Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Interesting Survey on Religion in America

Very interesting survey results came out this week, on the relationships between religion and politics in America. The New York Times tells us about it:
In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released yesterday found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

The poll was conducted July 7-17 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The questions about evolution were asked of 2,000 people. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points. Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey

Now, what's interesting to me is not the fact that a lot of Americans believe what they've been told in Sunday school. That's not surprising at all. The interesting thing is, well, that the survey would think to ask a question like "Do you believe schools should teach creationism along with evolution, or instead of evolution?" The weird thing is that people think they know what the schools should teach on such a technical subject.

Do you know the difference between a genotype and a phenotype? How about RNA -- can you explain how that works? How does evolution affect the probability distribution of a phenotype over generations? The nucleotides in DNA -- what are they, and how do they work together?

See, this isn't the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. This is science. People walking around the streets don't have the knowledge to decide what the school should teach.

Take a different topic. You know, there are several ways to find the solution to a system of polynomial equations -- are they equally good? Which one should the schools teach? Does it matter what parents think?

Of course not.

You don't vote on what to do when an equation has imaginary roots. You don't ask people to come to a consensus on the symbolism in Silas Marner. People don't get to petition the school board to teach that all iambic pentameter should have four stressed syllables. You don't try to make the schools leave out a certain planet, say Saturn, when they teach about the solar system.

And in sex ed, the same thing. There's no argument about whether condoms prevent pregnancy and stop the spread of infections. They do. There's no question about whether homosexuality is a sickness. It's not. These aren't things you vote on, it doesn't matter if most people are unaware of the facts. The school district has the responsibility to teach the facts, not the prevailing popular mythology.

If you're interested in this stuff, I recommend you go check out the full results of this survey at Public Divided on Origins of Life: Religion A Strength And Weakness For Both Parties.

Competing Theories of Folk Psychology

I'm scrolling through the news stories, and see that the blogosphere is totally polarized over this news that somebody at the UN is blaming American fundamentalists for some of the failure to stop the African AIDS epidemic. As MSNBC has it:
The U.S. government's emphasis on abstinence-only programs to prevent AIDS is hobbling Africa's battle against the pandemic by downplaying the role of condoms, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Stephen Lewis, the U.N. secretary general's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said fundamentalist Christian ideology was driving Washington's AIDS assistance program known as PEPFAR with disastrous results, including condom shortages in Uganda.

The Bush administration favors prevention programs that focus on abstinence rather than condom use and has more than doubled funding for U.S. abstinence-only programs over the past five years.

As part of President Bush's global AIDS plan, the U.S. government has already budgeted about $8 million this year for abstinence-only projects in Uganda, human rights groups say.

Severe shortage of condoms
Activists in both Uganda and the United States say the country is now in the grip of condom shortage so severe that men are using plastic garbage bags in an effort to protect themselves.

"There is no question in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by PEPFAR and by the extreme policies that the administration in the U.S. is now pursuing in the emphasis on abstinence," Lewis told journalists on a teleconference.

"That distortion of the preventive apparatus ... is resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."

Many health experts say condoms are the most effective bulwark against AIDS. U.S. abstinence push may be hurting AIDS fight

I'm not going to comment on the original article, but on the commentary that has broken out over it. There are two distinct views on this topic. One view agrees that American puritans have indeed made it harder to fight the AIDS epidemic, by demanding that Africans abstain from sex rather than practice it safely. The other side feels that it is obvious that abstinence is, in fact, the solution to the problem -- if Africans would just stop having sex, then AIDS would go away.

It's classic.

These are not opposing points of view. Raise your hand if you think that abstaining from sex will prevent the spread of AIDS. Is that everybody? Yes. Everybody agrees that abstinence would be wonderful, as far as AIDS goes.

So both sides agree on that. Now, raise your hand if you think that it is in fact possible that American fundamentalists have influenced policy, and that it is true that the US only supports abstinence programs. Hmmm, again, that looks like everybody.

OK, everybody agrees on the facts.

I think what they don't agree about is a theory of human behavior, what we call "folk psychology."

Theory 1: People are biological creatures, evolved to seek and engage in sexual behavior. They have control over their impulses, but not every single person is going to exercise full lockdown control in every passionate situation.

Theory 2: People are moral beings and must learn to exercise self-control. Those who don't deserve whatever consequences they get.

I hope I have summarized the theories fairly, because I clearly have a favorite, Theory 1. Human beings, like all living things, have a deep drive to reproduce, which nature has cleverly implemented by making sexual behavior very pleasurable. On the other hand, human society is ordered around the idea that we have control over our sexual expression. Marriage, in its many forms, is a feature of every human society on the earth. Those who talk these days about "traditional marriage" are being provincial and self-serving, there are many kinds of marriages, including polygyny, polyandry, arranged monogamy, patrilocal and matrilocal marriages and all kinds of weird variations, and there are numerous other arrangements for sexual contact and sexual behavior permitted by various societies to accommodate the fact that sex is primordial and ubiquitous and enjoyable. It appears to be a basic requirement of any society that it provides some structure for sexual relationships, in order to ensure that the paternity of children is known with some degree of certainty, and that children who are born will be taken care of to adulthood.

Nowhere on the planet earth is there a society that believes that sex can simply be turned off by willpower. The idea is silly, and denies the fact that sex is more profound than any social norm. It is not realistic to think that people can just stop being sexual, and we have seen that every attempt to influence public behavior by blocking sex has resulted in sex finding a loophole, a way to continue, routing around the prohibitions.

Everyone agrees that people have the ability to control their sexual impulses. But it seems to me that some people are in denial about the fact that self-control is not one hundred per cent effective. Even some famous televangelists who preach about abstinence and self-control and the sin of adultery have found themselves on the front pages of the newspapers, begging their flocks for understanding and forgiveness. Self-control is tough, hard work.

