Thursday, June 30, 2005

Public Comments at the 6-27-05 MCPS-BOE Meeting

Here is the text of ten of the fourteen Public Comments made at the Board of Education meeting Monday evening, June 27, 2005.

First up, John Garza, PFOX & CRC attorney and CRC Vice President:
The agreement between the Board of Education and the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays is historic and unprecedented. Never before have parents been able to stop implementation of a new curriculum. Never before has a school board fallen prey to this extent to special interest groups bent on sexualizing our children and espousing intolerance toward certain religious sects.

It was our goal one to stop the curriculum, two disband the citizens advisory committee, and three convince Dr. Weast and the members of the Board to eliminate all discrimination in future curricula. Having achieved goals one and two, we turn our attention to goal three.

The Reverend Martin Luther King said quote we must first love those who we would change. We will now lovingly help develop a curriculum that is not offensive to all.

We trust Dr. Weast and the Board of Education have the desire, intelligence, and ability to create a new curriculum that is lawful, non-offensive, and one which will lead to future harmony among all the parties. Therefore, as Vice President of the CRC and attorney for both the CRC and PFOX, and on behalf of the Board of Directors of the CRC and the Board of Directors of PFOX, and on behalf of the thousands and thousands of supporters in Montgomery County of both CRC and PFOX and all like-minded children, parents, teachers, and citizens, I have only one thing to say to each of you. We love you. Please allow us to be friends. Send us a curriculum that's not offensive. Thank you.
The next speaker was Jason Tseng, Churchill High School alumni and University of Richmond student. It was Jason's idea to organize students to tell the Board of Education their own views of the debate about the health education curriculum here in Montgomery County Public Schools. Thank you, Jason, for your leadership!
My name is Jason Tseng. I am a 2004 graduate of Winston Churchill High School. I first want to commend you all on your courage and integrity in which you have tried to implement a truly comprehensive, and inclusive health ed curriculum. I want to urge you to continue to push for a similarly responsible curriculum in the future.

I am also a gay student. And let me be the first to tell you that growing up gay in MCPS is not easy. LGBTQ students regularly face blatant discrimination and homophobia. I, personally can recount being subjected to perpetual name-calling, teasing, bullying, homophobic vandalism and even physical violence and threats. The CRC and PFOX will try and tell you that LGBTQ students don’t feel marginalized. Well, I challenge you to not take your information second-handed. I want to urge this board to take the first step in combating homophobia by creating a truly inclusive health ed curriculum.

In this debate over health ed, groups like the CRC and PFOX, have tried to impress on this Board their rights as parents, as tax-paying and voting citizens of Montgomery County. However, student rights have largely been ignored. We as students are a profoundly disenfranchised group, and the most affected constituency. We don’t pay taxes, we can’t vote, lawmakers and government officials have no reason to listen our voices. Where can students turn to ensure that their interests are taken care of? You. Right here. This forum. They have entrusted you with their education. Their well-being. And their future. Do the right thing and stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Your students.
After Jason, we heard the following comments from Karen Troccoli, former member of the now disbanded Citizen's Advisory Committee.
My name is Karen Troccoli. I am a former member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. I have worked in the field of teen pregnancy prevention for more than a decade for organizations such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I co-authored a book for teens on sex and contraception and have a Masters in Public Health degree in Maternal and Child Health. I also am the parent of two children in the Montgomery County Public schools. I am here to urge the Board of Education to reinstate "Protect Yourself," the condom demonstration video that was added to the tenth grade curriculum and then withdrawn because of the lawsuit.

The video was added because school health teachers asked for a resource that instructed students on how to use condoms properly. Why? Because sexually active teenagers who use condoms correctly and consistently reduce their risks for pregnancy and disease. Indeed, nearly half of high school students in the U.S. have had sexual intercourse (ranging from 33% of 9th graders to 62% of 12th graders). Unfortunately 3 out of 10 girls become pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and of the 19 million sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections that occur annually, almost half of them are among youth ages 15 to 24.

Some who have opposed the video assert that teaching teens how to use condoms will cause more of them to have sex. On the contrary, rigorous, respected research by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and others has found that comprehensive sex education -- which includes information about contraception – does not increase the likelihood that teens will have sex or the frequency with which they have sex. In fact, many such programs actually delay first sex, increase contraceptive use and/or reduce the number of sexual partners among sexually active teens. Teaching proper condom usage is particularly important because teens use condoms more than any other contraceptive method.

The vast majority of Montgomery County high school students and their parents support including this video in the family life instruction. Ninety-nine percent of tenth graders’ parents "opted-in" to having their children see the video when it was pilot tested. Those students who viewed "Protect Yourself" rated it very favorably. Those parents who do not want their children to see the video can, as always, elect to “opt out” of that part of the curriculum. However, the Board should not allow those parents to, in effect, opt everyone’s children out by preventing the video from being used in high schools.

I applaud the Board of Education for promoting students' health by supporting the initial development and use of this video in our high schools. I urge the Board to honor its commitment by reinstating "Protect Yourself" into the curriculum as soon as possible.

Thank you.
The next speaker was Jeff Rezmovic. Jeff, a Churchill alumni, just moved back here after getting his college degree at the University of Michigan. He was a big help in organizing the students who spoke at this Board of Education meeting.

Hello, my name is Jeff Rezmovic. I am a 2001 graduate from Winston Churchill and a 2005 graduate from the University of Michigan. I didn't realize until I left for college just how lucky I was to have been a part of Montgomery County public schools. I became even more excited and proud of Montgomery County when I learned of the plans to make health curriculum here more comprehensive.

I could relate story after story to you about college students who made poor decisions, simply because they did not have all of the information. As a result, they must now cope with sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, or even AIDS. Abstinence-only education has failed these people, and it would fail Montgomery County Public Schools as well. Decisions that MCPS students will make in their everyday lives are affected by decisions that are made in rooms like these, and this Board has an obligation to make sure that those decisions are ones that will be smart for students.

We also must refuse to let Montgomery County's sex education curriculum become a mouthpiece for hatred and bigotry. And let's make no mistake about it, that is exactly what we're up against. Some extremists want to teach Montgomery County children that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured with reparative therapy, a claim that runs counter to any and all credible scientific and psychological organizations. These students need more allies, not more alienation. I thank the Board for the affirmative efforts it has taken to promote tolerance in our schools this far, and I encourage you to continue to do so, and to let teachers teach the facts. Thank you.

Next up was me, Christine Grewell, one of the co-founders of I am an MCPS parent and an alumni of Charles W. Woodward High School in Rockville.
Good evening Superintendent Weast, President O'Neill, and Members of the Board of Education.

I represent and I'm here to support your efforts to update the MCPS health education curriculum, to bring it in line with current medical and scientific findings.

As you know is a group of MCPS parents, students, teachers, alumni, and County residents who are very concerned about the current state of the health curriculum. We support the now rescinded curriculum, realize the questionable teacher resources were not part of it, and are certain that pilot testing would have corrected any problems with it. We want you to know that we STILL stand solidly behind your efforts.

More than ever it is necessary for you to maintain your commitment to fact-based, comprehensive and inclusive health education. The eyes of the nation are upon you. The future of our children is, in a good part, in your hands.

The decision to go back to the drawing board left many disappointed, however, we understand your position given the litigation. plans to increase our support over the summer and fall so we are better equipped to help you face formidable opponents, many of whom are from outside our community and desire to take us back to using the unethical practice of "reparative therapy." We must not go back to those dark days when suicide and hiding in the closet were the most common choices for non-heterosexual people.

Our students are our future, all of them. We are optimistic about these bright young people. We are certain that if they are given objective facts in a classroom that values critical thinking, they will make the right decisions for themselves. Many studies have shown that abstinence will be the choice for some students but not all. Therefore, you must write a health curriculum that gives all our students all the knowledge they need in order to be as safe as possible. And we know you can do it since you already did.

Thank you having the courage to confront this issue and do the right thing for all MCPS students. Thank you.
The next speaker was Alexander Kovalchuk, a student attending Churchill High School.
Members of the Board,

I am a student in your school system. Your decisions are assumed to be objective and informed and your goals are likewise presume to include a modern informative and objective education for all.

We are born into the age of the Internet. You cannot censor the Internet, which holds a wealth of information beyond any school or textbook. We log on and we learn. You cannot stop us from knowing the truth. In fact, it is your job to ensure that we are taught the truth so we can become educated and functional adults.

Health is the most important thing any of us have and it is often greatly neglected. You must instill a deep understanding and somber attitude towards it. That way, we can protect ourselves and others. One thing that is most appalling is that much of sexual education is optional. The idea is obviously not to promote sex, but to show the consequences of it and how to minimize them. It can happen and often it will happen.

Just as with terrorism we can only plan ahead and to do so we must keep our children in the know. I can assure you that no child has found out about sex and has had, to quote Lewis Black, "a moral epileptic seizure." If you allow children to become greatly ignorant on these maters, they may have sex without even knowing that they shouldn't. How can they protect themselves from something they don't even know exists?

Just as a blind man cannot see without functioning eyes, an ignorant child cannot protect his or herself without a functioning education. We deserve to be safe. Thank you.

The next speaker was Matilda Young, a Churchill alumni attending Rice University.
As a student, I was very familiar with the concept of fearing what I didn't understand. Fear and loathing are two words that I associate closely with physics. In middle school, I didn't understand why a boy at my first middle school dance said I looked like a drag queen. I've grown a lot since then, but there still are a lot of things I don't understand. For example, I don't understand what is so especially lascivious about a condom on a cucumber.

As a member of students at Rice University teaching sex education to college students, I can tell you that there are a lot of sexually active teenagers out there who don't know how to properly use a condom. This information would save them from contracting dangerous diseases, and I seriously doubt they became sexually active because of suggestive vegetables. Not only do I believe that this new curriculum would further goals to teach students safer sexual practices, but I also believe that it would alleviate student fears.

What the people who oppose this act do not understand is that sexual education is not about right or wrong - it is about reality. The reality is - students will be sexually active. The reality is - many students will question their sexuality. With the knowledge that sexuality and homosexuality are a reality, and not some terrible myth lurking deep within themselves, they will have one thing less to fear. I ask this then - of all of us - as parents, as peers, and as people of this community. Don't fear the cucumber. Don't fear your children. Don't make them fear themselves.

A speaker from the CRC followed Matilda. If the CRC wants to provide transcripts of their speakers, they may do so but I don't have the time or desire to do so.

Then we heard from Jordan Barker, who attends Churchill High School along with Alex. Jordan said:
Sex. Sex is a word that makes both teens and parents very uncomfortable. But the fact is that many teenagers in high school are having sex. And parents can deny that their kids are having sex, but some teenagers are and it is very important that everyone knows how to be safe.

Many teens will not tell their parents that they are having sex and by teaching condom use and other forms of birth control in health class, the teens of our area will at least have the knowledge to protect themselves if they decide to. Teaching abstinence is still important because it is the safest and best choice. Yet it is irresponsible to try to ignore the obvious truth of sex being an action in our community of teens. Teaching condom use can reduce unwanted pregnancy and disease in teens having sex. AIDS, herpes, syphilis and many other STDs are possible results of having sex and condoms can reduce the chance of getting them as well as getting pregnant.

Teaching teens how to use a condom doesn’t mean that they’re being taught to have sex or that it is OK. Instead it is teaching teens how to be safe if they make a bad decision. Teen sex is a bad decision but why not prevent a worse one by teaching them to be safer? Condoms are a safety protection for an action which can damage the lives of our teens.

Letitia (Tish) Hall followed Jordan. Tish is a member of and the mother of 3 MCPS students.
When this board announced recently that it had voted to cancel the proposed revisions to the Family Life Curriculum, the leadership of CRC was quoted in the local papers as looking forward to helping this board write an "objective" curriculum. "Objective" means: Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices; based on observable phenomena. There is good evidence that the CRC and its ally, PFOX, do not know exactly what objectivity is.

Position statements on the CRC website affirm that their idea of objectivity is the inclusion of highly subjective information about "ex-gay" persons and "reparative" therapy. Data based on observable phenomena convinced mainstream medical groups to stop trying to "cure" homosexuality a generation ago. The American Medical Association opposes reparative therapy because decades of reparative therapy demonstrated that it doesn't work and that it harms people. PFOX and CRC are asking you to ignore this objective medical data in order to present their emotions and personal prejudices.

Meanwhile, the CRC is trying to undermine some of the strengths of public education. In a page titled "Red Flags To Watch For," the CRC website warns that tolerance, diversity, and anti-harassment policies are all signs that our schools are being influenced by radical homosexual activists.

MCPS has a zeal for excellence and a tenacious commitment to diversity and that has made this one of the finest public school systems in the nation. We educate children from all over the world and all over the socio-economic spectrum and we send them to universities all over the country. Yet the CRC leadership holds that this commitment all our students is really the first step in some insidious "Homosexual Agenda." This is misinformation of the most corrupt nature.

Please do not lose sight of the objective curriculum our students really need. Do not present intolerance as a balanced, alternative view.

Tish was followed by three speakers who do not support the BOE's health education curriculum, including at least one member of the CRC. When they were finished, Andrew Bennett, a recent Walt Whitman High School graduate and former student representative of the CAC made the closing public comment of the meeting. He said:
Good evening members of the Board of Education. My name is Andrew Bennett. I was a student member on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee this last year. It was a great honor and privilege to serve all of you in that capacity. And I would like to point out that it’s quite interesting that every single student that has come before you this evening has come in support of the curriculum as it was, has come in support of teaching about tolerance and equality, about teaching how everybody in this school system, all students are equal, and that the school system should see each of us as equal.

I am not a gay student. I'm not coming to you as a gay student. I'm coming to you as a representative of students because that’s what you appointed me to be.

If you look at the Student's Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, it says quite clearly, "All students and staff will conduct themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others. You have the right to be treated fairly and equally." These are your policies.

I recently graduated Walt Whitman High School and it was an honor to be in Montgomery County schools for all of my schooling from kindergarten to 12th grade. And I always loved how we taught equality, how we learned about Black History Month. We learned about Hispanic History.

And now to see the Board of Education settling with intolerance, to settle and say, "Oh, it’s OK." I don’t know what you settled with and neither does anybody else in the room except for Mr. Garza and you. But I would ask you to look closely at what you’re doing, what you’re teaching my fellow students – that it's OK to say those things and it's morally reprehensible to me. And I would like you to consider that most seriously.

Thank you.
But we are not done yet, because there were also comments made by members of the Board of Education that addressed the curriculum and the community members who so eloquently and passionately expressed their support to the BOE's efforts to teach tolerance and safety to MCPS students.

Board member Gabe Romero said:
"...I also wanted to thank the community for all the public comments on the health curriculum tonight. It was very well done so I congratulate all the community. I'm also very glad to see that we are moving on to the business of education of our children. We put this little obstacle behind us and we're moving on so thank you very much."
Board member Nancy Navarro said:
..."And I also want to thank the community for coming out and expressing your support in all levels. And I just want to reiterate the fact that we are listening so thank you."
Board President Patricia O'Neill said:
"I would just like to comment. Someone mentioned that the document, they hadn't seen it, the settlement document. Well, it’s a public document so I'm not sure, but through our public information office you could access that information. The other piece is that Dr. Haughey and I met this afternoon to kind of look forward prospectively and it's our intention at the July 6 meeting for the Board to have a discussion on the reconstitution of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. So we put this litigation behind us and move forward with the revisions to the health curriculum through our central office."

And finally, Superintendent Weast told us:
"Madame President. Can I say something?

To the last speaker who served on the committee. Yes.

