anal sex, I can't even remember, it was so shocking. It would be appropriate to mention anal sex in a discussion of condoms, in a sex-education class for tenth-graders -- but "instructing children in anal sex?" "Bianca M.", that's a lie.

The interesting thing to me is, the holier-than-thou crowd wants to complain about AIDS but they don't want to mention anal sex, which is a common way the virus is spread. They think students should end up with the idea that AIDS is spread by ... being gay.

No, the virus is not spread by being gay, it's spread by the exchange of body fluids, especially into absorbing tissues like those in the rectum. Trust me, your kid will not be damaged by hearing that from a health teacher.

And lots of hetereosexual people engage in anal sex, too, y'know, since you brought up the subject, "Bianca." And lots of heterosexual people get AIDS.

And also, now that I think of it -- lesbian gay sex is probably the safest category of sexual behavior there is. The incidence of STIs is very low among lesbians. Doesn't this kind of spoil the idea that homosexuality is a "public health hazard?" Or, would it be OK with you, since it's not a "health risk," to teach about lesbianism, and not male homosexuality? My guess is, no, that would not be all right with you: two-mommy families would still be bad, even though the health risk is low. One sees the tip of the iceburg of hypocrisy, dontcha think?

I say, if certain sexually transmitted diseases are epidemic in the gay population, then let's address that. Let's get information out there about how to avoid those diseases, how to treat them, how to know if you've got them. Same for the straight population. Let's fight these problems by using our intelligence, not by closing our eyes to them.

Certainly you can't blame the worldwide AIDS epidemic on some middle school or high school sex-ed course. A lesson in a health class is not going to turn anybody gay, it's not going to make a modest student promiscuous, and it's not going to give anybody AIDS.

Let the self-righteous indulge in their convulsions of indignity. Let them accuse, let them distort and lie. In the long run, all that matters is whether the school board decides to keep the new curriculum or not. Let them file their lawsuits, let them try to recall the board -- hey, let them run for office if they think they won't be laughed out of the county. The piloting will proceed, and the question now is an empirical one -- does the curriculum succeed in teaching what it is supposed to teach?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sex-ed discussions in our community

I believe the current discussions about the new sex education curriculum provides this community with enormous opportunities.

There were several problems with the old curriculum. One was the fact that it created a gag rule, and did not allow teachers to talk about homosexuality...unless a student asked a direct question about it. And then, the teacher could only answer in a "perfunctory manner."

If the idea here is education, what is that educating students about homosexuality? If the teacher teaches exclusively about heterosexuals, what does that say to people who are homosexual? It sends an implicit message that there's something so wrong with them that they can't even be discussed. To those who are and those who are not gay, it says that homosexuality is something that must be hidden, as if it's shameful.

Up until I started working on these issues, I never spent a whole lot of time thinking about gay rights. Over the years, I've had several gay friends, and just based on principle I always believed in equal rights—for everyone. But I didn't really know anything about the challenges gay people face. And I didn't begin to have a clue about the level of hatred they have to contend with in this society. And I never saw myself as someone who'd be working to defend gay rights.

The work I've done on supporting the new curriculum has taught me a lot about other peoples' struggles, and other peoples' pain. Knowing what I know now, makes me a better person. I can never again be complacent, and accept attacks on any group of people, and not speak out. It shouldn't be only gay people speaking out for gay people, or black people speaking out for black people. We should speak up for each other.

The curriculum issues have given us opportunities to grow as individuals, and also to come together as a community in unprecedented ways. The people involved with come from many different parts of our community, and they bring many different skills, talents, and backgrounds to these efforts. There are people from just about every denomination and no denomination; every orientation; and different ethnicities. The age range of our members is probably somewhere between 16 to 70.

We're motivated to support the curriculum for different reasons, but if there's one single focus of our group, it's the conviction that we all deserve to be treated decently, and fairly, as human beings. Whatever peoples' orientations, they are still, first and foremost, people. We can't ever be okay with saying that, for whatever reason, an entire group of people should be treated with any less respect than others.

Nothing good ever comes from dividing up humanity. We need to learn to love more, not less. Once we start down a path of saying that any group of human beings deserves to have less, or be less than others in our society, we're on an awful and slippery slope.