The funny thing is that sexual behavior does not require a reason. While some couples have sex in order to become pregnant, sexual intercourse is so attractive, and sexual desires so compelling, that people engage in it whether they desire to reproduce or not. Sometimes the choice of a partner is not well considered -- it is not always a spouse or committed significant other. Sometimes the circumstances are less than ideal, as well, as sex is sometimes a phenomenon of opportunity rather than careful planning. It's not pretty, but it's real.

And so it happens. Those who insist that unmarried Africans should simply stop having sex are living in the same dream world as those who think it should be sufficient simply to tell American teens not to have sex. We need to deal with the reality of human beings, and not try to force the round peg of human nature into the square hole of unattainable self-control.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Computation

Atrios, at Eschaton, has only this to say:
This Washington Post column is, perhaps, the stupidest thing I have *ever* read.

I went through it, and wow ... I agree.

Columnist Sally Jenkins' rumination on Intelligent Design wanders from topic to topic. She seems to like the idea that athletes are "transcendental," in the sense that they can do things the rest of us can't. Then she gets into the idea that athletes do stupid stuff. She lists a couple of dumb things that jocks have done ... well, you don't need Google for that. Then she gets to her point. She wants to talk about Intelligent Design:
But athletes also are explorers of the boundaries of physiology and neuroscience, and some intelligent design proponents therefore suggest they can be walking human laboratories for their theories.

First, let's get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is a form of sly creationism. It isn't. ID is unfairly confused with the movement to teach creationism in public schools. The most serious ID proponents are complexity theorists, legitimate scientists among them, who believe that strict Darwinism and especially neo-Darwinism (the notion that all of our qualities are the product of random mutation) is inadequate to explain the high level of organization at work in the world. Creationists are attracted to ID, and one of its founding fathers, University of California law professor Phillip Johnson, is a devout Presbyterian. But you don't have to be a creationist to think there might be something to it, or to agree with Johnson when he says, "The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that." Just Check the ID

But of course that's wrong. Evolutionary theory has no problem explaining "marvels" like these. Remember, life has had five billion years to work these things out. Eyes and lungs and cells exist in many types in various species, and the evolutionary descent of modern forms is not really mysterious at all. It may be amazing to us as humans, but the process of evolution is clearly sufficiently powerful to produce these complex forms.

Oh, and let's get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is anything besides a form of sly creationism. That's all it is. None of its adherents are "legitimate scientists," as she asserts, at least they are not legitimate scientists who publish research on ID. Simply stated, it is not science.

As she mentions later in the story:
Crackpot speculation? Maybe -- maybe not. ID certainly lacks a body of scientific data, and opponents are right to argue that the idea isn't developed enough to be taught as equivalent to evolution.

Look, there's no data. There are no publications. There is no theory.

It is crackpot speculation, and nothing else. There's no maybe about it. If it "lacks a body of scientific data," it's just plain not science, it is exactly crackpot speculation -- did an editor look at this? It is simply irresponsible for a paper like The Post to lead uneducated readers down this path.

One thing Ms. Jenkins seems to want to say is, if this is intelligent design, how come there're so many things wrong? Why do body parts wear down and break, and not work right sometimes? But then, she wants to think that maybe, even though there's no evidence for it, it just might be true, there just might be an intelligent designer behind the complexity of life.

That's absurd. There is no evidence to support the idea, and no valid inferential chain that concludes that there is an intelligence behind life. If you want to believe in deity, you will have to take it on faith, because the empirical world does not provide any evidence one way or the other. There are no phenomena that can only be understood through reference to a deity. On the other hand, if you prefer to think that deity is behind and inside all of it, there's no evidence to prove you wrong. Science and religion don't need to be in conflict, unless they both try to explain the same phenomena. And that's where different ones of us prefer to accept one kind of answer or another. Me, I like the explanation with the evidence.

I'm going to mention something real quick here and get off it, because I don't think people will find it very interesting. But I have never seen anyone else make this case.

There are some mathematical and engineering problems that are so hard, nobody knows how to solve them. There might be a lot of variables, and maybe every time you change the value of one, it changes the effects of all the others. There may be combinations of values that produce a pretty good solution, but better solutions exist somewhere else, in a set of values that are entirely different, and you want to find those.

The best way to solve a problem like that, these days, is through the use of something called Evolutionary Computation (EC). This is a kind of computer program that starts with random guesses at the solution to the problem, and then uses Darwinian processes -- typically recombination, mutation, and selection or "survival of the fittest" -- to evolve problem solutions.

Every year I go to a couple of conferences on this topic, and know something about it (actually, I publish several papers every year on the subject), but it's a little nerdy for this blog. The reason I bring it up here is that it needs to be noted that evolutionary processes are more powerful for optimization, for instance, for tuning a species' characteristics to an environmental niche, than any known methods that rely on human "intelligent design." These random programs can do things no heuristic program can do.

PS This is a strange coincidence. Just as I wrote "I have never seen anyone else make this case," just as I was about to submit this post to the blog, I got an email from somebody over at GMU, pointing out this article in yesterday's Boston Globe: And Now, Digital Evolution.
Recent developments in computer science provide new perspective on "intelligent design," the view that life's complexity could only have arisen through the hand of an intelligent designer. These developments show that complex and useful designs can indeed emerge from random Darwinian processes.
A growing sub-field of computer science is devoted to "evolutionary computation." The user of such a system specifies the ingredients that can be used and how the "goodness" of any particular design can be measured. The system then creates and tests thousands or millions of random combinations of the ingredients. The better combinations are allowed to produce "children" by mutation (random changes) and recombination (random part-swapping). This often produces, after many generations, genuinely novel and useful designs and inventions.

Evolutionary computation has proven to be useful for solving practical problems. It has been adopted by researchers and engineers, and it is the focus of scholarly journals and international conferences.

Go read the article, it is better than my little description.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Fred and Dino Together in California

Here's a little story about some nuts out in California, courtesy of the L. A. Times -- look, do you want these people deciding what the public school district is going to teach your kids?
The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least half a dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking to win converts to creationism. And more are on the way.

"We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group building a $25-million creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., that's already overrun with model sauropods and velociraptors.

"They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people," he said. "Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star."