There's a provision in this agreement that says, 'Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed to diminish or enlarge the legal right of MCPS to develop, revise or implement curriculum, including curriculum that provides information on sexual variations and promotes tolerance of others regardless of sexual orientation.'

So that is a key component of this agreement. And we will be moving forward. I have instructed Dr. Lacey to move forward now, now that we have a signed agreement. Remember, this was two lessons 45 minutes each in length. And we will move forward on those two lessons. We're not talking about a comprehensive program. We will continue the program that we have had and we will work on these two lessons and we will make sure that they are cogent and fit according to this particular article and have teacher lessons and materials that go with them that are congruent with those particular 45 minute lessons."
All of us at send our most sincere gratitude to each participant in this demonstration to the Board of Education. From the sage and passionate words of these six outstanding MCPS students, it is easy to know that MCPS is indeed one of the finest school systems in the country. This group of parents will not allow a handful of doubters keep MCPS from continuing to TEACH THE FACTS to our students.

Christine Grewell

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

CRC Finds Out What They Agreed To

Yesterday the CRC web site had big, red, bolded headlines screaming the Big News (they've moved it down on the page since then):
LESS THAN 48 HOURS after signing legally binding settlement agreement, MCPS Board of Education 'changing the procedures' for picking CRC and PFOX members of the new Sex-Ed Committee.
Says that PFOX and CRC may only submit 'nominees', and will not guarantee that any one person will be appointed.
What other 'changes' to the make-up of the committee will occur?

(Hey, what do you make of that Moody Blues allusion? What are they trying to tell us?)

CRC is crying because MCPS intends to uphold some standards in selecting people for the citizens advisory committee. I don't know what discussion they're citing, maybe they waltzed over to tell the Board who would be on the committee, and were told that the Board would choose. Somewhere though they were reminded that the Board was not going to accept just anybody.

That is, "reminded." Because, of course, this is in the agreement. That they signed.

They're complaining that the Board is changing the procedures by saying "that PFOX and CRC may only submit 'nominees'." But that's exactly what the agreement says.

They signed it. Didn't they read it? It says, plain as day:
MCPS agrees that the newly-constituted CAC, for the term during which the consultation on the Revisions contemplated by the Board’s May 23, 2005 resolution will occur, will include a maximum of 15 members and will include one representative of PFOX and one representative of CRC, to be selected by the Board in accordance with Section C(2)(a)(3) of Board Policy BMA, provided such representatives are Montgomery County residents and are otherwise qualified and able to serve on the committee. PFOX and CRC will inform the Board of their nominees in writing by July 1, 2005.

To pick out a couple of things here:
  • to be selected by the Board does not mean, "for Recall to force onto the committee no matter who they are"
  • otherwise qualified is going to be a tough one. Oh no, this doesn't mean their, uh ... doctor ... ends up on this committee, does it?
  • nominees Pretty clearly, this means they're "nominated," not necessarily chosen.

I'm trying to figure out how this happened.

Liberty Counsel lawyers came up here to Maryland and said they'd work for free, and pretty much pulled off a good one. Tricked the judge, got the ruling, left town. MCPS made a lot of adjustments, pretty soon it was clear that there was no case any more. No committee, no background resources, no curriculum ... no case. Then, I figure, MCPS said, OK, dudes, let's talk.

Then one of two things happened. One, maybe Liberty Counsel lawyers came back and negotiated a settlement, and made sure they got their money and didn't worry about the rest of it. Two, LC said they'd sign anything as long as they got their money, and let the local lawyer negotiate the agreement.

The first theory would explain why CRC seems so surprised to find out what's in the agreement, and the second one would explain why they gave away the farm in the first place.

I just don't know.

But they seem real unhappy about it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We Make Our Presence Felt

The Board of Education meeting last night was just plain goose-bumpy. The room was packed, literally standing-room only, with dozens of people holding up signs saying "Teach The Facts," and occasionally other mottoes, like -- "Dude, Where's My Education?"

I can't say enough about all the speakers that sat at the table, one after the other, mostly students or recent MCPS graduates, including some gay students and fomer students, their young voices telling the board what no ideology-driven adult can explain: they want the facts, they want to be treated with respect. The applause rang through the room after each one, and the board listened intently as these young people -- you can't call anybody this brave a "kid" -- spoke with wit, with sorrow, with passion. The adults who spoke -- Chris, Karen, Tish -- were forceful and composed, and the students were steady and sure, funny, articulate, passionate.

Speakers for the evening included:
  • Jason Tseng, (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Karen Troccoli (former CAC member)
  • Jeff Rezmovic (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Christine Grewell (
  • Alex Kovalchuk (Churchill student)
  • Matilda Young (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Jordan Barker (MCPS Churchill student)
  • Tish Hall (
  • Andrew Bennet (MCPS Whitman alumni, former CAC student rep)

That's nine people speaking in support of a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum! Beautiful. I could fill ten pages with quotes, it was just so nice. Totally positive -- board member Gabriel Romero thanked us publicly afterwards and said the comments were "very well done," and Nancy Navarro also said during the meeting that the board appreciated our participation and that they were listening.

Here's how Ex-Recall try to spin it on their website tonight (they keep revising it, it gets worse every couple of hours):
MCPS BOE observers remark; "Monday night's BOE public comment time was a well orchestrated anti-CRC (anti-4,500+ citizenry...) campaign, complete with sycophantic sign wavers and speakers intimating views to the CRC that the CRC has never avowed to." and, "One wonders if the BOE knew they were coming?" and, "Boos and hisses from curriculum supporters were permitted in the room when differing viewpoints were espoused. Where was the BOE on this anti-tolerance? Is this a sign that the new curriculum will again be biased and not reflective of all views??"

Nice, "well orchestrated." OK, we'll take that. The rest of this is the usual bull-oney.

We have reviewed the videotape and there was no booing. I think somebody did hiss softly when one ... despicable person ... talked about gay people being "abnormal." That was pretty good, really -- it would have been appropriate to throw a shoe at anyone who talks about other human beings in such a way, but everyone in the room showed great restraint. Most of their speakers were greeted with dead silence, in a room full to the rafters -- that may have felt like the equivalent of booing to them, but it wasn't. Even their own people wouldn't clap for some of them.

And I doubt that Mr. Romero and Ms. Navarro would have complimented us if we had been booing and, uh, being sycophantic.

CRC's reaction to recent developments has been interesting.

Their lawyers, Liberty Counsel, made out well in the deal, with the taxpayers giving them 36 thousand dollars, but we see this quote in The Post this morning: "We wished we could have gotten more," said Rena Lindevaldsen, senior litigator with the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based legal and education nonprofit group that argued on behalf of the two groups.

I understand -- how dya feed the kids on a lousy thirty-six grand, eh?

And the President of CRC? The Times quotes her: "I'm quasi-satisfied," said Michelle Turner, CRC president. "I don't like the way the board has gone about this."

Well, that's sad.

For some reason, the board called CRC's hometown lawyer, John Garza, first for public comments, and not in a group, just by himself.

His plea to the school board -- "We love you. Please allow us to be friends." -- followed his declaration that CRC had already won two thirds of the battle and was working on the last piece. It was very convincing. Really, I mean it.

He sat there by himself and pleaded with them to be nice, and then four more speakers were called, all from TeachTheFacts. I figured that was it. But no, they called four more people, and except for CRC's Retta Brown they were all students supporting their gay friends and the idea of getting a real education. Then they called four more, of which several were anti-gay speakers and one was Tish from TeachTheFacts, who gave an impassioned speech, including a good quote from CRC's web site that highlighted the attitude we are fighting against. Finally, the evening's comments ended with Andrew Bennet, a student who had been a member of the citizens committee, who extemporized about the importance of delivering an honest education to the students. The crowd went wild.

The details of the agreement between MCPS and the plantiffs are almost entirely things that would have happened anyway. Nobody on either side, for instance, wants to discuss anyone's religious beliefs in the classroom. Never did, never will.

We presume that this order against teaching about religious beliefs means that religious ministries that try to transform gay people into heterosexuals will not be mentioned.

Summer is upon us, school is out, but let's not think that this controversy is settled. We have only come back to where we started.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Board Settles: CRC/PFOX Give Up: Taxpayers to Pay Lawyers

We just returned from a school board meeting where, before public comments, Dr. Weast and the board announced that they had come to an agreement with the lawyers that sued them over the sex-ed curriculum. Dr. Weast read a statement, but didn't say what was in the agreement.

After public comments, some copies of the agreement were handed out. There was ... nothing to it. Two things that might be worth mentioning. 1. CRC and PFOX will each have one member on the new citizens committee. OK, they had more than that on the old citizens committee, they didn't gain any ground there. 2. "MCPS agrees to reimburse Plaintiffs in the amount of $36,000, representing attorneys' fees incurred in connection with the proceedings on the temporary restraining order." In other words, you the taxpayer get the bill for this prank. The far-right extremist law firm Liberty Counsel, it turns out, weren't working out of the goodness of their little hearts; their clients end up winning nothing, and Montgomery County residents pay the bill.

There is nothing else in the agreement but some legal stuff. I imagine it'll be on the MCPS web site by morning. [Later: HERE IT IS]

So -- work can now start ... all over again ... on a new sex-ed curriculum. As Dr. Weast reminded the group, the only section under contention is two 45-minute classes. It was also announced during the meeting that the Board plans to begin discussion at their July 6th meeting to reconstitute the citizens advisory committee.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Fishback's Letter to BOE

It is hard to imagine what positive outcome could result from negotiations between the school board's lawyers and groups such as PFOX, and frankly, we hope there is no such negotiation at all -- the curriculum was scrapped, the lawsuit is moot, let's move forward. We at agree with David Fishback's sentiment, expressed in the letter reproduced below: we know that the board wants to act in the interests of our children, and we want to support them in resisting forces that want them to introduce nonscientific, bigoted, religion-based concepts into our children's classrooms. Montgomery County is being viewed by the world as a model in this situation, we must establish a precedent that stops the momentum of these radical groups right now, right here.

Mr. Fishback chaired the citizens advisory committee that developed the sex-ed curriculum that was adopted and then thrown out after the lawsuit. The following is a letter sent by him this past week to the MCPS Board of Education.
Via Facsimile and E-mail Transmission

The Honorable Patricia O'Neill,President
Montgomery County Board of Education
850 Hungerford Drive

Rockville, Maryland 20852

RE: PFOX/CRC Lawsuit

Dear Ms. O'Neill:

I learned yesterday from an attorney who has been working with PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and has spoken with MCPS counsel, that MCPS is involved in what appear to be serious settlement negotiations with PFOX/CRC.

This was a surprise to me, since the Board's May 23 decision to scrap the proposed revised curriculum, terminate the entire Citizens Advisory Committee, and commit to dropping the four teacher resources mentioned in the district court's May 5 decision made the entire lawsuit moot. Thus, I would have thought that MCPS would have simply gone to court and sought to have the lawsuit dismissed as moot. This is what I have told people angered by the Board's responses to the lawsuit, because I had faith that MCPS, after the shock of the May 5 decision, was going stand up to the James Dobson/Jerry Falwell inspired litigation attack on our schools. The breadth and depth of outrage in Montgomery County over this lawsuit cannot be underestimated. People constantly have asked my opinion, and I have tried to assure them that the Board intends to stay the course and would not submit to extortion through litigation. I must be frank with you: Not everyone agrees with my assessment.

Because there is a closed session scheduled for this Monday's Board meeting, and I know that litigation matters are often discussed at such sessions, I could not delay in writing to you.

Since, with the elimination of teacher resource materials that expressed opinions on the wisdom of certain theological positions, the PFOX/CRC legal position is utterly untenable, it may well be that they desperately want a settlement on any terms. I certainly hope that is the case. Nevertheless, there is a danger that MCPS might agree to terms which MCPS might think are innocuous, but which would make it more difficult to proceed on the wise path it set last November and to which, I believe, it is still committed.

The Board will not be able to avoid litigation by a flawed settlement now. PFOX/CRC have made it clear that they will continue to litigate to block any discussion of sexual orientation that does not include materials repudiating the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and every other mainstream medical and mental health organization in this country that homosexuality is not a disease or mental disorder.

It is significant that the official policy of the American Medical Association is that it "opposes the use of 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation" (AMA Policy Number H-160.991). Yet, PFOX/CRC have made it clear that they believe that, as a legal matter, the MCPS curriculum must include "the other side" of this issue. As I am sure MCPS counsel has informed you, this argument has no legal merit whatsoever.

Having seen and dealt with their arguments and tactics during the 2003-2004 deliberations of the Citizens Advisory Committee, I believe that the Board must be very careful about any settlement terms to which PFOX/CRC would agree. Our community would not accept a settlement of a lawsuit that required that creationism be taught alongside evolution in order to avoid litigation expenses. Likewise, the Board should not accept a settlement that would impose upon the health education curriculum the dubious ideas of PFOX/CRC.

I cannot imagine that the Board would agree to any such settlement; indeed, I am certain it would not. The danger, however, is that any settlement that PFOX/CRC would agree to might well have provisions that could do great damage to the Board's ability to fulfill its responsibilities. I have been trying to figure out what kind of settlement terms PFOX/CRC might try to slip in.

Based on my experience on the Citizens Advisory Committee, it has occurred to me that they might insist on naming members to the reconstituted Committee. It is imperative that the Board not accept a settlement under which it would cede to outside interest groups the final say on who should sit on this state-mandated Committee. While I agreed with the Board's decisions in the past to appoint people of a wide range of views to the Committee -- indeed, the President of CRC and a member of PFOX were members of the now- terminated Committee, along with representatives of PFLAG and the Safe Schools Coalition -- it is essential that the Board retain its authority on this point. As you are well aware, another former member consistently used filibuster tactics and worse to try to prevent the Committee from making recommendations approved of by majority, and the Board cannot cede its appointment authority to groups who have demonstrated their bad faith on these issues. (I do not say this blithely. The opponents of the Board's unanimous decision last November to pilot the curriculum revisions engaged in the similarly disreputable tactic of waiting to bring its lawsuit just before the piloting so that MCPS would have only a few days to respond to legal arguments which had not previously been presented to it.)

It is essential that MCPS stay the course and not agree to anything that would interfere with revisions that Superintendent Weast said, last November, should have been made years ago. For too long the silence in the health-education curriculum unit on sexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that there was something "sick" about not being heterosexual. For too long, students who happened to be homosexual and children from same-sex-parent families were made to feel marginalized. Because that was wrong and hurtful, the Board was right to act last November, and need not and should not agree to a settlement of this lawsuit that would interfere with its ability to stay the course. To agree to such a settlement in order to avoid litigation costs (as some have suggested might happen) would be an act that would make the people of Montgomery County ashamed.

If any proposed settlement is forthcoming from MCPS attorneys, I strongly urge that you take the time to examine it closely and to consult with stakeholders whose experience might reveal problems that may not be obvious. Indeed, I believe that simple prudence would dictate that members of the Board at least consult with former members of the Citizens Advisory Committee who may be able to point out practical pitfalls in any proposed settlement before the Board agrees to any settlement.


David S. Fishback
Olney, MD

cc: All Board members, Dr. Frieda Lacey, George Margolies

Seattle P-I's Pro-Ex-Gay, Anti-Liberal Editorial

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer had a moderately interesting editorial this week, trying to turn the tables. You might know that Seattle is the site for this weekend's "Love Won Out" conference, which is geared toward promoting the concept of "ex-gays." This editorial, by a Focus on the Family official, argues that people should have the right to be "ex-gays," and that liberals want to deprive them of that right.
The ongoing controversy surrounding Focus on the Family's upcoming "Love Won Out" conference on Saturday reveals the hypocrisy of liberals who call for tolerance and unquestioned acceptance of diversity yet attempt to stifle all opposing views to their politically correct, pro-gay agenda. As a result, another liberal mantra -- the freedom to choose -- is denied to those seeking to walk out of unwanted homosexuality.