It is not healthy, for our children or our society, to treat any of God's children as lesser beings—that doesn't heal anything. And healing, is what this community needs.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Homophobia and Civil Rights in the Guardian

Today Britain's The Guardian has a well-written and thoughtful article comparing the current gay-rights movement to the civil rights movement of not-many decades ago. It's too long to post in its entirety, so I will quote some, but encourage you to go read the whole thing here: Extreme prejudice: Events in a small Kansas town reflect the close links between the civil rights struggle and gay liberation

After describing the landscape and the mythic importance of Kansas to American culture, they get to the story:
In this mythic terrain Fred Phelps, of Topeka (pop 122,377), Kansas, fits in and stands out. He fits in because he is a homophobe who, like most of the country, including the Bush administration, uses the Bible as the source of his bigotry. He stands out because, unlike most of the country, he pursues his agenda with a vicious zeal and animus that not even the White House could match. When Mr Phelps attended the funeral of Matthew Shephard, a young man beaten to a pulp in a homophobic attack, or those of prominent HIV sufferers, he took his "God hates fags" picket signs with him.

Phelp's granddaughter, Jael, inherited his intolerance. "The proscribed punishment for homosexuality in the Bible is death," she told the New York Times last week. "They are worthy of death, and those people who condone that action are just as guilty." Last week, Jael Phelps stood for election against the city's first and only openly gay city councilwoman, Tiffany Muller, in a primary. She also lobbied to defeat a local ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians and gays who work for the city. She lost on both counts, coming a distant last in the primary while the ordnance was passed 53% to 47%.

The victory was principally due to local factors. With the Phelpses in the frame, the vote became as much a referendum about rejecting flagrant bigotry as embracing equality. A statewide vote calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in April is expected to pass easily; Muller came second but enters April's runoff as the underdog. But the process by which it came about illustrates a national trend that has striking parallels with the civil rights period of the 50s and 60s, when Topeka was in the national spotlight.

Just over 50 years ago, an African American, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll his daughter, Linda, into the white junior school here. The local board of education refused to admit her. Brown, along with other parents facing similar problems across the country, objected in a suit that went all the way to the supreme court. In 1954, in a landmark ruling, the supreme court effectively outlawed segregation, in the now famous Brown v Board of Education.

So Topeka was a central location for a major civil-rights case, and is known today for being the site of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, the creators and maintainers of the famous web site

Many people are uncomfortable comparing today's struggle for rights for homosexuals to the fight over civil rights for blacks.
To compare these two struggles is not to equate them. To say they are the same would be ridiculous. It goes without saying that there are major differences between race and sexual orientation - and therefore homophobia and racism. It also goes without saying that the existence of many black lesbians and gays makes the binary opposition of the two issues redundant. To ignore the parallels would be no less ridiculous. The civil rights movement was not made from whole cloth. Nor were its achievements limited to the interests of African Americans. It was part of a narrative of extending human rights to those who had been denied them that helped remove discriminatory barriers for many, not least white women and Jews. Its roots, like its appeal, were universal.

I have often wondered one thing: what are people really thinking, who discriminate against gays? What is the point of it, really? Is it just the discomfort of seeing people do things you yourself wouldn't want to do? Is it possible that this really is religion-based, that some Christians actually believe in their hearts that Jesus wanted them to hate gay people? Is it discomfort with their own ambiguous sexuality? Do they actually believe that two guys getting married somehow endangers their own families? I just don't get it. Prejudice against stupid people, OK, I get that. Rude people, sure. Lazy people, no problem. But gay people? Why?
There are two main reasons why this comparison jars with many. The first is blatant homophobia. It is far easier to marginalise the lesbian and gay agenda if you can sever any association between it and other struggles for equality. The second is latent homophobia, which argues that such comparisons trivialise racism, as though the right to love who you want and still keep your job, your home and sometimes your life is a trifling matter.

Sadly, people like the Phelpses exist, and will always exist, hating just for hatred's sake. And it's too bad, but some of those people live in our own community.