The nation's top paleontologists find the creation theory preposterous and say children are being misled by dinosaur exhibits that take the Jurassic out of "Jurassic Park."

"Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark? Give me a break," said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution. "For them, 'The Flintstones' is a documentary." Adam, Eve and T. Rex

There's more, but I wouldn't bother to read it if I were you. These people are just as dumb as you can imagine, and then a little more.

But I gotta remember that Flintstones line.

Religious Groups Sue to Lower Academic Standards

There is an anti-education movement in this country, opposing the teaching of accurate science-based knowledge and honestly expressive culture. An active cell here in Montgomery County has been campaigning tirelessly against our public school district; on the other hand, our group,, exists to support knowledge-based education in our public schools.

When you apply to enter a university, they rate you according to what high-school classes you have taken. You can imagine why this is. If you have one kid taking physics and calculus, and another one taking PE and band, even if they both got A's, you'd expect the kid with the math and science to get preference over the other one -- they appear to be a better and more serious student.

Some schools are substituting religion for history, science, math, literature, and guess what -- the universities don't want to give students credit for that.

So now some religious groups are suing, hoping that activist judges will force universities to lower their academic admission standards.
Amid the growing national debate over the mixing of religion and science in America's classrooms, University of California admissions officials have been accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles federal court Thursday by the Assn. of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 religious schools in the state, and by the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000.

Under a policy implemented with little fanfare a year ago, UC admissions authorities have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution, the suit says.

Other courses rejected by UC officials include "Christianity's Influence in American History," "Christianity and Morality in American Literature" and "Special Providence: American Government."

The 10-campus UC system requires applicants to complete a variety of courses, including science, mathematics, history, literature and the arts. But in letters to Calvary Chapel, university officials said some of the school's Christian-oriented courses were too narrow to be acceptable. Christian Schools Bring Suit Against UC

American education is already a national embarrassment. American students already lag behind much of the civilized world in almost every subject.

It is a truism to say that knowledge is power -- everybody says it, everybody knows it's true. The saying means that the person who possesses knowledge has the ability to make good, self-empowering decisions. But there is another side to it: we could say, ignorance feeds power. An ignorant population is easier to manipulate. For instance, if every decision is depicted as a choice between good and evil, and a leader can insinuate that God Himself takes one position on an issue, then those who have been taught not to reason will take that position without question or consideration. It leads to a very pliable populace, and even though they may as individuals feel that they are making their own choices, this hardly meets the criterion of a "free" society. It is crucial to us as patriotic Americans to promote education that teaches students to reason with facts.

Our local fight takes place in the middle and high schools. Many of these young students, admittedly, will go into the workplace right after twelfth grade. It is arguable then that the schools should be training them to cope with the low-skill, low-paying jobs they will be going into. But according to the Census Bureau, about 38 per cent of Marylanders will end up with Bachelors degrees or higher -- ours is one of the top states for attaining a college education. The universties should be devoted to scholarship, they should be the focus of research and culture and serious thought -- university erudition should be the pinnacle of the American education process, not something that gets pushed around by political and religious interests; the university should not be an institution, like network TV, say, that panders to the preferences of the majority. This California lawsuit is a direct attack on the centers of higher learning -- it is not enough that these people undereducate their own children in the private schools, now they intend to create lower standards for everyone.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Transcripts of Public Comments at the BOE Meeting on 8-25-05

There were 15 speakers scheduled, 13 of whom showed up to give Public Comments to the Montgomery County Board of Education. Here are transcripts made from a videotape recording of the meeting of some of the speakers:

Speaker #1 Ruth Jacobs
A man came to me for a sexually transmitted disease. He was a well-developed, muscular man. He stated he was taking steroids. Routine lab work was done and I called him in dismay about the results. Both anabolic and female steroids/hormones can cause liver damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, stroke, blood clots, irritability, and depression. Recently, the suicide risk of androgen hormones has been highlighted in the death of Rob Garibaldi, Taylor Hooton, and Ephriam Narkio. All athletes. The sudden heart attack death of former baseball star Ken Caminiti at age 41 highlighted both the risk of substance abuse and performance enhancing steroids.

Transgender youth also use steroids. They have higher than average rates of depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, school failure, family rejection, and homelessness. HIV is 35% in men transforming to females. In October 1979, sex reassignment surgery was stopped at Johns Hopkins University. The chairman wrote, "The zeal for this sex change surgery, perhaps with the exception of the frontal lobotomy, the most radical therapy ever encouraged by 20th century psychiatrists, did not derive from critical reasoning or thoughtful assessments. This sex reassignment surgery has distracted from genuine investigations attempting to find out just what has gone wrong for these people.

In the prior curriculum, MCPS was distracted from critical reasoning into embracing transgender as normal. It is wrong to promote the use of steroids and mutilating surgery to change sex as normal to our youth. MCPS must warn that the devastating risk of transgender lifestyle...

Pat O'Neill:
Thank you very much...

Speaker #3 Rosemarie Briggs
Good morning. I was encouraged to hear at the last Board of Education meeting several Montgomery County residents request that the word "marriage" be emphasized in the 8th and 10th grad health curriculum. I personally appreciate Mr. O'Neill's mention of her 34 year marriage. In my experience, teenagers need concrete words when making important decisions and setting long-term goals. "Marriage" is a concrete word.

Marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman that requires a license. Youth especially understand the meaning of a license because they are anxious to qualify for a driver's license. Marriage involves a ceremony. For most people the marriage ceremony is attended by family and friends and followed by a big celebration. Marriage is necessary to be called husband or wife. For these reasons, youth can understand that marriage is a long-term commitment with the goal of a lifetime commitment.

I believe youth are confused when parents, educators, and society throw abstract words at them. In regards to when a person should have an intimate relationship, words like mature, ready and responsible are too abstract. Imagine if the state of Maryland said a youth could drive a car when he or she feels mature, ready or responsible. I personally would not feel safe on the road.