Apparently, in today's America, you can still Be Who You Want to Be -- so long as it isn't "ex-gay."

Even more troubling is the vitriol unleashed against those who dare to consider the notion that homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic. Pro-gay activists regularly charge that messages such as those shared at Love Won Out are "vile," "dangerous" and "deplorable." Much of their most virulent rhetoric is saved for the debate over the cause of homosexuality. People have right to change sexual identity

et cetera, et cetera ...

Listen, it is my impression that very many homosexually-oriented people live as hetereosexuals. "The closet" is a concept that most straight people are familiar with, and we're not surprised that they would feel the need to hide their true nature, given the hatred and misunderstanding that gays are exposed to. So, OK, an "ex-gay" is somebody who came out of the closet and then went back in: "ex-gay" is understood to be a "re-closeted" gay person.

And who cares? It seems kinda sad that a guy would have to pretend he's something he's not, but it seems to me that everybody has problems, everybody's got something to hide ... so what? I have seen only sympathy for those who have dealt with a kind of "Sophie's choice" in a way that we can all understand.

It's not "ex-gays" that we oppose. A guy who marries a woman to gain the approval of his community, OK, that's his business.

I can't speak for "liberals" as a group, and barely for my colleagues here at But I can tell you what I, personally, object to.

First of all, the idea that "ex-gay" is some new kind of sexual orientation. No, even in their own literature, their own spokesmen admit that there are very few homosexuals who change their sexual orientation. "Ex-gay" men still are attracted to men. It's a change in behavior, of a self-protective type not extremely different from crossing the street in the crosswalk. Your community, for instance your church, ostracizes you if you do A, accepts you if you do B, so you do B.

Second and more important, the "ex-gay" promoters try to make embarrassed young men believe they can change, and that they should change (this is almost entirely aimed at guys). Really, they can't. Everybody knows this, on both sides. A boy reaches puberty and finds he is different from the other kids, and then some nuts start telling him that how he feels is a sin and an abomination, and they tell him all he has to do is blah blah blah and he can change. Some boys are shamed into going along with it, they ignore their true feelings and go with what they've been told is better. For them it's a choice they feel they have to make, and my heart goes out to them.

Third, as in the case with Zach who still hasn't come out of his camp, the authorities who assert that young people should change are not above simple kidnapping and torture. Nobody knows how many of these kids are sent to these terrible camps where their rights are stripped away, their dignity is demolished, they are brainwashed into agreeing that they are evil to the core. This is reprehensible, and the people who do this should be sent to prison. Including the parents who submit their children to this horror. Anyone with a heart can see that this is just plain wrong.

Personally, I would think that good Christians would look at it like this (since the "ex-gay" movement is almost always justified in terms of the church). God in his wisdom has created mankind in His image. That doesn't mean mankind "on average," it means each one of us. Sometimes there are mysteries in that image, sometimes there is something beautiful to discover in God's creation. It does not seem to me that the reverent approach would be to suppress God's creation, but to develop it in grace. Not that I have any special license to express my opinion, but it does not seem to me that there is anything holier or more sacred about forcing gays to pretend they're something they're not. That certainly doesn't mean that I don't sympathize with those who make that choice, and I think everyone on our side feels the same way. It's somewhat sad, but there's nothing deplorable about making that personal choice, as this Focus on the Family editorial writer wants you to think we think.

Friday, June 24, 2005

PFOX Shows Up At PTA Anyway

Sure, I'll comment on this article from the Washington Times: PTA snubs former-gays group for workshop. Here's how it starts:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The National PTA has angered a support group for former homosexuals by rejecting them as a workshop presenter at its annual meeting that convened yesterday, while allowing a homosexual advocacy group to participate.

A major theme of this year's PTA meeting is anti-bullying and both the homosexual advocacy group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the rejected group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) have programs on the topic.

After being rejected, PFOX rented hotel space adjacent to the convention and announced it will conduct a teach-in to voice its message to an expected 1,700 PTA delegates about anti-bullying and that ex-homosexuals exist and homosexuality is not a genetic inborn trait, said PFOX founder Regina Griggs.

On Wednesday, PTA official Warlene Gary rejected an appeal from PFOX to have equal exhibitor status with PFLAG, which opposes the ex-homosexual message and favors same-sex "marriage," Mrs. Griggs said.

The National PTA invited PFLAG last year as an exhibitor and workshop presenter against bullying in schools at its convention in Anaheim, Calif.

"This year, we received an invitation to apply again," said PFLAG Executive Director Ron Schlitter. "We're doing the entire full-on, everything" to promote tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle.

Let me start with that last sentence. I want to point out that the last phrase is not in quotation marks. The Executive Director of PFLAG did not, I'd be very sure, use the phrase "homosexual lifestyle."

Think about that phrase: homosexual lifestyle. What do you picture? Like, the Village People, maybe? Now think about an actual gay person you know. Dude, you know one. OK, then think about somebody you know who you think might be gay -- not somebody on TV, I mean a real person. How well do they fit that "homosexual lifestyle" picture?

Oh hey, you could be like the CRC's President, and say that the one gay person you know is different from the others.

Of course there are gay bars, and there are things that gay people tend to like that other people don't, certain bands that have a gay following or whatever. But the whole concept of the "homosexual lifestyle" is a caricature, it's a piece of propaganda of the type that we often see in The Times, it's a phrase that serves the sole purpose of making you think that gay people are different from you.

Let's get over that.

Now, the story. The PTA doesn't want PFOX at their meeting, and PFOX is going to go anyway.
Mrs. Griggs accused PTA officials of discrimination.

"PFLAG promotes a pro-gay agenda; they say on their Web site that ex-gays don't exist," she said.

National PTA officials did not respond to numerous inquiries about their decision to reject PFOX, which was successful recently in having Montgomery County, Md., public schools withdraw a disputed sex education program.

Did you notice that in the post right beneath this one there was an "ex-gay" person complaining that he was discriminated against? Mmm, is that like an "ex-gay" talking-point or something? Why, yes, it is. They're always complaining about people discriminating against them. But who would? Who cares? What people "discriminate" against is bigotry. People don't like to invite haters to their party.

Here's what PFOX does. They tell gay people, especially young gay men, that there is something wrong with them, and promise them that they can live happily as hetereosexuals. PFOX promotes reparative therapy, which is an unethical and dangerous technique (see two posts below this one for a good discussion of the topic) that tries to get gay people to change. They are a religious organization, spun off of James Dobson's Family Research Council with the objective of furthering an evangelistic ministry.

The PTA is absolutely right. They should have nothing to do with these creeps.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tennessee Investigates Zach's Camp

For the past couple of weeks, all of the blog-world has held its collective breath and waited to see what was going to happen to this 16-year-old kid named Zach. Seems he made the mistake of telling his parents he was gay. They didn't say anything for a while, and then they signed him up for a "conversion camp" in Tennessee called Refuge. At one point, after they'd told him they didn't know what the rules were at the camp, he found the whole list of them on his parents' computer and posted them on his blog. It's heart-stopping. He says he won't commit suicide, but he's thinking about it. He kicks himself for telling his parents.

I'm generally pretty tough-skinned, or worse, but this was one thing that I couldn't stand to look at, it was just too sad. A week or two ago, I looked, I saw the rules, I saw this poor kid trying to understand why his own parents hate him, regretting that he ever told them the truth, and it was just too painful to go back to. I figured I'd see something about it when he got out, and then go back and find out what had happened, just put it out of my mind for a little while.

Turned out, thousands of people were following his story. Literally thousands commented on his blog, though he was locked up in camp and didn't know it. Hundreds of people stood outside the camp with signs.

And now the state of Tennessee says they're going to investigate.
The state of Tennessee has begun an investigation in response to allegations of child abuse at Love in Action, a Memphis facility that advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, according to the state department of health.

K. Daniele Edwards, a spokesperson for Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health, confirmed an investigation is underway but declined to comment on the details. She noted that she presumes the Love in Action program would require licensing by the state.

Love in Action is not licensed by the Tennessee Departments of Health, Mental Health, Human Services, Child Services or Education, according to Rachel Lassiter of Gov. Phil Bredesen's communications office.

Refuge, Love in Action's program for adolescents, became the focus of public concern earlier this month after a Bartlett, Tenn., teen who uses the blogger name Zach, posted online entries that say his parents had responded to his coming out as gay by sending him to a religious institution to be converted to heterosexuality. Tenn. investigates ex-gay camp

I couldn't do it, but you ought to go look at Zach's blog. There's his picture, just a regular kid. There's his silly teenage quotes. His favorite music. This could be my kid. Except for one thing: I don't hate my kids. I could never do this to them.

Check this out:
Officials from Love in Action had appealed for "tolerance" of their program at a June 16 news conference.

"It is our spiritual conviction that sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage is considered wrong in the sight of God," said John Smid, the program's director, who describes himself as "ex-gay," according to a partial transcript of the news conference.

Look at these guys, they keep these poor kids locked away from the world, trying to change their souls into something alien, torturing them into accepting that there's something evil about themselves, something wrong -- and these guys have the ... nerve ... to try to make it sound like normal, sensible people are being intolerant of them! I try to keep my language G-rated here on this blog, and I will do that, but this tests my resolve. These people are evil.

This ex-gay business shows you the worst of the human species. These are people consumed with hatred, people with no sense of compassion, taking it out on innocent young victims.

Remember that there are people who want this stuff promoted in your Montgomery County schools. That lawsuit was filed jointly by CRC and PFOX. PFOX is an organization of "ex-gays," they support this guy that's holding Zach captive. They live to crush the spirit, and they want to teach your kids to feel the same way.

Maybe, like most of us straight people, you're not comfortable with homosexuality, maybe you don't understand it, but think for a minute about the very most fundamental human need -- the need for love -- and try to explain to yourself: who would think that kids like Zach don't need it like the rest of us? Let's not incorporate this kind of poisonous attitude into our county's school system, okay?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Debate on Reparative Therapy

Recently, a Presbyterian therapist, C. Richard Carlson, published a short article on the Covenant Network entitled Sexual Reparative (Conversion) Therapy Revisited, in which he reviewed a paper that had been published in 2001 by Robert Spitzer, and the news splash that succeeded it. As Carlson notes, even Spitzer himself expressed surprise at the interpretations that were made of his work, saying:
Of course no one chooses to be homosexual and no one chooses to be heterosexual.

Carlson reviewed some of the ethics statements of professional organizations, discussed NARTH -- an organization that seeks to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals -- and listed some reasons that reparative therapy, discredited by medical and counseling professionals, has survived.

Morton Throckmorton, who has written on the MCPS curriculum (he's against it) and supports the CRC, wrote an article of response to Carlson's: Sexual reorientation therapy reconsidered. In this article, Throckmorton defended reparative therapy. His main argument was that it was the client's choice what he (almost always a he) considered to be a psychological problem. If a gay person wants to change, what could be wrong with helping them?

Carlson responded with a third article in the series: A Reply to Professor Warren Throckmorton concerning Reorientation Therapy. If you're busy and don't have time to wade through all of these, flip immediately to this one. He takes Throckmorton's points apart very carefully. He names two distortions in Throckmorton's arguments.
The first distortion has to do with the need for selection criteria for the treatment. This is something that reparative therapists never even mention. In their view, everyone is a candidate who is willing to try. This hardly constitutes a scientific or ethically sound basis for treatment.

To understand the second distortion, consider what happens when reparative therapy doesn't work - which according to Dr. Spitzer himself - would be most of the time, since the "vast majority of gay persons would be unable to change." Persons, frequently full of self-loathing, find a therapist who agrees with them that there is indeed something wrong with them, that their sexual orientation is a sickness at best and a terrible sin at worst. They have come because newspaper ads and "ex-gay" ministries and many churches have proclaimed that they can change. The therapist tells them that change is possible if only they try hard enough, pray fervently enough and keep coming long enough. God, after all, wants them to change, and "with God all things are possible."

But change doesn't happen. What happens to their self-worth when the cash runs out and there is no reorientation? What happens when these "children of God are unable to integrate their sexual identity with their faith and beliefs?"

We know what happens: at best, their self-loathing worsens; at worst, drug and alcohol addiction, hospitalization for mental illness and suicide happens. The harm goes tragically beyond "distress."

Next, Carlson challenges Throckmorton's claims on scientific groups.
Second, where is the evidence for sustained change? In the past four decades, reparative therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. I asked Jack Drescher, MD, Author, Training and Supervising Analyst at the William A. White Institute in NYC and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association to comment on Dr. Throckmorton's clinical arguments:

"Dr. Throckmorton neglects to mention that despite the claims of people like himself of innumerable people being helped by sexual conversion therapists, that it was quite difficult for Dr. Spitzer to even find 200 subjects. First, Dr. Spitzer's study lacks any claim of scientific objectivity. Given that all of Spitzer's data stemmed from a 45-minute telephone interview, that there were no measures of pre- and post-treatment, that there was no follow-up interview to see if people's stories remain unchanged, all one really sees are 200 subjects primarily recruited by NARTH, who claimed that everything got better. One's interpretation of the data depends upon one's willingness to believe the subjects who were recruited. By analogy, if an organization that opposed the strict new antismoking regulations in New York City wanted to do a "study" debunking the harmful effects of tobacco, they could situate themselves outside a Manhattan cigar bar. Then one of the researchers could go in and tell everyone inside about the study they were doing and why they were doing it. They could then interview the first 200 people who walked out, asking them if cigarette smoking had any harmful effects on them. I can only imagine the objectivity of the data such a study would provide."

Third, he confronts Throckmorton on the spurious comment that the APA and other groups were pressured by gay activist groups into issuing statements sayiing that reparative therapy is unethical:
Third, Dr. Throckmorton quotes Dr. Spitzer as saying essentially that a gay activist group, very strong and vocal, has taken over the American Psychiatric Association and there is nobody to give the other side. I asked Dr. Dresher about this:

"Dr. Spitzer, whom I consider a friend, currently occupies no official position within the APA. Dr. Spitzer has no current knowledge of how APA position statements are initiated or the lengthy vetting process they must undergo before official APA adoption. The 2000 position statement, for example, came out of the Commission on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists (COPP) which at the time was chaired by Dr. Glenn Gabbard, MD. One would be hard pressed to make the case that a psychiatrist of Dr. Gabbard's stature is under the sway of "a gay activist group" as Dr. Throckmorton claims. In fact, this commission studied the issue, modified and edited it, then sent it on to the APA Board of Trustees for approval. After BOT approval, it then went to the APA Assembly where psychiatric representatives from around the country, the vast majority not gay, approved it.

Fourth, he takes on Throckmorton's" comment that clients have the right to determine what kind of therapy they will receive:
Fourth, I asked Dr. Drescher to comment on Ray Fowler's statement, quoted by Dr. Throckmorton, that a client has the "right to self-determination." (Dr. Fowler is the Director of the American Psychological Association).

"Throckmorton neglects to point out that historically, sexual conversion therapists have tried to convince patients struggling with their sexual orientation that they should change. Anyone who has read the literature in this area will see the strong antigay bias in it. According to Shidlo and Schroeder, clients who saw sexual conversion therapists and who did not change were rarely referred to gay affirmative therapists. Dr. Throckmorton's argument that undergoing conversion therapy "is the decision of the client" overlooks the obvious fact that professional organizations have an ethical obligation to protect clients from "clinicians" who engage in practices that fall outside the mental health mainstream. By analogy, a patient has the right to choose laetrile to treat his cancer. However, a physician who prescribes laetrile as the treatment of choice is in violation of professional standards and ethics."