Should we allow them to determine what the public shools teach? Or should we insist on facts in the classroom? I hope the answer is obvious.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Responsible Curriculum: Read It Yourself

The new curriculum is kind of hard to figure out. It's buried in a school board report, with lots of notes about who voted on what, and all the correspondence between the various groups, etc.

I have just taken the actual course content outlines from the 8th and 10th grade Family Life and Human Sexuality sections, and put them into HTML format so you can read them in your web browser. There is no fancy formatting or anything, but I think this will make it easier.

The hope is that people who are worried by what they've heard about the curriculum can look for themselves.

Here is the Eighth Grade Curriculum

And here is the Tenth Grade Curriculum

As always, the original BOE report is HERE (pdf file)

DC Christians Set a Good example

The Post has a nice little piece this morning. You might remember the controversy over the PBS kids' show, "Postcards from Buster," where Buster goes to Vermont to learn about maple syrup, and on his trip visits a home with two moms. The Bush Adminstration demanded that PBS refund the money spent on producing that segment, and most stations on the network decided not to show it.

But it was shown in a city in California, where somebody Tivoed it and burned it to a DVD and sent it to somebody out here. So the Church of the Pilgrims Presbyterian in DC was able to show it to a couple hundred families.
At a time when religion is often cited against homosexuality, the Rev. Jeff Krehbiel, the pastor, said congregations like his must embrace families of all types "not despite our Christian convictions but because of our Christian convictions." What Has Floppy Ears And a Subversive Tale?

It's kind of a fun little story about some good-hearted people. Follow the links, read the story, have a chuckle.

Prudes Provide Prurience

The Parents Television Council are the ones that complain so much whenever there's anything remotely lascivious at all on TV. Like, they raised a big stink when there were naked statues at the Olympics. And Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction totally gave them a reason for living.

These guys are the definition of Prude.

So maybe it's just me, but this seems funny. Their web site has a video feature called the "Worst Clip of the Week." Like, this week's clip goes a little something like this:
  • A busty brunette in a very low-cut dress, waving a whip around, says, "Welcome to my dirty little secret"
  • A guy in a suit says "I've been needing a spanking"
  • A lady takes her pants off (her bottom is pixelated)
  • Another guy is naked, drinking what appears to be a beer
  • The lady with no pants is getting spanked by a smiling guy
  • A dwarf nibbles on a lady's foot
  • The dwarf eats out of a dog dish
  • A scantily clad blonde takes a riding whip to the dwarf's bottom
  • A guy crawls on the floor and people pour their drinks on him
  • A bosomy lady sitting on a guy's back says "Let me ride him like a horse all across the stage"
  • A lady in a cowboy hat takes a cat o' nine tails to the guy on the floor

I mean, it's not, y'know, it wouldn't even be PG-17, it's about like Austin Powers y-e-a-h b-a-b-y but it still seems a little ... I don't know. I mean, these Parents Blah-blah guys only watch this stuff to see how bad things are, right? Strictly research.

The low-life bloggers at Fat Knowledge are not unhappy with the way this works out:
I love it. These guys are going out and finding the most explicit TV they can find and then uploading it to the web, so that people like me don't have to waste my time trying to find them. I would have thought that these guys would be from the "don't tell the children about sex education because it will just encourage them to do it" school. But apparently not, and oh how grateful I am.

It is so great to when you click on the link it says "WARNING: Graphic Content!!! Do NOT push play if you don't want to see the explicit video!!!". Man, how can you say no when you see a warning like that?

And they have a list of all of the previous worst clips as well in case you missed it.

And so the world goes round and round.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Issue is Morality: TTF

Woo hoo! The Conservative Voice is having a big time with this morning's Times article. Ya gotta love the headline: HOMO OK, CONDOMS ON CUKES: SCHOOL SEX ED. At least you know exactly what you're dealing with there.

Their version of it:
No matter the Red States win, the Blue States (im)morality is still going strong in some places.

So it is in Montgomery County, Maryland, according to The Washington Times' Jon Ward. That school system is ready to have students slide
condoms on cucumbers. It's ready to explain — without any mention of morality — that homosexual lifestyles are fact, okay, and open for

There you have it: a retake of immorality presented as "amorality."