My goal is to help teenagers look at important decisions with a long-term perspective using concrete words they are capable of understanding. Studies show a majority of youth want a good marriage and family life. Youth in other school districts are benefiting from this type of curriculum. State and federal are available to defray costs. The state of Maryland recognized the wisdom of marriage instruction with the passage of a marriage law in 2001 that provides a reduced marriage license fee for couples receiving 4 hours of instruction. Let's start this valuable instruction in high school and teach youth relationship skills to prepare them for a marriage.

Speaker #4 Matthew Lowe
Good morning. My name is Matthew Lowe and I'm a senior at Sherwood High School. I'm an Eagle Scout, Captain of the Varsity Cross Country team, straight A student and profound advocate of pro-abstinence and traditional family oriented sexual education. I wish to depict how the current options for sexual education are not satisfactory, how an alternative class is the correct solution, and to stress that education must include complete coverage.

The truth is that there are youth in this county who have not forsaken the moral fiber of their elders, who have decided for religious or moral reasons that sexual intercourse is to take place only within a marriage between one man and one woman. Yet despite these convictions, the County has constructed a curriculum opposing these beliefs, requiring students (unintelligible) to listen to degrading notions and suggestions such as homosexual role-playing and the encouraging of teens to practice mutual masturbation and watch erotic movies.

The current alternative? Those who find this material offensive must stand up in front of the whole class of peers and not really make an exit, to go find the packet as if being punished for their views. It is absolute intolerance. Tolerance is not being dismissed from an opportunity to sit in the classroom and learn, nor is it forcing misleading and offensive material against someone's moral and religious convictions into one's head. I find it simply humiliating. The correct answer is an alternative class where those who promote traditional values have the option to sit through a more censored class.

It is your responsibility as educators to teach what is best for our mental and physical health, giving us complete coverage of the topic. Premarital sex remains more dangerous than currently taught. The highs and lows that accompany the passion and excitement of sex leave the participants depressed and low on self-esteem. Depression driven suicide is 3 times more likely in sexually active girls and 8 times more likely in sexually active young men. This is absent in the new curriculum. Also in encouraging protected sex and the alternative encounters, the high rate of STDs is hardly even mentioned, despite their frequent and fatal side effects.

Thank you.

Speaker #6 Teresa Wallace
Good morning. In the early 1980s I managed several stores in downtown San Francisco. A large percentage of my employees were gay men. Most were my employees as well as my good friends. It was a time before AIDS and sexual promiscuity was rampant, encouraged, and an integral part of that community.

One of my assistant managers immersed himself in the philosophy that permeated the gay organizations and newspapers at the time which was basically anything goes sexually -- if it feels good, do it. One day this friend called in sick. Doctors thought he had mono, then leukemia. Finally after a long period of endless suffering, he died of pneumonia. Later when the AIDS virus was identified and ravaged that community, we all realized that he had the classic symptoms of AIDS and was probably one of the first to die from it there.

No one knew then that gay sex could be deadly. No one knew the risks, now one knew the facts. That ignorance resulted in untold pain, misery, and a horrible waste of human life. Today we do know the risks. For example in 2003, 63% of the newly reported HIV cases that were identified were in gay men. The gay community has significantly higher rates of rectal cancer, hepatitis B, and other STDs. In addition, Dr. Ronald Stall of the CDC stated, "We have a least four other epidemics going on among gay men. Among these are higher than average rates of partner abuse, drug abuse, and oppression." As a result, the CDC has recommended the ABC framework. A for abstinence first, B for be faithful to one partner, and C to use condoms correctly and consistently if you do choose a risky liflestyle.

This is an intelligent basic and common sense approach to sex education and I strongly encourage you to include it in the curriculum. Teaching tolerance does not mean relinquishing responsibility and white washing the facts....

Speaker #7 Sarah Fletcher
Sex is everywhere you look – on TV, in magazines, books and movies. Since we live in a society awash in sexuality, the messages kids gain about themselves and morality is extremely important but now may be harder to impart.

I was 12 years old in 6th Grade when I opted out from the sex education unit. My teacher sent me to the library with a thick packet filled with nutrition and health exercises, which he didn't even collect at the end. Although I completed the packet, I knew it was simply busy work and I remember feeling alone and bored.

Two years ago health class was a required course for graduation so I assumed we had to take all units. I wasn't told that I could opt out. When the homosexuality unit surfaced, it was taught with much laughter, awkwardness, and blunt description. While some peers joked about it, the majority felt as I felt – awkward. It assigned the same value to a committed relationship as marriage. Maybe that's why the divorce rate has risen to nearly 50%.

At the same time, I do have a gay friend and while I respect his decision and enjoy friendship, I am not interested in hearing explicitly about safe sex and anal intercourse, etc. Students who have found the courage to state their own beliefs are told that they are uninformed, naive, bigoted and even laughed at. When I said that the material violates my family and religious beliefs, I was told that the instructor would handle any trouble from my parents. I felt ridiculous. Should I have?

Family is such a main part of my life. They are the people who support me, laugh with me, teach me, and the people who I have the strongest relationships with. I believe that kids who don't want to learn or hear about homosexuality and the safe ways of intercourse shouldn't have to opt out but rather have the family unit as the main course and allow the small minority of those who'd like homosexuality information to opt out.

If the course is outlined as family life education, then let's focus more on the strength that comes between a mother, father, and children. It is my hope that the school board reevaluates the homosexual material being taught in health class in high schools and puts a stronger emphasis on family unity and relationships. It's rather funny to me that I learned about the implications of homosexual intercourse a whole year before I even had kissed a boy.

Speaker #10 Christine Grewell
Good morning Dr. Weast, President O'Neill, and Members of the Board of Education: I was going to bore you with more statistics today, but instead I have something much more exciting to share with you! is very pleased to announce that one month from today, on September 25, 2005, at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, we will host an educational forum that we call, "Teach the Facts – Just Say NOW to Comprehensive and Inclusive Health Education." Speakers will include an expert from the American Medical Association, a nationally renowned Maryland health educator, and a Montgomery County resident who is also the Sexuality Education Policy Manager at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others. is pleased to personally invite each member and officer of the Montgomery County Board of Education and Superintendent Weast to attend this educational forum. We hope you will join with us as we raise public awareness about the need to promote tolerance and fact-based health education curricula.