And finally, Throckmorton's assertion that the APA and other organizations' ethical principles were politically influenced by gay activists:
Fifth, Dr. Throckmorton's claim that "mental health associations have politicized the issue of reparative therapy" is ingenuous at best. In fact, those on the political and religious right are heavily invested in publicizing sexual conversion therapies as effective, primarily as it dovetails with their political position that homosexuality is not innate, that it should not be normalized and that gay people are not entitled to civil rights protection (that would represent "special rights"). As a matter of fact, Dr. Throckmorton's research seems to have a bit of politicizing to it as he suggests that it is not sexual reorientation therapies which are harmful, but gay-affirmative ones.

He closes this article with a statement that reflects, to me, what Christianity can be about -- of course, I was raised Presbyterian, maybe this is just my own prejudice here:
Perhaps the true reorientation therapy which is needed is one that helps the Church and society understand that "homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities" and that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality and not something bad needing to be fixed.

That true reorientation therapy is simply the Good News of God's wildly inclusive love in Jesus Christ.

Good discussion, this is a hard topic, and one that goes to the core of the MCPS sex-ed controversy. There are people in our county who want you to believe that reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy and reorientation therapy, is an acceptable and successful technique for making gay people straight.

It isn't.

Recall Closes Web Site

I see that the Original Recall Site has been shut down. That notorious message board provided a lot of laughs for quite a while, but clearly the "recall the school board" mantra needed to be chanted more softly.

Now members of that group can claim to have no wish at all to recall the school board. That, plus making sure there is no ability to comment on their blog, plus telling their members not to discuss the issues on our blog site, should make it that much easier for the lawyers and out-of-town advisors to keep control of the message.

I wonder if those email addresses still work? Betcha they do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Those who oppose the teaching of safe-sex practices often point out that condoms are not successful at stopping the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV). Because HPV is considered a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), and because it can be spread in ways that a condom does not protect against, these people argue that condoms are ineffective against STDs. It's a weak argument, but they keep repeating it, and as long as they stay with the bottom line: "condoms don't prevent all STDs" -- then, people being what they are, nobody will really notice the insufficiency of the argument.

England's The Guardian had an article yesterday, a column by an archaeologist who has been asked to look into the HPV issue. Some of her comments are interesting:
Many of my friends are involved with the new vaccine against HPV (human papillomavirus), the development of which has been largely funded by pharmaceutical companies. The vaccine has gained a lot of press attention. HPV 16 and 18 are linked to 78% of squamous cell cervical cancer and pre-cervical cells (CIN). In the long-term this vaccine and its successors will hopefully consign the many cancers associated with HPV to the history books.

There are only two problems with the vaccine. The first is that it needs to be administered before women catch HPV, so we need to know how and when papilloma is acquired.

The second is an image issue, because HPV is seen as being sexually transmitted. Condoms do not stop its spread, so certain Christian groups in the US, such as the American Family Association, see HPV as demonstrating that safe sex does not work. They use it as an argument for abstinence, and now they are opposed to the new vaccine. These groups are very powerful in the US, and have managed to get warning stickers put on school textbooks stating that Darwinism was only one of many theories. Creationism is the one they prefer. Dying of ignorance

(I love the way they talk about us here in the US as if we were monkeys in a zoo. You can just see that British eyebrow go up, can't you?)
The logic of their anti-HPV vaccine argument is based on "facts" that many doctors and scientists, including the World Health Organisation, repeat as gospel truth. The problem is that these facts are based on long out of date research, because scientists are not keeping up with developments in the field. Cures bring glory. Asking about the background to the virus, and how it is spread, is of less interest to the men in white coats.

The theory of papillomavirus being a sexually transmitted disease (STD) should have been consigned to the history books long ago. Numerous studies have shown that papilloma can be contracted in many non-sexual ways, but for some reason those studies are being ignored.

Scientists made the link between HPV and the main type of cervical cancer about 15 years ago. Two types of HPV (six and 11) are sexually transmitted, so they assumed that other types of HPV were too. That assumption has become axiom, despite numerous studies that contradict this assumption.

Ah, do you get how this works? HPV is spread by sexual contact, yes, and by everything else -- in another part of the article she notes:
Condoms do not prevent the spread of HPV, because condoms only stop semen, and HPV 16 and 18 are not typical STDs. HPV 16 is passed by skin to skin contact, not through semen, so kissing, sharing spoons, breastfeeding, playing sports will all pass it on.

The bottom line is that papillomavirus is everywhere. Some studies show that 90% of all adults have or have had the virus. It's like the flu, and most of the time we fight it off without realising we ever had it.

You may have wondered why the abstinence-only advocates were so loud in telling you that condoms don't work against HPV, when the CDC, for instance, ( LINK) says they do. Well, condoms don't help you fight off the flu, either. The trick is that HPV is not necessarily, maybe not even usually, a sexually transmitted disease.
Cervical cancer is the easiest cancer to detect, but 1,400 women in the UK are still dying from it each year because we are not sharing and publicising research. Many of those women are dying because they didn't get a smear test out of embarrassment or ignorance. If we can get the new research across, we can make women realise that HPV is normal and encourage them to go for smear tests.

Cervical cancer need not be a battle; the treatment, if caught early, is swift and relatively painless. The real battle with cervical cancer is to get the facts about HPV across. The bottom line is that women are dying of ignorance because basic medical research is being ignored.

There is a new HPV vaccine which will come out soon. Some nuts argue that it should not be administered because it would encourage young women to have sex. These people need to be stopped. The facts about HPV need to be publicized. Teenagers need to learn the correct way to use a condom.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dumberer and Dumberest: The Education Doctors

I just saw the strangest thing. The CRC blog has a thing where apparently somebody from wrote a letter to a web site and they are answered by these two ladies who call themselves the "Education Doctors." Is that what this is? And I see the ladies have a web page over in Prince George's County (at least it's on a PG web host)-- Education Doctors -- and it does not appear that the Education Doctors are actually doctors of any sort, just two ladies who have an opinion or something. (Here's their picture from their web site.)

So Ex-Recall posts this illiterate, misspelled, rambling response to somebody's letter. I assume that it comes from somewhere on the Education Doctors' web site, but the site is so chaotically disorganized that I admit I can't find it.

Regarding their long-winded suggestion that Matthew Sheppard was not killed because he was gay, but that this is a story to promote the "liberal agenda," I can only note that his family members do not seem to agree with that! And what kind of cynic would take such a horrible murder and try to defend it? Is that what CRC stands for? Making excuses for murderers? Is that what this is about?

This fake-doctor says
It is also important that you understand that I respect all humans and religions, however as it relates to homosexual’s desire to be considered a separate but equal race that by the way means my race (Black) will be further marginalized and that is not an option I will support.
Did you realize that? That gay people desire to be a race? Or that respecting gays would marginalize black people? That commas have gone out of style? You feel like saying something about a "straw man," but you realize they wouldn't understand the concept.

Did you realize this?
... experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle leads to wild use of mind-altering drugs needed to escape the pain associated with their sexual activities and the threat of terminal decease associated with their promiscuity and un-natural sexual interests.

Isn't "terminal decease" nearly redundant? And I'm wondering, where do deceased people get mind-altering drugs?

I mean ... look at this ... they say to us here at
How can you truly say that abstinence does not work?
Huh? Abstinence education does not work, abstinence would be pretty good, if by "work" you mean prevents pregnancy and STD. Nobody over here ever said that abstinence doesn't work.

Or how about this:
I do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I do not agree that human beings are born homosexual, and I do not believe the innocence of our children should be stripped with one-sided information that based on my research, is nothing more that indoctrination and recruitment attempt to create more homosexuals that will grow up to vote a certain way – if they live.

If they live. Isn't that from the old joke about the insurance salesman? Oh, never mind. This whole statement is as clear a denial of science and its findings as you'll ever see. This is well into the realm of paranoid delusion.

See, I know there must be some reasonable voice on the other side, this can't really be all there is to it. Right? But here's the CRC, the voice of the other side, posting this letter from a fake-doctor as if it contained an important message. Is this really the best they can do?

The Post: Many Teens Have Already Heard About Sex

The Washington Post had a front-page article this morning that highlights a feature of the sex-education debate that is not often brought out. The reporter talked to students, and came away with the conclusion that sex is not such a big deal to the kids themselves. They talk about it in the hallways, see it on TV and on the Internet, and talking about it in health class is really just ... no big deal.
This is what teenagers at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School tell you: They talk about sex.

In the hallways. At lunch tables. Who's doing it. Who's not. Girls talk to their girlfriends. Boys talk to boys. Girls talk with boys who are friends, or their boyfriends.

People talk about sex all the time," said 16-year-old Claire Davey-Karison. "It's casual [conversation], you know. You'll hear gossip. It's no big deal."

But sex education has become a big deal in some Montgomery County schools -- a deal that involves lawyers, organized parent groups and a federal court. Although students like Claire talk about sex in the same casual manner they might discuss last night's homework or the hijinks of Marissa and Ryan on "The O.C.," some adults are less than comfortable with them learning about it -- or certain aspects of it -- in class. Teens' Take: Sex Is All Around Them

Our times -- and here I mean the era inhabited by us antediluvians who crawled out from under rocks in the middle of the twentieth century sometime -- are typified by change. You could almost make the case that nothing is the same now as it was a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, cars were a big deal, fer cryin' out loud, light bulbs were a big deal. A hundred years ago, telephones were new. Never mind television and computers and all that stuff that still feels new to us all.

And social norms have changed. A hundred years ago, women couldn't vote. Blacks had to use separate facilities from whites. Irish needed not apply. Ankles were titillating.

Tides roll in and out, and norms change. Hemlines go up and down, "cool" becomes "groovy" and then "radical" and then "tight" and then "cool" again. Birth control pills liberated sexual behavior, herpes and AIDS put a lid on it. Kinsey and Elvis, Miss Sherry and Liberace, put sex in the news. Gays were always an important part of the entertainment industry, but you never saw gay roles -- when did Rocky Horror Picture Show come out, or Victor/Victoria? In advertising, what is it that sells? What do you think TV channels like MTV and E! are about? Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson ... It's all about sex.

Like it or not, it's everywhere. The most basic behavioral feature of all species higher than protozoa is no longer a secret. Teenagers know it's there. And they don't see the big deal.
With summer break a few days away, about a dozen students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High recently offered their take on the sex education debate. The teenagers said they are fortunate because they feel comfortable talking about sex with their parents. They worried about youths who don't have adults they can turn to.

"I know it's a big deal to adults," said Laura Brewer, 15. "Adults fear that if we're learning about it, we'll be more influenced to carry it out. But not teaching it isn't the way, because one day kids are going to have sex, and they're going to need to know how to protect themselves."

Laura and the other students said they realize that some of their peers hold different views, that not everyone talks about sex in hallways and lunchrooms, and that some adults prefer to keep discussions about sex within the family. Still, they said, it's important for parents to understand that teenagers these days are bombarded with sexual images.

"People act like they're dropping some bombshell on us," said Brandon Corbin, 16.

Brandon, who will be a junior in the fall, said many teenagers know what condoms are (and some have known since elementary school because of older siblings or classmates). They know people who are gay, might have friends who are gay and, even if they aren't themselves, have classmates who are sexually active.

Look, back when I was a kid in high school, shortly after my family moved from a cave to a brick house -- believe it or not, we didn't know about any gay kids in high school. Kids didn't just walk into class and say "I'm gay."

And what's changed? It's a simple thing, really, though hard to handle sometimes. Norms have changed. In my youth, slightly post-Adam-and-Eve, being gay was just something you didn't talk about. Those people were perverts, weirdos, and you didn't know any of them. Well, of course, actually you did, you just didn't know you knew any. Now it's changed. A gay teenager today doesn't have to keep it a big secret. Oh, it's hard, I don't doubt that. One of my kids has a gay friend with a Xanga site that documents his life day-to-day; I read it several times a week, just to see how it's going. At least for him, it doesn't seem to be so much bullying and outright hatred, but mainly misunderstanding and strange assumptions. But as the truth comes out more and more in the open, the assumptions will become more correct.

I think most of us (leave that word "us" to be defined as you prefer) think of the anti-gay reactionary movement as a kind of desperate attempt to stop inevitable change. In Montgomery County, the anti-gay forces argue that the sex-education curriculum that was proposed would "normalize" homosexuality. Well, people, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but ... it's already been normalized. People don't really think it's that strange any more. Between Will and Grace and Queer Eye, and Elton John and all those guys up in the top ranks of the Republican Party, between Melissa Ethridge and Rosie O-Donnell, it's just become a fact of life. Some people are gay. They're not all monsters. Get over it.

In another hundred years people will look back, and this stuff will be impossible to comprehend. There are people alive today who can remember when a company could (and would) fire a woman for getting engaged, or worse, for getting pregnant. But kids growing up cannot imagine it. They'll ask, Why didn't they sue the company? The answer is, because there wasn't anything wrong with it. Now there is. Times change.
The statistics speak for themselves: By the time they have reached their senior year in high school, three out of five young people in the United States have had sex, and one in five of those has had sex with four or more partners, according to the 2001 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance.

"You can take the sex out of the curriculum, but it's still going to be in society," said Laura, who just finished her sophomore year and would have been in the class introduced to the contested sex-ed curriculum.

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation on the media habits of young people found that on average, 8- to 18-year-olds watch nearly four hours of television a day and devote nearly two hours a day to listening to music. Another Kaiser report released two years ago said that in a sampling of programming from the 2001-02 television season, 64 percent of the shows included some sexual content, 32 percent had sexual behavior and 14 percent featured strong suggestions of sexual intercourse.

Yeah, sex is out there. Teens see it, they hear about it, they talk about it ... they do it. You can fight it, but you can't turn back the hands of time. What's needed now is education that teaches the facts, that tells teenagers honestly what the issues are. Because they already know it's out there, they just need the correct details.

Norms come and go, but some things evolve in a positive direction. One of those things is knowledge. I don't remember if hemlines went up or down this year, but I know that science knows more this year than it did last year, and more last year than the year before that. More and more of reality, including human nature, is being brought into the light of knowledge. Human sexuality will be one of the last things, to be sure, the mystery is part of it and many people will fight to keep it secret. But it's happening, and it will be necessary for the school district to adapt to that truth.

Friday, June 17, 2005

HHS Report: Abstinence-Only Does Not Appear Effective

Man, I'll tell ya, there ought to be a job title "Research Digester." A couple of days ago it was the Heritage Foundation's faux-science report, today it's this monster from Mathematica, done for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A hundred seventy eight pages of tables and numbers and graphs.

And you know what happens. Nobody reads this stuff. Then what happens is some media guys write whatever they want, knowing that nobody will double-check their work, and government guys will say whatever they were going to say anyway. So, for instance, here's how the Catholic World News put it:
A new study released on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services reveals that abstinence education works. According to the interim report, teens who participated in abstinence programs had an increased awareness of the potential consequences of sexual activity before marriage, thought more highly of abstinent behaviors, and had less favorable opinions about sexual activity before marriage than did students who were not in abstinence programs. Federal study confirms abstinence education effective

and on the other hand, here's what Advocates for Youth read in it:
An objective reading of the study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. for the Department of Health and Human Services calls into question the Bush Administration's support of abstinence-only as a national policy. Government Acting Like "Flat Earth Society," Promoting Abstinence-Only Programs

You might notice that these two summaries say opposite things. The study showed that abstinence-only programs work, or it shows that they don't work...