Don't worry, I'm not going to go through the article and complain about all the errors. That does get boring, and, well, this is the Conservative Voice.

But I'll tell ya, it gets under my skin when these guys describe their view of "homos" as "moral."

And you watch, wide-eyed, as The Times' fiction-writing snowballs:
The TTF group has accented right up front that when it comes to homosexual lifestyles education in the pilot program, "morality has no place in the debate." That's it. "Morality has no place in the debate." Closed subject. Done. Delivered.

TTF -- that's us, Those quotation marks? Those are quotes from Jon Ward, a reporter for The Washington Times. You would almost think for a moment that one of us said that "morality has no place in the debate." Nope. Jon said that. He made it up, attributed it to us, and now these guys put quotes around it and tell the world we said it.

Morality has every place in the debate. Good ol' love-your-neighbor, judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged, let-he-who-is-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone, do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you kind of morality, yes, forgiveness, truthfulness, honesty, kindness, mercy -- morality is central to this debate.

Spin and The Times

The Washington Times reported this morning on the pilot schools.
The Montgomery County [Md.] public sachool [sic] system yesterday announced the three high schools and three middle schools that will participate in a pilot program for a sex education curriculum that has riled some parents and activist groups throughout the county.

Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring will take part in the high school course in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers.

Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown, Tilden Middle School in Rockville and White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring will participate in the middle school curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family.

School system officials have noted that some schools were unenthusiastic about testing the new curriculum, which also will teach students to "develop" a sexual identity and that gender identity is "a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female." Schools chosen for sex course in Montgomery

Ladies and gentlemen, we present for your reading entertainment: spin.

Look, we know the Times is a conservative newspaper. I remember once I got a free month of it, and I finally asked them to stop it after two weeks. Not to badmouth it, but it's just not my kind of paper.

And this reporter calls us sometimes. He seems like a nice enough guy, he seems to be taking good notes, asks a lot of good questions, checks to make sure he got the answer right.

So ... where does this stuff come from?

Yes, 10th graders "will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers." They got that part right. There's a new video showing a lady putting a condom on a cucumber. The video replaces the old video, which shows how to put a condom on ... an erect penis.

Describing it as a "curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family" is an interesting twist. I'm absolutely sure nobody says anything about what's a new or an old American family. There are many gay couples who raise children, and I believe they have always been considered "families." Maybe the kid's adopted, OK, couples with adopted kids are families. Some families don't have any kids at all. Some families don't have any mom, or any dad, and some have two of both. Thousands of families out in Utah have two or more moms, and they're still families. There's nothing "new" about this use of the word, except that some radical conservatives have decided to exclude gay families from their definition. OK, OK, so who's surprised when The Times twists the facts their way?

Does the curriculum really teach that "gender identity is 'a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female?'" Well, OK, it should. That's what gender identity is. Some boys feel more masculine or feminine than others; the same with girls. They identify more or less with their biological sex. The quoted definition comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, as credible as you get. It shouldn't be news that the school teaches the accepted definition of a common term.

Here's what the MCPS school board report says:
What is Sexual Identity? This term refers to a person’s understanding of who she or he is sexually, including the sense of being male or female. Sexual identity can be thought of as three interlocking pieces: gender identity, gender role and sexual orientation. Together, these pieces of sexual identity affect how each person sees herself or himself and each piece is important.

The curriculum discusses some gender identity sterotypes, such as "Boys don't cry, girls do," and "girls don’t enjoy math- boys do." Listen, I can remember learning this same stuff when I went to school, back when we had to carve our notes in stone because paper wasn't invented yet. This isn't weird or twisted, this stuff comes right out of a textbook. A real old textbook.

The statement that the curriculum "will teach students to "develop" a sexual identity " is just false. The Times made this up. The only thing I can imagine is that the reporter was distorting this statement in the school board's report:
What is Human Sexuality? This term refers to emotional closeness, sexual health and reproduction, and sexual identity. As we study human sexuality we will discuss how you develop your individual sexual identity.

Because, well, everybody does develop a sexual identity of some sort. Does this sound like they're "teaching students to develop a sexual identity?" No, obviously, that's a different thing.