As we did in June of this year, we will again demonstrate the deep support in this community for teaching about and acting with mutual respect. All supporters of the newly revised curriculum feel strongly that our children should learn mutual respect for all people regardless of their own or a family member's sexual orientation. In June, recent Walt Whitman High School graduate Andrew Bennett pointed out the MCPS Student's Rights and Responsibilities Handbook states, "All students and staff will conduct themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others." In the past, this policy could not been fully followed, due to the deafening silence in the family life and human sexuality curriculum on basic information on sexual orientation. Now, finally, MCPS is on the way to fully realizing their goal of "conduct[ing] themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others."

Thank you for your efforts to ensure mutual respect for all is taught in our public schools and for this opportunity to show the community's support for your efforts. Please join us on September 25th. Thank you.

Speaker #11 Ben Patton
One of the sexual categories in what would have been introduced to our children under the now banned revised curriculum is transgender. I ask you, why do you want to teach our children that transgenderism is normal, natural, and healthy? I don't get it.

Why do you want the schools to instruct children as young as 13 about transgenderism in the first place? I don't know.

Would the discussion also have included the particular sexual practices associated with this supposed gender, perhaps fisting and rimming where participants ingest feces? Of course not.

Are you even aware that the American Psychiatric Association categorizes transgenderism as a gender identity disorder and advises children and adults so afflicted to seek therapy? It appears not.

Apparently you have sided with extremist social activists who are attempting to normalize the abnormal. In fact, a teacher's resource actually includes a reference linking a Scotsman's wearing of a kilt with transvestitism. Scotsmen wear kilts ergo they are cross-dressers; therefore cross-dressing is a normal and accepted practice in some societies.

This type of sophistry is unworthy of a major public school system. Our children should not be the lab rats of these social engineers who have a highly disturbed view of the world, especially when their agenda runs contrary to parents' deeply held religious and moral beliefs.

It is very disturbing that the disbanded Citizens Advisory Committee had several representatives peddling transgenderism as a sexual variant. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, Montgomery County Mental Health Association which were all represented on the committee, each have stated unequivocal support of the transgendered. PFLAG in fact believes, and I quote, "There is no known cure or course of treatment which reverses the transgendered persons' manifestation of the characteristics and behavior of another gender." This of course is flat earth bunk. But then again there is so much about that curriculum that was false and misleading let's not repeat the mistakes.

Speaker #13 Letitia Hall
Last month I heard people ask you to create a class on "traditional families." I noticed that none of them specified what family traditions they wanted you to teach. When I was a student at Montgomery College from 1997 through 2000, I had classmates who were born in Africa in traditional polygamous families. I remain friends a young South Asian woman who vigorously defends arranged marriages. Her twins will be enrolling in MCPS next year. Will we teach these family traditions?

Last month I heard that long-married people are healthier and wealthier than people who divorce. That testimony implied a false cause/effect relationship by omitting the stresses that poverty and ill-health place on families and the role they play in divorce.

The "traditional family" class is a red herring; students do not need a semester in blinders to avoid two 45 minutes classes. Colleges and universities have many classes on marriage and family. I think our job in MCPS is to get students there with the skills they need to be successful, and that brings us back to our health ed. curriculum. Students who accept diversity are better prepared for college. Students who know about sex and contraception, including condoms, are better prepared to safely navigate the dating scenes on campus.

I transferred to College Park the year my daughter entered as a freshman. As an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in a "University 101" class, I worked with students who had never before known anyone not of their own faith or economic class, who feared their gay and lesbian classmates, who knew nothing about different methods of contraception. The University 101 class includes diversity training and condom demonstrations because experience proves that the students need it.

I don't want to misrepresent college as a den of iniquity, because it isn't, but university campuses provide an astonishing array of stupid choices. Alcohol is there. Sex is there. While not all college students will be sexually active, they all will need reasons to say no and knowledge to stay safe. MCPS graduates should not go to college needing remedial sex education. They should enter their college years already prepared to make good choices.

Speaker #14 Alexis Guild
I understand that the Board of Education will soon be considering applicants to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC). I strongly encourage you to include a representative from a local reproductive health organization like Pro-Choice Maryland to protect the interests of Montgomery County parents and residents.

For the past several months, Pro-Choice Maryland’s public outreach efforts have included discussions with hundreds of Montgomery County residents about the Family Life and Human Development curriculum. We have found residents strongly support a comprehensive curriculum that includes a condom demonstration video, and medically-accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

We have also found Montgomery County residents are very concerned they will not end up with a curriculum reflecting local values. They fear the process has been hijacked by nationally funded anti-choice, anti-education groups, and that their children will end up the losers in a larger political game.

I am here before you because we at Pro-Choice Maryland know this is not the case. We are confident you are committed to providing MCPS students with an appropriate sex education curriculum that equips them with facts about preventing unintended pregnancies and disease, and we applaud this effort.

As you probably know, Congressman Waxman’s report on abstinence-only education found countless errors in federally funded curricula including: grossly distorted information about birth control and condom failure rates, rampant gender stereotypes, and erroneous information linking abortion to infertility and breast cancer. There is no doubt a national movement to present as fact misleading information to our children. We cannot let this take hold in Montgomery County.

This is why I encourage you to include a representative from a local reproductive health group, like Pro-Choice Maryland, on the new CAC. We will ensure no biased or misleading information becomes part of our local curriculum, and that the curriculum does not omit vital information. We will advocate for a curriculum reflecting the views of the majority of Montgomery County parents. We work with them on a daily basis, and we understand their concerns.

After the Public Comments were over, Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill made some remarks about a conference she had just attended.