See what I mean? It oughta be somebody's job to read this stuff and summarize it for normal people.

This study is actually an experiment -- which is a good thing. Students were randomly assigned to participate in an abstinence program or a control group. There were four different abstinence programs, one in each of the geographical locations studied, and in each case it appears that the control group tended to take the regular health classes in their schools -- many had sex-ed training of some kind, it just wasn't the program being studied.

It is only by conducting an experiment, which is defined by random assignment to conditions, that causality can be assessed. The question here is whether the abstinence programs had any effect on subsequent attitudes and behaviors. Some measures were taken before the health classes, and some afterwards, so that change could be assessed.

I'm not going to go through this whole thing, which is generally well done (I have some quibbles with the Discussion section, but then I suppose Mathematica has a client to satisfy, don't they?). The question everybody wants to know is: do abstinence-only programs work?

The question is not answered in this study. The four cohorts interviewed here range in age from a mean of 10.3 years to 13.3. The question "Does abstinence-only education work," would require knowledge of whether the students had sexual intercourse before some criterion time, say in their teen years, or before marriage. You can't tell that by interviewing an eleven year old kid.

The substitute question, then, is whether abstinence-only education changed the students' attitudes and beliefs. And of course this form of the question has many components. The researchers report on five clusters of "intermediate variables": 1) views on abstinence, teen sex, and marriage, 2)peer influence and relations, 3)self-concept, refusal skills, and communication with parents, 4)perceived consequences of teen and nonmarital sex, and 5) expectations to refrain from sex. Some of these are attitude measures -- how the student feels about something -- and some are beliefs about how they will behave.

You are free to read the report online (LINK HERE), so let me jump to what is probably the most important variable, that is, the respondents' expectation of whether they will be abstinent through their teen years. On the questionnaire, the question was worded like this:
What is the chance you will have sexual intercourse as an unmarried teen? [Asked of non-sexually active youth only]
0 I definitely will do it
1 I might do it
2 I definitely will remain abstinent -- I will not have sexual intercourse

Do you think you will have sexual intercourse during the next year? [Asked of sexually active youth only]
0 I definitely will have sexual intercourse during the next year
0 I might have sexual intercourse during the next year
0 I definitely will not have sexual intercourse during the next year

(I hope that the zeroes for the codes on the last item are typos in the report!)

The results of this question are easy to report. There were no statistically significant differences, for any of the four programs, between experimental and control groups on the question of whether respondents expected to remain abstinent. When the two "older" groups were collapsed together, the authors report significance at the p<0.10 level, which is not usually considered "significant" in the social sciences, but the groups individually did not demonstrate significant differences. In all four cases, respondents in the abstinence-only programs reported slightly higher expectations, but in no case were these big enough to overpower the background noise.

But didn't Catholic World News say it worked? Didn't they say that teens were more likely to take abstinence vows after these classes? Well, yes they did, and the data support that. Respondents in three of the four programs pledged significantly more, at the p<0.05 level, than control group members. It is not said, but I have the suspicion that an abstinence pledge might be part of an abstinence-only class, and not part of a regular health class. So ... this is not really so surprising, is it?

One serious problem with this study has to do with confounded independent variables. Three of the four samples were made up of what the authors call "youth in high-risk communities." They were mostly black and poor, with unmarried parents. The fourth group was mostly middle-class white kids with two parents. These kinds of differences make it impossible to compare the effects of programs between groups. As each group received a different abstinence-only program, we cannot tell whether one was more effective than another, simply because program differences are confounded with demographic differences.

Effects are also obscured by the fact that the control groups were, well, uncontrolled, and not all students in the program groups actually attended the programs. Many students in the control groups took other health classes, including ones that talked about abstinence, and not all the kids in the abstinence programs did attend their assigned classes.

In three of the four programs, teens' attitudes were more supportive of abstinence and less supportive of teen sex than control group subjects. No difference was found in the level of support from friends for abstinence, or in dating and peer pressure estimates. Further, as the authors report, "Program and control group youth displayed no difference in their self-concept, refusal skills, or communication with parents." In all four programs, teens' perceptions of the potential adverse consequences of teen and nonmarital sex were increased significantly by the classes.

The authors also state that "There is limited evidence that the programs raised expectations to abstain from sex." This statement is not true, though, and would never survive a peer review process; expectations of abstinence did not differ significantly, at the p<0.05 level, between program and control groups. A p<0.10 was attained by pooling groups, though even that easy standard was not met by the programs individually.

The authors write:
There is little or no evidence that the first year of participation in these programs changed other intermediate outcomes that may be vehicles for changing behavior. These include views supportive of marriage; the extent to which youth's friends hold views supportive of abstinence; and self-concept, refusal skills, and communication with parents.

Now listen to what the government is saying (from the Catholic World News):
"Students who are in these [abstinence education] programs are recognizing that abstinence is a positive choice," HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Michael O'Grady said. "Abstinence education programs that help our young people address issues of healthy relationships, self-esteem, decision-making, and effective communications are important to keeping them healthy and safe."

This is what I have been politely calling on this blog "bull-oney."

Looking back at the quotes at the top of this post, you've gotta think that the Catholic World News is reporting from the dream world, while Advocates for Youth wrapped it up pretty well: the government is acting like the Flat Earth Society, promoting programs even when their own research shows they don't work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Science and Politics: Pledgers' STD Data Re-Analyzed

There has been quite a bit of hullaballoo in the past few days about a Heritage Foundation study that reanalyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a comprehensive survey of 90,000 seventh through twelfth graders. An earlier report on the data set by Hannah Brückner at Yale and Peter Bearman at Columbia, published in the The Journal of Adolescent Health had found that teens who pledged to remain abstinent until marriage had the same rates of STDs as those who did not. Yesterday's New York Times:
Challenging earlier findings, two studies from the Heritage Foundation reported yesterday that young people who took virginity pledges had lower rates of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and engaged in fewer risky sexual behaviors.

The new findings were based on the same national survey used by earlier studies and conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the authors of the new study used different methods of statistical analysis from those in an earlier one that was widely publicized, making direct comparisons difficult.

Independent experts called the new findings provocative, but criticized the Heritage team's analysis as flawed and lacking the statistical evidence to back its conclusions. The new findings have not been submitted to a journal for publication, an author said. The independent experts who reviewed the study said the findings were unlikely to be published in their present form. Studies Rebut Earlier Report on Pledges of Virginity

The Times' reporting on this is a model of ... whatever. They are balanced, I guess you could say.

So the reader is left with two analyses of the same data set that come to opposite conclusions. The ordinary person is going to just shake their head, muttering something about statistics, and move on to the funnies.

I spent some time looking at this, and I admit, the key to it slipped past me. It was just a little thing, but the sleight-of-hand was good, and I was looking the wrong way.

Here -- read what this blog, "Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk," says about it: A big red flashing sign saying "This science is completely bogus". It's a good, readable discussion about "junk science" -- which the Heritage Foundation guys accuse the academics of -- and how to tell the difference.

There are a couple of keys. First of all: peer review. The first paper was sent to a legitimate scientific journal. The editor of that journal sent it around to some reviewers, generally experts in the field. They are competitive, and hate it when some other researcher finds something before they do, so they criticize the paper to death. The author gets the comments, addresses them through changes to the manuscript, re-submits it ... sometimes this goes on for several cycles. Well, usually not -- most papers are rejected in the first round. But this one survived, and finally reached publication.

The Heritage Foundation paper, on the other hand, went from the conservative think-tank directly to the press.

That's your first clue.

The NYT and Big Monkey agree that a significance level of 0.10 is too high, and it is, but that's quibbling.

The tricky part is in the way the two studies defined STDs. Here's where the data came from for the original Brückner and Bearman study:
Biomarker data (urine samples) on STD status were collected from 92% of wave 3 respondents. A total of 1183 individuals (8%) refused participation in the biospecimen collection. Urine samples were collected in the field and analyzed for the presence of three sexually transmitted diseases, Chlamydia (CH), Gonorrhea (GC), and Trichomoniasis (TR). In addition, 7000 female respondents who reported ever having had vaginal sex in wave 3 were randomly selected for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) assays. The specific procedure and tests used are described in detail in [5]. Both males and females were tested for the three bacterial STDs regardless of their sexual activity status.

Collection procedures followed a strict protocol; samples that arrived in a condition not suitable for testing were discarded. Between 4% (CH), 5% (TR), and 10% (GC) of the samples were not tested for these reasons [5,6]. Pledgers do not differ from others with respect to whether their samples yielded results in the testing (p = 0.32 for CH, p = 0.17 for TR, p = 0.20 for CG). Pledgers did not differ from others in the extent to which they refused to provide urine
samples (p = 0.28). Data are weighted to adjust for oversampling of various groups and wave 3 nonresponse.


Unless otherwise noted, the analyses reported below are based on 11,471 respondents with valid data on STD status and grand sample weights. The majority of the results are derived from cross-tabulating pledge status with various outcome and behavioral measures.


HPV is analyzed separately because it is much more prevalent, may be transmitted by noncoital sexual behavior, and the testing was based on a different sample (n = 3317; sexually active females only). After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges

I'll come right back to the STD measurement, but first...

Note that one criticism that the Heritage Foundation researchers had of the Brückner and Bearman study was, as they put it:
The centerpiece of their argument about pledgers and heightened sexual risk activity is a small group of pledgers who engaged in anal sex without vaginal sex. This "risk group" consists of 21 persons out of a sample of 14,116. Bearman and Bruckner focus on this microscopic group while deliberately failing to inform their audience of the obvious and critical fact that pledgers as a whole are substantially less likely to engage in anal sex when compared to non-pledgers. Virginity Pledgers Have Lower STD Rates and Engage in Fewer Risky Sexual Behaviors

First of all, it is not in any sense a "centerpiece" of Brückner and Bearman's paper. These sentences are tucked in the middle of a paragraph reporting a ton of statistical results:
... Similarly, 0.7% of nonpledgers report anal but no vaginal sex, compared with 1.2% for pledgers. Although too few females report anal but no vaginal sex, for males we find a significant difference between pledgers and nonpledgers (p = .021). Specifically, slightly more than 1% of male nonpledgers report anal sex but no vaginal sex, compared with almost 3% for inconsistent pledgers and 4% for consistent pledgers...

Let me reconstitute the totals here. 0.7 percent of 9,072 nonpledgers would be 63.5, call it 64 nonpledgers; 1.2 percent of 707 pledgers would be 9.3, call it nine of them. There is some ambiguity here -- if "pledgers" means all respondents who reported pledging, whether they were consistent over time or not, then that would be 0.012 percent of 2,399, or about 28.788 pledgers who had anal and not vaginal sex. So we're talking about 93 people, not 21. Whatever, the difference between 1 and 4 percent is significant in this sample, it doesn't matter that the percentages were small. They are certainly higher than the percentage of people who die from head injuries in automobile crashes, but we accept the conclusion that seatbelts significantly reduce that percentage.

They are counting on you not doing what I'm doing, that is, finding the original paper and doing the arithmetic.

We have read how Brückner and Bearman defined STDs in their paper. Now listen to the Heritage Foundation guys describe it:
One problem is that Bearman and Bruckner examined only one of several STD measures available in the Add Health data file. Analysis of the remaining measures reveals that adolescent virginity pledging is strongly associated with reduced STDs among young adults. These results are statistically significant in four of the five STD measures examined and are very near significance on the fifth measure. With all the STD measures, the allegedly ineffective virginity pledge is actually a better predictor of STD reduction than is condom use. Virginity Pledgers Have Lower STD Rates and Engage in Fewer Risky Sexual Behaviors

They make it sound like Brückner and Bearman ignored the other STD data. In reality, their Table 4 is just that. And it shows just what both groups say it shows: people who have pledged to be abstinent report having fewer STDs, and they report going to the doctor fewer times to be checked for STDs.

The Heritage Foundation reports cover up the differences between their data and the academic data, and as a smokescreen they assert that Brückner and Bearman looked at "only one of several STD measures available in the Add Health data file."

Brückner and Bearman analyzed real data from real urine tests. People peed in the cup and it went to a lab. It didn't matter what the respondent said, the laboratory measured whether there were signs of infection in the urine. The Heritage Foundation guys relied only on what the respondent said. According to Brückner and Bearman:
Add Health asked respondents also about their experiences with STDs. Specifically, all respondents were asked whether they had been diagnosed with various STDs in the past year; whether they had ever seen a doctor because they were worried about having a STD; and whether they had been tested for various STDs in the past year.

And those are the other STD variables that the Heritage guys like so much. No sensible person is going to think that someone's answers to those questions are more accurate than the lab results.

In sum, the Heritage Foundation papers are political, not scientific. They do not meet any of the standards of scientific literature. They are not peer-reviewed, they contain scurrilous ad hominem comments about other researchers, they conceal the nature of the data they used while implying that the other researchers' methods were inadequate. The Heritage Foundation wants abstinence pledges to succeed because it fits their ideology, and they will twist any data in whatever way is necessary to prove their point.

It's a sad statement, that science is under attack in this way, that any nut can put a paper on the Internet and call the newspapers, and people will accept it as if it were the real thing.

The Times Publishes Letter

On June 2nd, the Washington Times printed an editorial that most of us considered outrageous. It misrepresented the curriculum that we fought to defend, and made inflammatory statements that really didn't seem to further the discussion at all. On June 3rd, David Fishback, former chair of the citizens committee that developed the curriculum, sent a letter to The Times, explaining his view of the statements that had been made.

After more than a week it became clear that The Times was not going to publish his letter, so on June 12th he sent it to me to post here on the Vigilance blog. You can read the letter below, in a post entitled That Times Editorial: Fishback Responds.

Well, the next day, Sarah Vabulas, who is The Times' Letter Editor, sent us a note, apologizing for not having published the letter, with some explanation, and asking for a way to contact Mr. Fishback.

Today, June 15th, to their credit, the Washington Times did publish David Fishback's letter responding to their editorial. We applaud their diligence in this situation, and thank them for doing the right thing. Note that they could easily have refused to print the letter since it was already "published," in a sense, on this web site. But it appears that they really intended to make things right.

We often do not agree with The Times editorial position, which tends to bleed into their news reporting in odd ways. Of the local media, they have covered the MCPS sex-ed story the most thoroughly, usually with a conservative spin, but just when you give up on them they'll do something right. Their June 5th story, for instance, was a good, objective wrap-up of the situation. And their handling of Fishback's letter to the editor was honorable and correct.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More CRC Nonsense

I have to admit they confuse me. The Ex-Recall group, aka CRC, has a link on their web site today to a story in the Washington Post about sexual molestation on school buses:
Last spring, a sixth-grade Montgomery County girl was thrown down in the back of her school bus by several older boys who, the girl said, grabbed her breasts and buttocks and feigned sex acts.

In December, a 6-year-old Frederick County girl was allegedly fondled by a middle-schooler while riding a bus to her gifted student program. Her mother said she didn't learn of the incident until May, when the driver told her.


Two months ago, an 11-year-old girl was allegedly attacked by two girls and three boys during a bus ride home from her elementary school, south of Richmond. The group, the girl said, held her down, groped her and penetrated her with an object. As School Bus Sexual Assaults Rise, Danger Often Overlooked

OK, that's three events, in three locations, one of which is Montgomery County. If you have kids who ride the bus, you've heard terrible stories. Maybe not this terrible, but kids on the bus were out of control when I was a kid and it appears they're even more out of control now.
A 2001 report commissioned by the American Association of University Women found that eight of every 10 students in grades 8 through 11 report having been sexually harassed at school, most often by peers. One-third of students surveyed said they were first harassed in grade school.