We have heard Times reporters say before that editors had changed their text, to put a more conservative spin on it. Is that what happened here? They didn't think the real curriculum sounded evil enough, so they made stuff up? Or do they train their reporters to do this sort of thing? You wonder how it happens, and you feel sorry for people who rely on this source for their information about what's going on in the world.
Advocates supporting and opposing the curriculum agreed yesterday that the pilot schools are well-distributed across the county.

"I think it's great. It sounds like a representative sample," said Christine Grewell, a parent and organizer for Teach the (TTF), which backs the curriculum.

Steve Fisher of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), which opposes the curriculum, said: "You can make the case that the schools are representative of the county as a whole."

Mr. Fisher said his group is "disappointed that the pilot program is going forward. We think there's a lot of misinformation, biased information. We would have preferred that the county would have gone back to the drawing board and made it more balanced before they tested it."

OK, we already know what they think.

TTF and other curriculum supporters say the new course introduces information about homosexuality that students will find out regardless of whether they are taught about it. They have said morality has no place in the debate.

CRC and other curriculum opponents say schools are trying to displace the parents' role in teaching their children about morality and its implications on sexuality. They say the curriculum does not include all the facts about the health effects of homosexuality and the moral and religious objections to homosexuality.

Let's clear this up.

First of all, we hope that the school gives kids better, more accurate information than what they pick up on the playground. We don't think it's the same thing, that kids'll find out "regardless."

But more importantly ...

Morality is defined in one dictionary as "the quality of an action that makes it good." Morality is concerned with right and wrong, with good and evil. We at are opposed to evil, and think that education should be good. It should help students become good people, who make good choices. We are in this fight for moral reasons. We think that prejudice against gay people is bad. We think tolerance of other people's qualities, even when we don't share or understand those qualities, is a good thing. Freedom is only possible through tolerance, and freedom is important to us.

Some people have cleverly twisted the meaning of the word "moral" and given it an evil meaning. To those people, morality stands for intolerance of other people, insistence on forcing their narrow beliefs on others, derision of those who believe differently from them.

No, we accept morality in the schools.

What we object to is theology in the public schools, a very different thing. If a particular religion believes that something is sinful, that can be taught in the home, in the churches and synogogues, whatever. Not in the public schools. Where there is conflict between religious beliefs and scientific knowledge, we prefer knowledge.

And, people, there are no "health effects of homosexuality." That's crazy. Gay people are just as healthy as anybody else, it's weird to talk about the "health effects of homosexuality." That's just the kind of thing that needs to be kept out of our kids' education.

Pilot Schools Announced

Yesterday the MCPS Board of Education announced the schools where the new curriculum will be piloted. They are:

High schools:
  • BCC in Bethesda
  • Seneca Valley in Germantown
  • Springbrook in Silver Spring

Middle schools:
  • MLK in Germantown
  • Tilden in Rockville
  • White Oak in Silver Spring

From viewing the materials provided by the board, and from meeting with health teachers, and from seeing students' reactions to previous changes, we expect that everything will go smoothly.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Advocates of New Sex-Ed Curriculum Decline to Answer Bogus Questions

Should we respond to the silly post at the Ex-Recall blog, where they had a guy email us some loaded questions, and we sent him a polite response, saying we were just parents, and not experts on education, and he could find the answers to his questions on Google, and then Ex-Recall posted that private email on the web along with some kind of rambling "rebuttal"?

Naw. Readers can see what's going on there. If someone wants to start a dialogue, that's cool, but ... this wasn't that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Unfortunately, Us versus Them

[Note: I apologize for the length of this. Sometimes there are just things that need to be said.]
The Gazette ran a pretty good story this morning, presented in the previous post here, about how the Ex-Recall group redirected a URL very close to ours, to hijack people looking for this site. As we said earlier, the only word to describe that sort of thing is "low."

It is not unusual to buy up competitors' potential domain names, but redirecting them to your own site is on a level with spamming, and pop-up windows that breed more pop-up windows, it's like those web sites that make your CD tray open and close, and tell you you have a virus on your computer. It's a dirty trick, and it doesn't seem appropriate in a debate over a curriculum in the public schools.