: .....I had the privilege as the President Elect of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education to attend the National School Board Associations President's Retreat....I was supposed to be back on Monday for the bus campaign but I got stuck in Minneapolis, but I have to say I've been to many conference in the seven years I've been on the Board of Education and this was one of the most inspiring. There were Presidents from every state. Some states sent 2 representatives. There was a representative of Canada.

Many of the Presidents cone from very small districts. The president of the New Jersey Association came from a district of 350 kids K to 8. The National School Board President Elect is from Pinellas County, which is one county that we benchmark against frequently. But the commonality of issues whether you were big or small was so great and we worked on many issues on the National level.

No Child Left Behind and the problems created by No Child Left Behind were tremendous. Saturday afternoon there was a presentation that involved the Presidents from Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and Utah, and the intrusion into states rights and the ability of states to determine education. No one said we wanted to step away from accountability. No one wanted to step away being able to prepare all children for college and have high expectations. But I was struck by the burdens for many of the states. Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire, very small states that have less kids than we have, have combined to create a consortium because they can't afford to do the testing and create the testing. The President of the Florida Association said it appears to him that the two Bush brothers do not communicate because the problems in Florida with No Child Left Behind are not being taken care of by the national level so it was wonderful.

We had exercises in some legal areas and I participated in one involving stickers on books regarding evolution, creationism, intelligent design, and establishment clause issues. I was struck at how in some jurisdictions, the small minority is trying to create a situation where religious values are imposed into schools and there was a situation in Georgia where there were about 2,300 who signed petitions who wanted intelligent design added into the curriculum.

It was a wonderful conference. I learned a lot. We had a discussion – Arthur Levine who is President of the Teacher's College at Columbia University talked about preparing education leaders, the need for more Superintendents, for teachers to become principals.

Dr. Weast, you'll find this interesting. The President elect of the Vermont School Board Association was a Superintendent in New York state for over 20 years, retired, moved to Vermont, became an elected School Board member so there's a future calling for you. (laughter)

But I would say most of the Presidents talked about No Child Left Behind, money, Governors, and state legislatures trying to impose their will on local school boards. There was unanimity of the concerns. So I hope to share what I've learned and continue to represent Maryland and Montgomery County on the national level.

I'll be going to Vermont in a few months to attend another conference – paid for by me, not Montgomery County.

Dr. Weast?

Steve Abrams interjected:
Well, Miss O'Neill, just a brief aside on that. I was struck by your reference to Connecticut which is one of the leaders in attacking Leave No Child Behind. I would also point out that Connecticut as a state has probably the broadest achievement gap of any school system in the country. There's some argument that their opposition is because they do not wish to be held accountable for their problems.

President O'Neill continued:
It's interesting because in the presentations from President of the Connecticut Association, there is a lawsuit that is being filed against the...

Mr. Abrams again:
I think they already filed it.

President O'Neill concluded:
And there are, I forget how many jurisdictions – they don't run county wide school systems in Connecticut, but of the Connecticut districts.... One, the Connecticut Association of School Boards has not taken a position on whether to pursue this lawsuit. and two, so far I think it's 47 jurisdictions in Connecticut have signed on to the lawsuit but not – by far and away – not all jurisdictions. There is also the Utah President who said that there had been a bill in the Utah legislature to opt out of No Child Left Behind and when push came to shove, there were 118 million reasons why not to opt out of No Child Left Behind, meaning 118 million dollars worth of money to local districts that was sorely needed in Utah. And there actually was a member in Maryland that wanted us to opt out of No Child Left Behind and their significant money.

Everyone really spoke to the need for accountability and that's not the problem. But the problem is the burden to local states and the funding. The vast difference in the end – Maryland is using a number 5 for their accountability system. Other states are using 50 or 100 so I look forward to sharing that.

Dr. Weast?

Christine Grewell

Friday, August 26, 2005

Kid One and Kid Two Get It Wrong

I was out of town and didn't get to attend this week's Board of Education meeting, but I see that the CRC brought in a couple of students to talk at public comments. And this is creepy to write about, because I hate to have to call a kid a liar and criticize what they say -- they're just doing what they're told to do.

I won't use their names, just Kid One and Kid Two. Also, I'll spare you the whole thing, just quote a few lines.

Kid One said:
Two years ago health class was a required course for graduation so I assumed we had to take all units. I wasn't told that I could opt out. When the homosexuality unit surfaced, it was taught with much laughter, awkwardness, and blunt description.

One thing. You opt in, you don't opt out. The kid's parents had to sign a permission slip to take sex ed. If they signed it without reading it, well, you can't blame the school for that, can you?

Second thing. There was no homosexuality unit. Whoever told you this made you lie.

The "homosexuality unit" was not even pilot-tested. Teachers are not allowed to talk about homosexuality in Montgomery County schools. That's since, I think, 1970, and Kid, you're just a little young to go back much further than that.

Kid One ended up with this zinger:
It’s rather funny to me that I learned about the implications of homosexual intercourse a whole year before I even had kissed a boy.

So ... hey. How bout those implications of homosexual intercourse?

-- There's nothing in any class about homosexual intercourse.

Listen, Kid, we've been looking pretty closely at this, I don't think you're gonna slip one like that past anybody here, okay?

Kid Two is an Eagle Scout and straight-A student who told the school board this:
The truth is that there are youth in this county who have not forsaken the moral fiber of their elders, who have decided for religious or moral reasons that sexual intercourse is to take place only within a marriage between one man and one woman. Yet despite these convictions, the County has constructed a curriculum opposing these beliefs, requiring students [unintelligible] to listen to degrading notions and suggestions such as homosexual role-playing and the encouraging of teens to practice mutual masturbation and watch erotic movies.


Kid ... kid, what are you saying?

"Homosexual role-playing?" Oh, these are the moments when I struggle. I can just picture the classroom ... no ... must ... not ... go ... there ... must ... not ... use ... humor ...

Kid, there was no "homosexual role-playing" in any sex-ed curriculum in this county. Never was, never will be. Whoever told you that, you need to have a talk with them. Because they just embarrassed you.