That sounds like it means in the whole country.
"I've never experienced the problems and the degenerate actions of kids as I have this past year," said bus driver Bob Baxley of Hagerstown, Md., who has been driving school buses for 12 years. He was driving during the alleged attack in Frederick. On the same bus, Baxley saw middle school boys describe sex acts to first-graders and one boy try to shove a condom into another child's mouth.

"Sexual harassment is a much more serious issue in public schools than most people have been willing to admit," said Robert Shoop, a professor at Kansas State University. "And it's much more likely to occur in unsupervised venues -- like buses or bathrooms."

--Another location heard from.

So this story talks about events in Germantown and Frederick, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; the whole United States averaged together; Hagerstown, Maryland; and Kansas.

And who do you think the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum blame?

Their intelligent conclusion:
Could it be the Fruit of MCPS Valueless Sex-Ed??

And then they ask:
And, Where is the BOE on all This???
Now, people, let me point out that Frederick, Richmond, the US, Hagerstown, and Kansas are really not part of Montgomery County, Maryland. The MCPS Board of Education probably feels bad about these things, but it is not their responsibility to see to it that schoolchildren in, say, Kansas, behave themselves. And I will be quite surprised to learn that kids in Kansas have been affected by the sex-education curriculum here in Montgomery County, Maryland. Quite surprised.

Let me also point out that the CRC's leaders are always -- always -- saying that the current curriculum is just fine. It was the new curriculum they objected to, they thought we oughta just stay with the old one. And the new one was never implemented -- so now it does appear that they're saying the curriculum they like is "Valueless." (Maybe that's what they like about it.)

Finally, mmm, what do you suppose they're implying with that last comment about Where is the BOE on all this??? You wouldn't think they'd have any ideas about, say, recalling the school board, would you? I mean, if it's their fault that kids in Hagerstown are stuffing condoms in one anothers' mouths, then we had better do something about that, right? If they haven't spoken out about sexual harassment in Kansas, I'm sure the reasonable thing is to throw the bums out.

These guys are unbelievable. People who can comprehend common sense need to stand together against this kind of reflexive judgment.

BOE Comments by Lara Akinbami

Here is the statement made today during the public comments section of the MCPS Board of Education meeting by Lara Akinbami, former member and co-chair of the citzens advisory committee:
Good morning. My name is Lara Akinbami. I am a pediatrician who works with teenage mothers and am an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I am also a former member-at-large and vice chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.

The Committee recommended the revised sex-ed curriculum that was recently cancelled. The cancellation has been very upsetting to those who support accurate, comprehensive health education. The hard work of the drafting team, the careful review of the Citizens Advisory Committee, and the decision of the Board to pilot the curriculum have all been derailed by a small vocal minority using a campaign of misinformation.

The revised curriculum did not promote a "gay life style" as charged, it did not encourage promiscuity, and it did not urge children to identify as homosexual. To the contrary, the curriculum presented a definition of homosexuality from major medical organizations and sought to dispel myths by using accurate statements such as, "All major professional mental health organizations affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder."

The Citizens Advisory Committee did discuss diverse opinions and materials, but rejected materials that were at odds with the mainstream medical consensus. We did err in including some background teacher resources that expressed opinions on theological matters. Our intention was simply to demonstrate that there is a diversity of opinion among and even within religions on homosexuality. Although teachers know not to express opinions on theology in the classroom, we were planning on recommending the removal of those resources just before our committee was abruptly disbanded.

I am confident that the Board, in its upcoming review of the health curriculum, will preserve the goal of teaching the facts and promoting respect for all students by providing science-based information about human sexuality-including sexual variation.

Let us not forget the reason behind the revision of the curriculum: for too long, the silence in health classes about homosexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that homosexuality was a shameful disease. The Board realized that it was the wrong message and acted wisely to address the problem. The fact that an overwhelming majority of parents in the pilot schools gave permission for their children to take the pilot unit is just one more indication that this approach is consistent with the views of most MCPS stakeholders. Thank you.

Monday, June 13, 2005

AP Poll: Yes, Americans Are Religious

I was out of town for a few days and didn't see this AP survey, reported here in The Post.
WASHINGTON -- Americans are far more likely to consider religion central to their lives and to support giving clergy a say in public policy than people in nine countries that are close allies, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. Yet, the U.S. embrace of faith has its limits. AP Poll: Religion Key in American Lives

From here the news gets a little glass-half-empty-ish. Of course statistics blah-blah-blah can make them say anything. But there are some interesting numbers here.
Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith was important to them and only 2 percent said they did not believe in God, according to the polling conducted for the AP by Ipsos.

Almost 40 percent in this country said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries.

"Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian policies and religious leaders have an obligation to speak out on public policy, otherwise they're wimps," said David Black, a retiree from Osborne, Pa., who agreed to be interviewed after he was polled.

OK, we know that guy, right? If it wasn't for him, this web site wouldn't be here.
Still, 61 percent said they didn't think religious leaders should influence government decisions.

"I think religion and politics are too closely intertwined in this country," said Dillon Hickman, a businessman from Uniontown, Ohio, near Akron. "A lot of religious leaders take too active a position in politics. And it's getting moreso."

And then ... this is interesting:
Only Mexicans come close to Americans in embracing faith, among the countries polled. But unlike Americans, Mexicans strongly object to clergy lobbying lawmakers, in line with the nation's historical opposition to church influence.

The polling was conducted in May in the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.

"The United States is a much more religious country than other similar countries, looks a lot like what you call developing countries, like Mexico, Iran and Indonesia," said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

Weird that you have Western Europe on one hand, and the US, Mexico, Iran, Indonesia on the other. Those are what they call "developing" countries. They are coming out of religious domination, into the light of modern industrialism. And us ...?

So, it's true, Americans are more likely than people in other industrialized countries to say that religious leaders should try to influence government decisions. Our 37 percent is higher than Canada's, Mexico's, South Korea's, France's, Germany's, Italy's, Spain's, or Great Britain's. But -- it's only thirty-seven per cent. A little more than a third of Americans actually feel that religious leaders should be involved in government. Sixty-one percent say no, religious leaders should not "try to influence government decisions."

That's not close, 37 to 61.

And remember, that's averaged over the whole country. For instance, that includes Texas, Alabama, Kansas ... and Maryland. The poll was not sufficiently large to report regional or state means, but the good money says that people in Maryland, and in particular in Montgomery County, are less likely than the national average to welcome the intrusion of religious leaders into political and government affairs. So, take 37 per cent, adjust for Florida and Georgia and Arkansas, and see what you got left.

I'll tell you: you got a blue county that doesn't want its public school curriculum determined by religious extremists.

This poll tells us that Americans in general are more religious than people in other developed countries, and more willing to let religion into government. But nothing near a majority of Americans are willing to give up the separation of church and state. Even now in the post-2004-election phase, when the tidal wave of fundamentalist fervor is rising to its peak, a large majority of Americans want religion and government to stay separate.

Kansas Bans Theories (in the Jocular Sense)

This was just one of those dumb things that people forward to you in your email. It's just s-o-o-o close to being believable, though, that you've gotta jump back and think about it.

As the person who sent it to me wrote, in big red letters at the top: THIS IS A JOKE. I wanted to clarify that, since it isn't too far off base.
Kansas Board of Ed Bans All Theories From Classroom
The Kansas Board of Education has determined that every element of the school curriculum based on anything called a theory should be re-evaluated and that alternative views should be presented.

"Our recent inquiries into the biology curriculum and the role of the so-called theory of evolution have made it abundantly clear that "science" is full of theories," said board member Kathy Martin. "We've heard compelling evidence to suggest that evolution does not deserve a place in our classrooms, and I think we owe it to the children of Kansas to make sure that other questionable theories don't slide in under the radar."

The Board's four-day hearings on the teaching of evolution, held in early May, ended in acrimony as mainstream scientists accused the Board of attempting to sneak creationist views into the science curriculum under the guise of "intelligent design." Scientists say this is a form of creationism veiled in pseudoscientific jargon to appear more palatable as an alternative to the widely accepted theory of evolution.

While many observers anticipated that the Kansas hearings would end favorably for intelligent design proponents - since several members of the Kansas Board of Education stated prior to the hearings that they did not accept the theory of evolution - many were surprised at the sweeping scope of their recommendations.

"One does wonder what exactly they expect Kansas schoolchildren to study," said Martin Freeman, professor of geology at the University of Kansas. "If the Board's intention was to send a message to the world, they've succeeded. The message is: "Stay Away From Kansas.""

In common usage a theory is often viewed as little more than a guess or a hypothesis. But in science and generally in academic usage, a theory is much more than that. A theory is an established paradigm that explains all or much of the data available.

"By definition, a theory can never be proven true, because we can never assume we know all there is to know," explained Freeman.

"Aha!" shouted Martin. "See? They admit they can't prove any of it! On the other hand, the truth of the Bible is absolute. This can be easily proven, because the Bible says so. Q.E.D., mister scientist. Q.E.D."

Among the theories besides evolution that would be eliminated from the curriculum by the Kansas Board of Education's ruling are the theories of gravity, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, acoustic theory, plate tectonics, algorithmic information theory, computation theory, graph theory, number theory, and probability theory. Critical theory and literary theory would also be banished, effectively removing virtually all books from the curriculum as well.

"Well, that's not really a loss," said Martin. "You see, we figure that if the books agree with the Bible, they are superfluous; if they contradict it, they are dangerous. We are really just doing our job to make schools safe for our children."

"This is obviously some strange use of the word "safe" that I wasn't previously aware of," said Freeman. "Anyone leaving Kansas now? Can I get a lift?"

Look ... it's a joke, OK?

A Student Blogs About Sex-Ed Class

You know that every other kid in the world has a blog, right? Lots of them are at, lots of LiveJournals, and lots at Blogspot and other free blog sites. Whether you know it or not, if you have a teenager, they probably have a web site somewhere.

The implication is the same for sex education as it is for news. The corporate media put out a certain kind of news story, and until a few years ago that was all you could get. But now there are alternatives, blogs from the extreme right and left ends of the political spectrum and everything in between. Some of them report news stories, some comment on them, most combine the two.

Same thing with kids in school. Every day, teenagers are writing on the Internet about their experiences. Your big-bucks organizations, whether they're NARAL or Family Research Council, may spend millions tailoring their message to make it palatable and persuasive, but Some Kid can type at a computer in study hall, writing about what they did in the class right before that, or what somebody said in the hall, or how ugly the teacher is, and it goes directly to the Internet and out to the world, right next to that high-dollar web site.

So every once in a while I like to check out what the kids are saying. Some of it is illuminating. Here's what Helen, age 17, says:
11 Jun 2005
One of the best ways to avoid AIDS is to "avoid homosexual behavior."

– from a federally funded program.

I was in one of those "abstinence-only" programs. The entire eighth grade was. I don't think anybody realized how fascist it was. We just knew that we had to pay attention and we got a week out of one period. Some broads came and told their stories. Basically all of them got knocked up and one had the kid at age 14, one had an abortion and regrets it, and whatever.

I really thank that program because that was the point I knew where I stood when it came to the whole society trying to dictate what one should or should not do to one's body. I guess you have to be a victim of the whole "robbing you of knowledge" agenda in order to be totally against it. They did not educate us about the consequences of premarital sex, they acted out a boring episode of Maury. They did not tell us to practice safe sex, they gave you candy for saying out loud, "I will wait for marriage to have sex."

Brah. Helen Rips

See, this isn't some seventeen-year-old celebrity or world-acclaimed genius. Looking around her blog, it looks like she watches TV a lot. Wears Levis. Seems to listen to rap music, hates the new shows on VH1.

But look what happens in sex-ed class. "Some broads come in" and no education takes place. Do you remember that feeling, that tunnel-vision experience when the classroom closes in around you, and you're sitting at your desk, and all you pray for is the passage of time? -- Should sex education class be like that? I mean, really, shouldn't that be the most interesting class of your whole high-school experience? Don't you have questions you want answers to? Don't you wonder how other people feel about it? Wouldn't you just die to understand how the whole thing really works?

I guess you have to be a victim of the whole "robbing you of knowledge" agenda in order to be totally against it. This high-school girl at seventeen clearly understands what the issue is. Some grown-ups are coming into the classroom to deprive students, not enrich them, to turn their minds off rather than on, to convey fear rather than knowledge, to numb rather than enliven -- and as a student she is perfectly aware of the "agenda" and perfectly willing to revolt against it.

And further, it's not just "knowledge," it's the whole society trying to dictate what one should or should not do to one's body. This is a very serious thing, when you realize that other people are making rules about how you will express yourself, who you will love, how you will love. At this point the educational system could present students with facts and information, and explanations about the consequences of various things, with the understanding that they'll decide for themselves how to run their own lives.

But some people don't want that, they think it's best if you don't tell kids anything.

I say, let's teach our Montgomery County kids the facts.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

That Times Editorial: Fishback Responds

Here is David Fishback's response to a recent Washington Times editorial. Mr. Fishback was the chair of the citizens advisory committee that developed the sex-ed curriculum that was recently blocked by a judge's order.
On June 2, the Washington Times published an editorial that was, to say the least, interesting. See The next day, I submitted the following response as a Letter to the Editor of the Times. As the Times has not printed the letter, and we suspect they will not, given the fact it has printed several letters since June 2 supporting its editorial, including one from a CRC supporter from Severna Park (Anne Arundel County) criticizing Board Member Abrams' comment reported in the Times on June 5 that the curriculum should not be the result of "negotiation between outside groups." (See

The Times editorial, which reflects a political agenda inconsistent with the best medical wisdom in this area, seeks to call down up and up down. It is breathtakingly Orwellian in its scope. Fortunately, the citizens of Montgomery County will not be persuaded by such misrepresentations any more than they would accept "creationism/intelligent design" notions as part of a biology curriculum. Those we elect and those hired by those we elect will not, we believe, be intimidated by the Washington Times or any other voices seeking to undermine wise health education programs for our children in the interest of an agenda that seeks to ignore we have learned about the human condition.

*** Sent by David S. Fishback to the Washington Times on June 3, 2005:

As former chair of the Montgomery County Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, I agree with the statement set forth in your June 2 editorial ("A clean slate for Montgomery sex-ed"): "The point of a sex-ed curriculum is to teach facts about sex, not to propagate dubious theories." The proposed revised curriculum that was originally to be piloted last month said relatively little about homosexuality, providing definitions from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, and simply making the accurate statements that "all major professional mental health organizations affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder" and that "most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice." (The text of the pilot versions of the curriculum may be found on the Resources Page of The "dubious theories" are those propagated by groups who cling to the long-since rejected ideas that all homosexuals are diseased and can be "cured" of the disease. Indeed, it was the clinical experience of mainstream medical and mental health professionals in the 1940s, '50, and '60s that led them to reject the notion that homosexuality is a disease.

The former Citizens Advisory Committee examined the statements from the mainstream professional associations as well has materials presented by Committee members who were advocates of the idea that all homosexuality is diseased, and concluded that the mainstream professional approach should be followed. Contrary to your editorial, these recommendations did not come from some purported "education establishment." Rather, they were from the mainstream medical and mental health professionals.

As Superintendent Jerry Weast stated last November when the Board of Education unanimously voted to pilot the revisions, these are revisions the school system should have made years ago. Why did he make that statement? Because for too long the silence in the health education curriculum unit on sexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that there was something "sick" about not being heterosexual. For too long, students who happened to be homosexual and children from same-sex parent families were made to feel marginalized. Because that was wrong and hurtful, the Board was wise to act last November.