The CRC feels competitive with us because unfortunately this site,, did arise as a response to them. Several of us, who at the time didn't know one another, found that we felt similarly about the attempt by the Recall group to make a big deal out of changes to the MCPS sex-education curriculum that were very moderate and long overdue. So we started corresponding, and we put together a little blog, and then a Yahoo email group, and then a real web site, and pretty soon we had about a hundred people officially joining in with us, and lots, lots more signing petitions, writing letters, and carrying the word.

It is unusual to find such enthusiastic support for any decision by a school board or any other official body. Usually people come out to complain, not to say, as we do, that the MCPS Board of Education used good judgment in preparing this curriculum. Truth be told, I know that I myself would not have been motivated to send any letters, to put on a coat and tie and go down and talk to the school board, to sign petitions, if it were not for the presence of the "other" group, the ones that the Gazette writes about this morning, who redirected the URL.

The curriculum has two changes, and the Recall group seems to have two goals. First, the curriculum has a new video, which demonstrates how to put on a condom. Well, the old curriculum had a video, too, this isn't really new, but the change seems to give the Recall folks an opportunity to complain that we shouldn't be teaching kids these things. They want an abstinence-only program, and this is a chance for them to make noise and apply pressure toward that end.

The condom video, though, is a done deal. It's in the schools now, it's been piloted, nobody complained, and it's going to be shown in health classes from now on.

The second thing the Recall group complains about is very much more difficult. They object to teaching students about sexual orientation. If I read them correctly, some of them think people choose to be gay, and they think people should choose not to. The research literature on sexual orientation is pretty much unanimous that people don't choose it. Some people just grow up to find that their preference is for people of their own sex. There's some ongoing research into biological and environmental factors, but basically nobody really knows how it happens: it just happens. Like, some people grow up to have a good sense of humor, or artistic talent, or they're punctual or procrastinators -- there are lots of differences between people, and sexual orientation seems to be one of them.

Others in that group seem to take a somewhat more realistic view. Usually based on religious principles, they believe that homosexual behavior, as compared to orientation -- what you do versus who you are -- should be discouraged. Now, we will agree with them, at least, that sexual behavior itself is a choice. If you find yourself growing up with a same-sex preference, and you belong to a comnmunity that does not permit homosexuality, then you seem to have two choices if you want to remain with that group: choose heterosexual behavior, or choose celibacy. I think the Recall people think both of those choices are OK, and, actually so do we. (Though we would wonder why you'd stay in a community that doesn't approve of you, really.)

You can choose celibacy for yourself, or you can choose to marry someone who is not really attractive to you, if you want. It's your choice. Our objection would be that it is not for members of those communities to say what other people should do. Maybe your church disapproves of homosexual behavior, but mine doesn't, and I am not obligated to live by your principles.

As far as education goes, one question is whether giving some facts about homosexuality amounts to "promoting" homosexual behavior. Telling students that homosexuality is not a disease, not a choice, is consistent with modern scientific views, but does this somehow make it more likely that a child from a repressive community, say a church that disallows homosexuality, is more likely to "try" homosexual behaviors? The empirical research says that sexual experimentation is not more likely following a class that includes some facts about sexual behavior. We can't imagine that a class in high school is going to turn someone gay, but that is the basis of this argument.

We come down to a values issue that is very difficult to resolve. People opposed to sex education object that the school system is imposing on them, they'll even say "discriminating" against them, by teaching tolerance in the schools. That is not an exaggeration, the recent flap over SpongeBob SquarePants was really about the promotion of tolerance. A spokesman for the Family Research Council recently said of the group that produced the SpongeBob video: "Much of what they have is coded language that is regularly used by the pro-homosexual movement such as 'tolerance' and 'diversity.'"

No, we're not making this up. They are opposed to tolerance.

So the difficult question is, is it intolerant to teach tolerance? If people believe that homosexuality is evil, and the schools teach that it is more or less an everyday -- yes, "normal" -- occurrence, then, has the school somehow violated those peoples' rights? Should the schools teach what this group of people, who are thankfully a minority in our county, believe, or is the topic so controversial it can't be mentioned at all, which is what they want?