" ... encouraging of teens to practice mutual masturbation..." Mmm, kid, what can I say? I'm sorry. Whoever told you that, you're the one who went out there and said it. You should have checked your facts, because somebody has been lying to you. And now you, an Eagle Scout (and I used to be a den leader myself, I appreciate your achievement), have repeated an untruth. To the school board, and to the community on television. It may be important to you to remain pure, that's fine, but please, it must be important to our upcoming leaders to tell the truth.

" ... watching erotic movies ..." Same thing. Nobody shows erotic movies in the health class, nobody tells you to watch erotic movies. Nobody talks about them, there's just plain nothing at all about erotic movies.

Look, if either of these kids sees this blog, or their friends tell them about it, let me say something important.

When you say something in public, it's up to you to make sure it's right. When somebody tells you what to say, and you just repeat it, and it's wrong, well, that makes you the liar. The person who told you that stuff gets away with it, because you're the one who said it where everybody could hear.

So, kids, come on, check your facts, okay? We're going to need you guys to run the world in a few years. Don't just repeat whatever some person tells you. Please?

You don't have to agree with my opinion about the sex-ed program, but please, learn to think for yourselves.

More CRC Ugliness at the School Board Meeting

This week, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) member Ben Patton took up two minutes of Board of Education public comments to lie about what was going to be included in the new sex-ed curriculum, to mislead about what psychiatrists consider a disorder, and to talk about some gross stuff.

Patton jumped right in with some words of real smart wisdom:
One of the sexual categories in what would have been introduced to our children under the now banned revised curriculum is transgender. I ask you, why do you want to teach our children that transgenderism is normal, natural, and healthy? I don't get it.

Why do you want the schools to instruct children as young as 13 about transgenderism in the first place? I don’t know.

Now, reader, I am going to ask you to do something. On the right-hand side of this web page, there are some links. One is labeled "Grade 8 Revised curriculum," and one is "Grade 10 Revised curriculum ." These are the courses that were going to be introduced this last spring.

These PDF files open in Adobe Reader. Click on the little binoculars at the top, which let you search. Type in the word "transgender." Let's just go to the source and see what "would have been introduced to our children under the now banned revised curriculum."

Both curricula have the same thing. It is a section that says:
For Teacher Reference Only (The information in the 
shaded area is not to be shared with students.)
Transgender refers to someone whose gender identity or
expression differs from conventional expectations for their
physical sex. This term includes transsexual and transvestite.
(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Vol. 92,
No. 4 (Oct. 1993), pp. 631-634)

That's it. That's the whole thing.

Now, let me ask you, reader -- is there something about "not to be shared with students" that is hard to understand? This was NOT going to be taught to anyone, and was just there, in a list of definitions, so teachers could know a little more than their students.

There is not and was not going to be anything, anything at all, about transgenderism in the curriculum.

And he tells the board that the schools were going to teach that transgenderism is "normal, natural, and healthy?" In his dreams.

OK, that's bizarre to tell the board this as if it were real -- I mean, this is the school board, they've read the curriculum -- but this CRC guy is just getting started. Now, in classic form, he has to talk about the grossest aspect of sexual behavior that he can think of.
Would the discussion also have included the particular sexual practices associated with this supposed gender, perhaps fisting and rimming where participants ingest feces? Of course not.

He sits in front of the Montgomery County school board to tell them that transgendered people stick their hands up each others' butts and eat poop?

This is unbelievable.

Think how it must be, to be a board member and go to work, knowing that these CRC guys are going to pull this. Last time, it was another CRC member talking about flushing kids' heads in the toilet, and anus-licking.

Then he changes directions again.
Are you even aware that the American Psychiatric Association categorizes transgenderism as a gender identity disorder and advises children and adults so afflicted to seek therapy? It appears not.

This is incorrect. I was going to call it another lie, but I see that the former citizens committee actually approved a source (a Discovery Channel article by an Ann Reyes, PhD) that incorrectly supports this interpretation, so I'll give him a point back.

Maybe that's where he got his information. It would have been better, though, to go to the source, not a TV-show article. (And I hope the new committee follows that advice, too.)

There is, in fact, something called "gender identity disorder." The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, used to make psychiatric diagnoses, says this:
The diagnosis is not made if the individual has a concurrent 
physical intersex condition (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome
or congenital adrenal hyperplasia) (Criteria C). To make the
diagnosis, there must be evidence of clinically significant
distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important
areas of functioning (Criteria D).

This tells us a couple of things. If a person is actually physically transgendered, that is, if they have a hormonal or physical condition that makes their sex ambiguous, then it's not gender identity disorder. Second, if they are comfortable with their transgenderism, again, it's not a disorder. You gotta think you're the opposite sex from your physiology -- you have to be clearly, a hundred per cent male or female biologically in the first place -- and it has to impair or distress you.

Patton continues to tell the school board:
Apparently you have sided with extremist social activists who are attempting to normalize the abnormal. In fact, a teacher's resource actually includes a reference linking a Scotsman's wearing of a kilt with transvestitism. Scotsmen wear kilts ergo they are cross-dressers; therefore cross-dressing is a normal and accepted practice in some societies.

To which I can only quote our Spanish-speaking friends: jejeje.

Man, I'll tell you, that is silly. What is this guy so wound up about? A guy wears a skirt, big deal. Maybe he's Scottish, maybe he's gay, maybe he just likes to dress like a woman -- lighten up, dude, nobody gets hurt.

It seems to me that normal people accept things they can't change, especially when those things are none of their business and don't do any harm.

Oh, anyway, we were talking the other day about misconstrual. You don't really think there's any teachers' resource that says Scotsmen in kilts are cross-dressers, do you? I never saw anything like this in any teachers' resources, and I am not inclined to believe this character when he says it's in there. I'll bet he's misconstruing something, which of course we can't check on, because he doesn't say which resource makes this weird claim.