One more point is essential to this discussion. Montgomery County parents never have been required to have their children take the portion of the health classes on human sexuality. If families' parents objected, they could have their children study alternative materials. This way, the school system has been able to accommodate the concerns of parents who may have religious or other objections to the material, without giving a small minority a veto power over the entire curriculum.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What We're Up Against

Here's a chance to do your homework, and review some of the talking points that anti-gay groups such as CRC encourage their members to use. This is from a document on their web site called Talking Points for Overcoming Prejudice in Favor of Homosexuality.

Because, you know, it's a terrible thing when people think it's ok for other people to be different from "us". Their document starts out with this nice point:
Many people are now biased toward homosexuality, thinking it's the kind and tolerant attitude. It's exactly the opposite. The kindest approach is to understand how damaging this behavior is, how children can be drawn into it, and the risks it presents.

Here are some points to cover with school officials, students (including your own children) teachers, and parents.

Yeah, because you're a good person, you want to make sure that school officials, your kids, and other people understand that it is only ok for people to feel the way we do, and behave the way we do.

This will hurt, but let's look at a couple of these talking points:
Homosexuality is not genetic. No research supports this claim. Many thousands of people have overcome this desire as well as leaving the lifestyle.

I think I'm starting to understand this. "Genetic" means you can't control yourself. People have two kinds of attributes: genetic ones, and ones they can decide on. I mean, it looks like that's what these guys believe.

There are so many problems with this. First of all, sexual orientation probably does have an important genetic aspect, which has not yet been discovered, since the human genome was a total mystery until a couple of years ago. Second, nothing is perfectly genetic. Genotypes emerge when exposed to the proper stimuli. You might have a genetic predisposition for freckles, but if you never go into the sun, you'll never know it. Third, nobody ever said it was genetic -- this argument is always made in a vacuum.
Homosexuality is associated with destructive outcomes: AIDS, a much higher risk of STDs, roughly three times the rate of alcoholism and drug abuse, much more promiscuity and domestic abuse, and a shortened life span. Male homosexuality involves frequent anal sexual contact; lesbianism involves phallic substitutes. This is graphic, but we must always remember the reality of the risks we are talking about.

Look, most of these things are just here because they sound gross to straight people. What would happen, do ya think, if gay people were treated as something other than freaks? Do you suppose their suicide rates might drop a little? Do you suppose it's possible that part of the reason gay people have a hard time is because people treat them so badly? I do.
Revealing these risks is not cruel or "hateful". In fact, the truth is the light at the end of the tunnel for many kids. Remember, the problem here is the behavior, not the person. And knowledge helps all of us identify and change our self-damaging behaviors.

Uh, when everything you say about a group of people is negative, when you think that group of people embodies evil, when you devote your time to bad-mouthing a group of people who have never done anything to you ... that's hateful. Yes, it is, sorry.

And, ok, anybody can control their behavior. Now, you need to tell us why it is worthwhile for a person who is attracted to a certain class of people to deny himself or herself the pleasure of acting on that attraction. Of course gay people can deny themselves love for their whole lives -- why should they?
This is not a "religious" issue. This is a social and health issue. Major religions affirm male-female marriage because it fits the reality of human life and has always been a foundation of civilization. However, the problems with homosexuality will be apparent to an atheist who's open-minded and wants to know the facts.

Hatred of gays does not follow from any reasoning process. In our country, in our time, it emanates almost a hundred percent from religious organizations. Now, how you get from the teaching of Jesus to hatred of homosexuals, I can't explain, but that's pretty much where it always comes from.
You don't have to apologize for this position. Just because there are a few radicals who actually might want to harm people involved in homosexuality, doesn't mean we all fit that mold - quite the opposite. This factual position is based on genuine, not artificial, compassion.

Yes, of course, I'm sure most homosexuals appreciate the compassion that people like CRC project upon them.

The next part of CRC's "talking points" document is called Frequent Claims of Homosexuality's School Supporters and How to Respond.
"Schools need to respect all students and teachers!"
We are objecting to dangerous, changeable behavior, not people. Telling the whole truth shows genuine respect. Remember, this desire is not genetic, and those involved are not some separate breed of humans!

This is a version of the "Hate the sin, love the sinner" mantra. Look, I'll give this to them. They can take all the people in America who engage in homosexuality behavior because it just seems so cool, even though they're really straight, and they can try all they want to talk them into something else. Take all your gay-by-choice-dot-com folks, and go to town, man, talk 'em into whatever you can manage.

No, this is not about behavior, it's about how somebody is.
"This intolerance is causing teens to attempt suicide!"
Youth involved in homosexual behavior may have a higher risk of suicide attempts. But these are often students who have other troubles as well-- substance abuse, school problems, unstable homes, etc. Usually, the situation shows a kid in distress. These other factors are likely to be the causative issues, rather than intolerance about homosexuality. Besides, even if the tragedy of a suicide attempt is the student's response to disapproval of homosexuality, does that indicate the disapproval was unjustified? A student could have a tragic response to parents who disapprove of him/her shooting up heroin. Would this mean legalization of drugs is the only solution for that student's welfare? This kind of thinking is a recipe for societal chaos! Reaching out while still supporting the highest standards remains the best approach.

This is a little long, isn't it? Look, you grow up, you find you're different from other people, and guess what -- you're gay! Ack! The worst thing you can imagine! Everybody is teasing you. Nobody understands you. Nobody will hang out with you ... Depressing, wouldn't you think? Well, how many of things really result from ignorance? Why do people tease you? Why won't anybody hang out with you? It's not because of what you are, it's because of what people think you are. Education could go a long way here.

Let me read this one to you again: Besides, even if the tragedy of a suicide attempt is the student's response to disapproval of homosexuality, does that indicate the disapproval was unjustified? Refer back, please, to part about being compassionate. So what if a few kids kill themselves, at least "we" expressed our opinions.
Suicide attempts arise from hopelessness. Our kids aren't always being given answers that make sense. For instance, while activists claim homosexuality is a right and kids need to be "freed" and out of the closet, why is youth suicide worse now than in the supposedly more "repressive" past? Indications are that being "out" may be a factor in youth suicide, not the opposite.

Yes, being out -- that means that other people know what you are. Is this hard to understand? Hide it, and you're ok. Once the bigots know what you are, though -- look out!
"This 'homophobia' must be stopped!" So, in other words, no disagreement with full expression of homosexuality is to be allowed? That sure sounds intolerant and repressive. Why do you want to force your beliefs on others? And, what exactly will "support" involve?

As far as I'm concerned, you are free to hate whoever you want. It doesn't bother me any. You can be as stupid as you like, as ignorant as you like ... just don't think you're going to come into Montgomery County and make the rest of us pretend we agree with you.

Tolerating intolerance would be the wrong thing to do.
"You want to censor us!"
But there's already censorship! That's what a school does - choose some things to teach and not others. Why can't parents have a say? And why can't facts be part of my child's education?

Parents can have a say. The majority of parents in Montgomery County expect to have a say, and they do not expect that their "say" will be overturned by some dirty-minded puritans with out-of-town pro bono lawyers.

Well, there you have it. The Other Side practicing what to say. Don't they sound helpful and kind?

Today I was talking with a guy from another state -- no, Chris, it was not Alabama-- and he said, "Where I live, those people are the majority, there's nothing you can do about them."

Well, in Montgomery County, Maryland, they are not the majority. There is something we can do about them. Please join with us to keep this a great place to live.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Gay Gene Found

Well, at least for fruit flies. But this is a very interesting development. These researchers have succeeded in producing homosexual insects, which in itself isn't really something you'd want to think about for a long time. But in this day and age where the PFOX types chant the mantra "There is no gay gene," it is meaningful that, at least somewhere in the animal kingdom, there is in fact a gay gene. Modifying it turns female fruit flies into lesbians, and makes males try to hit on one another.
When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction.

The observing scientist looked with disbelief at the show, for the suitor in this case was not a male, but a female that researchers had artificially endowed with a single male-type gene.

That one gene, the researchers are announcing today in the journal Cell, is apparently by itself enough to create patterns of sexual behavior - a kind of master sexual gene that normally exists in two distinct male and female variants.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that females given the male variant of the gene acted exactly like males in courtship, madly pursuing other females. Males that were artificially given the female version of the gene became more passive and turned their sexual attention to other males.

"We have shown that a single gene in the fruit fly is sufficient to determine all aspects of the flies' sexual orientation and behavior," said the paper's lead author, Dr. Barry Dickson, senior scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. "It's very surprising. For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation

Of course, the sex lives of fruit flies are ... simpler ... than those of human beings. So don't look for a single gene to flip people's sexual preferences any time soon.
The results are certain to prove influential in debates about whether genes or environment determine who we are, how we act and, especially, our sexual orientation, although it is not clear now if there is a similar master sexual gene for humans.

Still, experts said they were both awed and shocked by the findings. "The results are so clean and compelling, the whole field of the genetic roots of behavior is moved forward tremendously by this work," said Dr. Michael Weiss, chairman of the department of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. "Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science."

He added: "I never chose to be heterosexual; it just happened. But humans are complicated. With the flies we can see in a simple and elegant way how a gene can influence and determine behavior."

The finding supports scientific evidence accumulating over the past decade that sexual orientation may be innately programmed into the brains of men and women.

Ho! Back up. I'm going to reprint a sentence for those who skip through the quoted passages.

"Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science."

Isn't that an interesting concept? Like, imagine if the public schools were able to teach about sexual orientation as a scientific concept, and not just as an evaluative judgment. Imagine treating gay students as if there was nothing wrong with them, talking about the whole thing like the biological surprise that it is.

Hey, I'm wondering something. What do the fundamentalists think about genes? Do they believe that God made genes that control physical development and, as we see here, behavioral predispositions -- but not evolution, which works by modifying those genes? They like to say "There is no gay gene," so they must believe that genes exist, and they obviously agree that it is possible for one to control sexual orientation. But what will they do when a "gay gene" is actually found? Will genetics be thrown on the heretical junk-heap like other scientific truths that make Biblical explanations of empirical phenomena more difficult?

And before we run this down by saying, it only applies to bugs, let's remember that one of the main reasons biologists study fruit-fly chromosomes is just that their lives are short -- a generation can come and go very quickly, and you can see what the effect of a change is. The same processes apply, and in fact many of the same exact genes exist on fruit-fly and human chromosomes.

Jokes Through (Modern) History

Jokes from Sunset Man, whose blog is subtitled, "A man in the sunset years of his life."
Old joke:
What do you call couples who use the rhythm method to control conception?
New joke:
What do you call parents who teach abstinence to their teenagers to prevent pregnancy?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Times Summarizes the Situation

The Times has a nice summary of the MCPS sex-ed situation this morning.
Montgomery County parents are seeking to gain more influence over how public schools teach their children about sex by applying for advisory committees, and are working on long-term strategies for activism.

"We see our little organization continuing to grow and addressing issues maybe in a broader range, maybe in the state level," said Michelle Turner, a parent and president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), which won a federal lawsuit against the school system's new sex-education course.

"If we can have success here, and some of these issues we have concerns about are coming from the state Board of Education, then maybe we need to take a look at what's happening there." Montgomery parents seek more say on sex education

We at know that there is a danger that groups like (Ex-)Recall spread out to other issues. CRC starts in the schools, demanding that the public schools ignore hugely important aspects of human sexuality that challenge certain cherry-picked Biblical values. Other groups start elsewhere, in science and research, for instance, "cleaning up" any theoretical or methodological features that might not meet a puritanical standard, or in families' private health decisions. Our particular battleground is the public classroom, where not only sex-ed but biology is under attack, in the form of teaching nonscientific theories, literature is under attack as good books by minority authors are removed from the classroom, history is under attack as facts are edited, moved, and removed.
The school system is required by law to set up the committee. But school officials have said they intend to "reconstitute" it, which means all aspects of the panel -- number of members, length of terms, amount of influence -- are subject to change.

"We'll be watching the whole process very carefully," said Jim Kennedy, a parent and co-founder of (TTF), which supported the curriculum.

Several parents from TTF and CRC have applied for positions on the committee.

Applicants for openings on the previous citizens committee have received letters thanking them, and telling them that their names will be retained when the new committee is formed. It is all very vague, as this article makes clear, and no one seems to know what is going to happen next.
School officials could not say who is eligible for the new panel. However, the committee likely will play a less significant role.

The school board has tasked Superintendent Jerry D. Weast with developing the new course and voted that "the new Revisions shall be developed by professional educators within MCPS and consultants, appointed by the superintendent."

The new revisions will be given to the citizens advisory committee "for review and consultation, to the degree deemed appropriate by the superintendent," the board decided.

TTF is hoping that the public school system doesn't intend to make any substantive changes to the course.

"They didn't say they would do it any different. They just said they would do it over again," said Mr. Kennedy. "The school district is taking back the power."

But we don't know what the lawyers are talking about -- that's the great mystery here. Who knows what deals they're dreaming up?
But Mrs. Turner said she is worried that the schools are trying to disentangle themselves from negotiations with CRC and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), the group that joined the lawsuit against the curriculum.

"While the board is obviously feeling the heat from parents ... we feel it is trying to do an end-run around the suit," Mrs. Turner said.

"In its public statements, the board claims absolute authority over the curriculum. Nowhere does it state a willingness to come together with us parents to make sure the curriculum meets community standards."

The schools had better not negotiate with CRC and PFOX, that's all I have to say. They have no favored status in curriculum development, and are simply a special interest group, like the Flat Earth Society would be in designing a Geology course.

This "parents" thing could be an Achilles heel for CRC, y'know. For one thing, they are not mostly a group of MCPS parents. Lots of white hair at their meetings, lots of older folks, lots of home-schoolers and private-schoolers. For another thing,parents in Montgomery County do not agree with them. MC parents are liberal by a long shot. There may be some uneasiness about homosexuality, but we are not a county of haters. CRC's approach, that's it's all so terribly sinful and immoral, just won't fly here. So it they want "parents" to be involved in the process, they will be cutting their own throats.

And I do love the "end run around the suit" comment. The suit itself was an end-run around the wishes of the people of Montgomery County. CRC/PFOX/Liberty Counsel established the precedent of end-runs. I hope MCPS has a successful end-run around the lawsuit. It would mean the taxpayers' lawyers are doing their job.

And as far as community standards, is happy with that. The new curriculum did meet community standards. It didn't meet the standards of certain religious extremists. CRC had better watch out what they wish for.
Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill said the lawsuit brought by CRC and PFOX was the reason she voted to scrap the course.

"We're no less committed to moving forward on the issue of sexual variations," she said.

Stephen Abrams, the lone Republican on the school board, said it was "clear" that the school board's adoption of Mr. Weast's resolution means that the new curriculum will be constructed "within the professional component of the system, instead of as a negotiation between outside groups."

The resolution states that the school system "retains the sole right and responsibility for determining the content of all curriculum."

Yes, Mr. Abrams agrees that the curriculum should not be the result of negotiation with extremists.

The school board is responsible for what happens next, and the school board is elected by the people. CRC is not "the people," but a tiny noisy minority. The citizens here want a fair and objective treatment of homosexuality and an informative presentation to teens about how to best avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease, and it appears the school board intends to give it to them.

And we support that.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Some Fear Ripple Effect, Yes

The Washington Blade had a really good story Friday. See, Montgomery County isn't the only place with a problem. Seems the last presidential elections encouraged people of the sanctimonious persuasion into thinking they were going to push everyone aside and set up their own way of doing things in the school districts everywhere. So as America marched blithely into the light, these guys were hoping to throw it into darkness, and this whole "moral values mandate" thing made them believe it was time to flip the switch.