This is a hard one, maybe a paradox: if tolerance is good, is it right to tolerate intolerance?

I'm afraid the answer has to be no, we cannot tolerate intolerance. There may have been a time when the best knowledge was that homosexuals were possessed by devils or something, but we know better now. Gay people function perfectly well in society, they have the same problems the rest of us have but their homosexuality is not a disease. If some people want to cling to prescientific beliefs, they are free to do that, but if there's a choice to be made in the public schools between ignorance and tolerance, then we must insist on tolerance. And the way things stand now, we will have to fight for it.

OK, we will.

But it kind of takes your breath away when you see them making personal attacks on the committee chairpersons, pure venom, purely ad hominem arguments. These are not attacks on a policy, but on people who participate in our democratic process. It's mind-boggling to see them distort the facts, to try to tell people that things are in the curriculum that aren't. Anybody who can read can go to the sources and see how distorted their reports are. Or sometimes they'll criticize some writing they encountered somewhere that has literally nothing to do with this curriculum, but they don't mention that fact to their readers. There are times you just feel like giving up, it gets so ugly you feel like movin' to the country and leaving it all behind, but you can't. You have to make a stand for common sense.

There are two sides to this issue, and TeachThe represents the side that stands for tolerance and teaching of facts about human sexuality in the public schools. We know we won't win by reasoning with the Recall group, because they are basing their beliefs on faith, not reason. And we don't challenge their faith, which they have the right to hold; we simply challenge whether the tenets of their faith should be imposed on the public. We won't convince those people by reason, but we hope that people who still respect common sense will stand with us in support of something good.

Sex ed debate shifts to group's rights in cyberspace

From, by Sean R. Sedam
People visiting may expect to find the site for a group supporting the health curriculum recently approved by the Montgomery County school board.

What they get instead is a link to the site of Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, a group opposed to the new curriculum.

In November, the board approved a video for 10th-graders demonstrating the proper way to put on a condom and the inclusion of a discussion of sexual orientation in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes.

The group supporting the board's decision is Citizens for Responsible Curriculum operates a site at mcpscurriculum.
com and recently created a link to that site at

The move may further muddy the waters in a debate between two groups that both claim to want the same thing: health courses that teach students mainstream, scientifically accurate information about sex. But read the rival Web sites and you realize that the groups disagree on what is mainstream and accurate.

At first the link to the CRC site at seemed trivial, said David Fishback, who heads the school system's Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development, which recommended the new curriculum.

Then, Fishback said, he thought about the campaign for Maryland's 8th Congressional District seat last year, in which Republican challenger Charles R. "Chuck" Floyd created a Web site -- -- lampooning incumbent Democrat Christopher Van Hollen Jr. The Floyd-created site claimed that Van Hollen supported "mood arousal and sexual risk taking" and a "study of the sexual habits of older men." (Turns out Van Hollen supported a National Institutes of Health-backed study of mood arousal and sexual risk taking, intended to develop intervention efforts that prevented said risk taking.)

It is a common practice for organizations to buy up similar domain names to protect their own sites or to head off competition from rivals.

"Those Internet guys, they look at getting all different kinds of ways to maximize exposure," said Steve Fisher, who handles media and public relations for CRC.

But Fishback sees the move by CRC as going a step too far, he said.

"To link that to a different Web site that has a totally different point of view, in light of what went on with Chuck Floyd and the Chris Van Hollen campaign, I thought that might be something you wanted to be made aware of," he told The Gazette.

Christine Grewell, a co-founder, criticized CRC's tactics.

"I live here in Montgomery County where we have well-educated people, where we pride ourselves on being able to have open and honest discourse," she said. "So I was a bit disappointed when I heard about their, shall we say, childish behavior."

Fisher said CRC organizers have encouraged supporters to keep the discourse civil.

"We told them, 'Do not engage in tit for tat,'" he said. "The blogosphere can get very nasty."

Fisher said the group cautioned its members against taking after a group from another recent campaign.

"Don't get into these verbal exchanges like the Swift Boat people," he said.