And now that the Liberty Counsel lawyers outfoxed the ones that nap and play checkers for MCPS, the Prudish Minority has determined that their time is now.

Some observers fear the recent hullabaloo over inclusion of gay topics in Montgomery County's sex education classes may cross county and even state lines and prompt changes in other schools.

Each state has a sexuality education mandate and some departments of education provide additional guidelines. The context of these mandates and guidelines vary from state to state and even from school to school.

"There is no uniform policy on any of this," said Martha Kempner of the Sexuality Information & Education Council of the United States.

Because some school districts fear controversy, they preemptively self censor their curriculum, Kempner said. Adopting a program that could be deemed controversial can mean schools fight the battle alone.

"It's leaving schools and teachers flailing without guidelines," she said. "Controversy often has chilling effects."

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted to create a new sex education program last month, after two anti-gay groups sued the school district over complaints that the revised curriculum "normalized" homosexuality. Some fear sex ed flap's ripple effect

Now, for Those Who Need Everything Spelled Out For Them, The Blade is Washington DC's gay newspaper. So a reference to "normalizing homosexuality" here is read a l-i-t-t-l-e differently than when, say, The Times says it. And when they say "anti-gay," which is perfectly accurate, readers know what the implication is. They are famiiar with the syndrome.
The debate in Montgomery County has already inspired some parents in Fairfax County, Va., to form their own version of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum — a Maryland group that opposed the revised sex education program — to protest their board's approval of pamphlets on emergency contraception, as reported in the Washington Times.

Prince George's County is also updating its curriculum, a process that began months ago. Its sex education program includes discussions of homosexuality.

Richard Cohen of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays said he is watching the situations in Prince George's County and Fairfax closely.

"We will definitely request they include resources and information on coming out of homosexuality," Cohen said. "Let it be known PFOX is on the move."

Richard Cohen ... Richard Cohen ... mmm, that name is familiar, isn't it? Oh yes, the one who was expelled from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations. Why, I'll bet he is watching this situation. Guys like him can do very well in these circumstances.

A little ways down the story -- which I recommend you read, I hate having to skip parts, but it's just too long -- we hear from the Liberty Counsel guys who won the case here in Montomery County:
"Under the guise of tolerance," educators are teaching that homosexuality is "normal and natural" — "a very chic alternative," he said.

"This [Montgomery County] case sends a message that schools must honor and respect the rights of parents and their children," Staver said. "It jeopardizes significant resources to defend and lose a case like this."

Love that, eh? Jeopardizes significant resources. Dude, when you live here, the phrase is; Wastes a hell of a lot of taxpayers' money. Whether you win or lose, it's a betting game. The Prudish Minority has free lawyers, the school district has to pay for theirs. Guess who can afford to bluff. Guess who has to throw in their cards.
It's a delicate balance between local control and state involvement, agrees Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays.

He said that local curriculum created through a community-oriented process, as it was in Montgomery County, is a model for other districts. Rather than state intervention, Huckaby wants departments of education to proclaim that schools should only teach "scientifically based" materials.

"Schools have to decide to teach science or teach fiction," Huckaby said.

I like that: science or fiction. Yes, that's good.

Go read this. The Blade has interviewed some good people, not just the usual suspects. They're looking at some different angles of this situation.

We need to pay attention. We need to stand strong. Cuz that starboard wing is definitely flappin'.

County Council of PTAs Resolution Against CRC

The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum used PTA student directories to send mass-mailings to homes of families with kids in the schools that were going to used in the sex-ed curriculum pilot testing. The Montgomery County Council of PTAs considers that a breach of their regulations, and has written up a resolution, which was passed by the council Executive Board last night.

So far, the CRC's response to these complaints has been to ignore them. It appears that they believe that their mission is so important that it is necessary sometimes to break the rules in order to alert parents to the grave danger their children would suffer if they were to learn about gay people.

Here's the resolution, as it was passed:
Resolution Adopted By The MCCPTA Executive Board June 2, 2005

WHEREAS each school year the local PTA units of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA) typically compile and publish student directories that include personal and potentially sensitive information such as the names, street addresses and telephone numbers of students whose parents have agreed to have such information included, and

WHEREAS by common knowledge and accepted practice these directories are intended exclusively for the private use of the PTA and the local PTA communities to facilitate communication within their communities, and are not intended to be used for any other purpose, and

WHEREAS the president of an organization calling itself the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum (CRC) has privately to conceded to MCCPTA officers that CRC surreptitiously obtained copies of selected student directories and used the information in these directories to develop a mailing list for a purpose inconsistent with the intended or appropriate use of the directories, and

WHEREAS this misuse of student directories by CRC has caused substantial concern among parents within the affected PTA communities, and

WHEREAS the PTAs in the affected communities are justifiably concerned that fears about potential future misuse of student directories could lead parents to withhold student directory information, thereby impairing a critical PTA asset,

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the MCCPTA Executive Board objects in the strongest terms to the misuse of student directories by the CRC, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MCCPTA Executive Board strongly believes that the CRC should respond promptly and completely to all questions and concerns raised by local PTA units about the sources and intended uses of their student directory information, specifically identifying any instances in which this information may have already been sold or otherwise made available to another individual or entity, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MCCPTA Executive Board strongly believes that the CRC should agree in writing to cease using information obtained from PTA student directories, and to return to the affected PTAs all copies of their directory information now in the possession of CRC, in whatever form the information may exist, or certify in writing that this information has been destroyed, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MCCPTA Executive Board strongly believes that CRC should concede in writing that its use of student directory information was inappropriate and agree that it will refrain from any future similar use of PTA student directory information.

In a letter to The Gazette on May 18th, the CRC's secretary wrote:
We make no apologies, and defend our actions as the right thing to do in light of the judge's clear ruling on the pilot.

In other words, the ends justified the means.

Let's watch where this one goes. One senses an impending train-wreck.

Teaching Facts: Friday Wrap-up

The recent lawsuit and suspension of the curriculum has left MCPS at a crossroads. Nobody is really sure what is going to happen next. Let me ramble on, please, about a couple of things I'd like to see and not-see in the next version.

Sexual variation. The state has mandated that the curriculum will cover sexual variation. This means that sexual orientation must be included -- teachers have to talk about gay people. Yeah, that's a can o' worms, because some people think that homosexuality is immoral. The students won't have a problem with it, and the health teachers are begging for this topic to be included, but some community members -- "parents" is too strong a word -- take any objective description to be "promotion" of homosexuality. Like you could talk a couple of straight teenage boys into trying being gay, because it sounds so cool. The schools need to present the facts objectively. They had planned to do that, and it needs to be in the next plan, too.

Ex-gays. DO NOT belong in the curriculum. Anybody can choose to conduct themselves in any way they want, and if they choose to change their behavior, they are free to do that. If we believe a certain anti-abortion activist, most children raised in the country have sex with the farm animals. We assume they stop at some point. Montgomery County has farms -- does this mean the curriculum should include ex-bestiality-practicers? How about ex-masturbators? Shouldn't they get equal time? Oh, come on, we've talked about this ex-gay thing before. There're lots of interesting and important sexual topics, and ex-gays are way down the list. How about teaching students about date-rape, or even rape itself? You parents, do you hear the stories I hear? Girls don't report this stuff, and they don't learn anything about it in school. But it happens every day. Nobody really believes you can change your sexual orientation, let's not waste their time on that, when there are more important topics that we're not covering.

Condoms. Regardless of how many times the Chastity Police tell you that condoms don't protect you from this or that, they're sure a whole lot better than nothing. Read HERE what the CDC says about them: For persons whose sexual behaviors place them at risk for STDs, correct and consistent use of the male latex condom can reduce the risk of STD transmission. Period. The new curriculum must have instruction on proper condom use. The new video was pretty good. If they want to improve it, fine, but it was definitely going in the right direction -- it had lots of good advice. Making fun of it because it uses a cucumber is obvious (the Washington Times finds "veggie sex" to be just the most hilarious thing in the world) and not very funny.

Religion. This is a good one, because the Liberty Counsel lawyers cleverly turned the issue around. There doesn't need to be any judgmental discussion of any religion. There also must not be any statements that are particular to one religion. Again, the ex-gay thing: I don't think you will find many, if any, non-religious sources of information about so-called ex-gays. Some churches like the concept of ex-gays because it assumes that being gay is bad, to start with. The schools don't need to tell anybody what's a sin. Chastity, too, is a religious concept, not a scientific one, it doesn't belong in the classroom.

Science. Science is the process of discovering and improving knowledge. Scientists are not in a hundred per cent agreement about everything, and everything in the world is not yet known. But there are certain things that scientists -- real scientists, not employees of religious organizations with the word "research" somewhere in the name -- do agree about. Sexual orientation is not a choice, and not a disease. Condoms stop the passage of sperm and microbes. The curriculum should be in conformance with the codes of ethics of scientific organizations: no reparative therapy. If religious nuts want to argue about that, let them argue on the sidelines. There is no reason to confuse our children with opinions that have been rejected by the experts in the field.

Meeting with CRC/PFOX. These organizations had some success in a court of law, forcing the district to shut down the new curriculum. That does not in any way suggest that they have the support of the majority of parents in this county. It only means they had the smarter lawyers. MCPS has to deal with the restraining order issued by Judge Williams, and to that end they must meet whatever standards the judge imposes. The vast majority of complaints mentioned in the lawsuit, however, were ignored by the judge. MCPS should be under no obligation to teach the kind of Sunday-school sex-ed that CRC would like to demand of them, and PFOX should not have any say at all in the design of the curriculum. Both groups should be permitted to have representation on the citizens committee, if such a committee is even assembled; they had members on the previous committee, and that's fine, but they have not won the right to take over the process.

In sum. The world is not about gay people, they're just people. A couple of days explaining who they are, how they feel, what they do, cool -- kids deserve and need that information. One good thing about the proposed changes was the way they blended and balanced this information in the classroom. Yes, indeeed, there are families with two mommies. Just a fact. Let the nuts become as indignant as they want -- and I understand that some of them really think their own marriages are endangered by this fact, but I don't understand why -- it remains a fact. Yes, kids growing up gay have issues with self-esteem, reputation, bullying. These are parts of the real world, any kid who has made it to eighth grade has seen it with their own eyes. They won't be shocked, but it is possible that they would benefit from a little objective information.

It is tricky to balance the fact that parents want their children to remain sexually abstinent with the other fact, that about half of the teenagers in America won't. The curriculum will encourage restraint from sex, but must also give information about what to do to have sex safely. We talk as if they were going to remain teenagers their whole lives -- no, what they learn in high school may come in handy ten years from now, it's just information, just knowledge. I trust that the health educators will be able to come up with something that addresses both truths.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ex-Ex-Recall? Looks Like It

Y'know, I could just swear I heard somebody from CRC say they didn't want to recall the school board. Yes, it comes back to me now. Back when their URL was, I heard one of their members tell the school board, to their face, something like, "We don't want to recall you, that's just the name of the web site." As I remember, at least one school board member laughed out loud at that one. And I remember reading it in The Gazette, a long time ago, somebody saying, "I do not wish to recall the school board. I know a number of them, and they are in a very difficult position."

And then you remember the big hubbub, when they got the "new" web site, and said, see, we don't want to recall the school board, we've got a different name now. And thus they became the Ex-Recall group.

And then the Recall group split off again, and re-opened the Recall site (but it was never the same). So there were two, Recall and Ex-Recall, and Ex-Recall, now calling themselves CRC, swore they didn't have anything to do with those guys who wanted to recall the school board.

Totally separate, they said. We love the school board, we don't want to recall them.

So you wonder why their secretary is still using the Recall email address. If you go to the Recall bulletin board, you'll see a posting dated May 19th, 2005 -- just two weeks ago -- attributed to:
Theresa Rickman

People wonder, is CRC the same as, or do they just overlap?

Like, I wonder if somebody sent email to, using some different names of people who have said they don't want to recall the school board... would that email bounce back? Or are they still, quietly, maintaining the Recall identity? Please, don't do it, I was just wondering. You know what the answer is.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Holier-Than-Thou Crowd Propagates Nasty Stuff

I spend some time looking around the Internet at news and commentary regarding sex-ed topics, not only here in Montgomery County -- which has generated a lot of discussion across the country -- but in other places.

Recently there was an event up in Massachusetts that the holier than thou crowd just loves to write about. It was a lapse of good judgment, without a doubt (like that never happens on their side).

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) sponsored a workshop in Brookline, Mass. They rented a middle school for their conference, and various groups exhibited products and topics for discussion and education.

Well, one of the groups brought some copies of The Little Black Book - Queer in the 21st Century. This book is written for adult gays by gays, in a sort of, well, I think it's a sort of dumb-sounding slang, using usually the least socially-acceptable term possible for body parts and activities. Fact is, most adults will know what most of these words are, which is kind of interesting in its own right ... The book definitely doesn't have a glossary in the back, in fact in the back there is a list of bars with names like "Jacques" and "Manray" and "Ramrod."

A group brought these books to the conference, and when they packed up and left, they left the books on the table for anybody to pick up. As history would have it, one person who picked up a copy was a 73-year-old lady from an organization called Article 8 Alliance. Click on the link and I think you'll pretty quickly get the gist of this group.

When this little old lady got home and looked in her paisley shopping-bag, she realized she'd struck gold. Her trembling hands dialed the Home Office to tell them that she'd found it, the Proof of the Gay Agenda that they'd always dreamed of but had never seen.

The part that's interesting to me is the role that the dirty-minded puritans have in propagating something like The Little Black Book. Had you ever heard of that book? Me neither. What are the chances that John and Susie Q. Public would ever come across a book that gave explicit, foul-mouthed instructions on things like the hygiene of anal sex?

Well, they will now.

Google for Little Black Book and the word "gay" (without "gay" you get a lot of unrelated stuff) and see who has this story:

... you get the idea. This explicit, crude, graphic how-to book of gay sex is linked by a whole bunch of conservative and religious web sites, a whole bunch of them. Most of the main ones, in fact.

Now, it's funny, a lot of times when we're talking to reporters about sex-ed in Montgomery County public schools, they ask us, "What do you think motivates the people who oppose the curriculum?" I was stupid enough to attempt to answer the question back when I was younger, say, in January or February. Now, I've got nothing to say. I used to say I thought they were motivated by hate, but I haven't said that for a while.

Privately, we do wonder among ourselves why somebody decides to devote his or her life to proving that homosexuality is a menace, and that gay people with their notorious "agenda" are busily working to take over the world. Every once in a while they'll drop you a clue.

OK, the religion thing, there are a couple of verses in the Bible about it. But that's too easy -- everybody knows there are verses about everything, like letting your dairy products touch your meat, or coveting your neighbor's stuff. But these guys don't get upset about food, or coveting -- they are obsessed by gay people. It can't be that gay people are just people, somehow these characters have to make it all out to be an Evil Plan. And why? Mmm, I wouldn't know.

This "little black book." How many people would have seen it, sitting on the table at a conference? They say there were ten copies out there. Let's imagine then that ten people could have picked it up. Half would throw it in their bag and never look at it again, and half would go, wow man, look at this, and show it to a friend, and then throw it out.

But now, thanks to the Dirty-Minded Puritan Network on the Internet, probably tens of thousands of people have clicked on that link. Tens of thousands of them have sat at their computers, reading about the details of gay sex in graphic, four-letter pornocolor.

Is it just me, or does that strike you as a little weird?