There's a paragraph I'll skip, where he gets to use the word "sophistry," but doesn't say anything important. Then he delivers his knockout punch:
It is very disturbing that the disbanded Citizens Advisory Committee had several representatives peddling transgenderism as a sexual variant. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, Montgomery County Mental Health Association which were all represented on the committee, each have stated unequivocal support of the transgendered. PFLAG in fact believes, and I quote, "There is no known cure or course of treatment which reverses the transgendered persons' manifestation of the characteristics and behavior of another gender." This of course is tattered bunk. But then again there is so much about that curriculum that was false and misleading let's not repeat the mistakes.

OK... was any of this worth saying? Was this a good use of the school board's time? This guy doesn't like the idea that some people are transgendered ... ok, so what?

And as far as your "tattered bunk," well, what do you suggest? Are you implying that you have the secret solution for all this, the Philosopher's Stone of proper gender identity? [Note: the written transcript shows the intended phrase to be "flat earth bunk," not "tattered bunk," which is what it sounded like.]

So what if the committee had members of some groups that accept transgendered persons? This is ... oh, I hate to throw this word around, but ... this is stupid. "Peddling transgenderism": a stupid thing to say. Sorry. Nobody can even imagine what that means, how you "peddle" something like that.

And remember, the citizens committee had somebody from PFOX. It had Parents Against X-Rated blah blah blah. It had the Daughters of the American Revolution. It had the President of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, for cryin' out loud. So stop your whining.

The curriculum was not going to say anything about transgendered people. Lots of transgendered people do not have gender identity disorder.

Oh, and by the way, the fisting and rimming thing that these guys love to talk in public about. Straight people do that stuff too, you know.

Once again, the CRC has shown us the ugliest combination of hatred and ignorance -- please join us in stopping these people who want to influence the Montgomery County public school curriculum.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Randy Little Buggers? -- 65 Pregnant at One Ohio School

The initial news story was a local one, over in Ohio, about a high school where 65 of the female students were pregnant. Out of 490. You look around our Montgomery County schools and you see a few, but ... you wonder what this particular school was doing wrong.
CANTON, Ohio -- There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository.

The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.

School officials are not sure what has contributed to so many pregnancies, but in response to them, the school is launching a three-prong educational program to address pregnancy, prevention and parenting.

The newspaper also reported that students will face mounting tensions created by unplanned child-rearing responsibilities, causing students to quit school and plan for a GED. This will make it difficult for the Canton City School District to shake its academic watch designation by the state.

According to the Canton Health Department, statistics through July show that 104 of the 586 babies born to Canton residents in Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center had mothers between 11 and 19.

The newspaper reports that the non-Canton rate was 7 percent. Canton was 15 percent. 65 Girls At Area School Pregnant

The good news is that the school district recognizes the problem and assumes the responsibility for addressing it.

You wonder, do these girls know what happens? Was pregnancy a total surprise to them?

The Great Swarmy time-travels back to last month, when the Canton Repository ran this story:
CLEVELAND (AP) — Some abstinence programs taught in middle schools and high schools in Ohio contain scientific inaccuracies about contraceptives and cite religious belief as fact, according to a researcher who reviewed the material.

Some of the material wrongly suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears and open-mouth kissing, among other concerns raised in a report by Dr. Scott Frank, director of Case Western Reserve University’s public health program.

"I was surprised at what I found," Frank said. "Sometimes I found myself shaking my head wondering what decade are we living in."

Frank’s 29-page report takes issue with one program that recommends that teens "follow God's plan for purity." Other programs overstate the failure rates of condoms and suggest that birth control pills increase the likelihood of infertility. Case Western researcher criticizes state’s youth abstinence programs

Now, I wouldn't say that these kids don't have lazy parents, or that they don't play too many video games. But I will just underline the correlation between ignorance-based sex education and a whole lot of girls getting pregnant. I mean, there are lazy parents everywhere, and I even heard of a kid in our county who played a lot of video games.

You gotta chuckle at the British perspective, as they gaze over the pond to try to figure us out. The Inquirer seems to love the blame-anything-but-education approach to explaining this phenomenon, and built it into their headline: Videogames to blame for 65 pregnant girls: And definitely not the lack of proper sex education. The Inquirer's little piece ends like this:
The DVD boxes in which movies and videogames come these days are real killers though, eh? You can’t blame San Andreas, that's for sure - one look at the pixilated vertical jogging sessions in which the male doesn't even have the courtesy to strip down will have anyone laughing so hard that you could probably sell the game as a contraceptive.

We don't suppose that, rather than TV and video games corrupting the minds of our innocent youth, teenagers are just randy little buggers. That would be preposterous. Videogames to blame for 65 pregnant girls: And definitely not the lack of proper sex education

Agh -- how can they bring up reality at a time like this?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

PingPong Balls

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll has the perfect -- absolutely perfect -- analogy for understanding people who insist that "intelligent design" is a theory that should be considered competitive with Darwinian evolution. As the Vigilance blog is concerned with the sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County, I propose that this analogy is just as perfect if you substitute "ex-gays" for "intelligent design." Here's what Carroll says:
Here's what it's like. Suppose there were a conference on child development and parenting. And some people are saying that children should start early on a rigorous academic program, and others are saying no, they should have real childhoods and be allowed to develop their creative abilities naturally. And some people say that children should get regular allowances, and others say, no, children should always do chores to get money. And some people say children should get complete sex education and access to birth control devices as soon as they reach puberty, and others say no, that just encourages promiscuity and reinforces our society's unhealthy preoccupation with sex.

And then someone says, "We should throw pingpong balls at them. All day, every day, we should throw pingpong balls at our children. It just seems like the right thing to do."

That's the role of the intelligent design people in serious discussions about the nature and the origin of life. They are the pingpong-ball people. They're not even talking about the same thing. They have an agenda. They want to change the subject. Jon Carroll

In our county, those who insist that the schools should teach about "ex-gays" are the pingpong people.

There is no science of ex-gays. The word "ex-gay" was invented by gay-haters to make it harder for homosexuals to accept themselves. It was developed as a clever strategy to attack the reasonable public, who are largely unaware of the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed. It is a pingpong concept, absolutely off-the-wall, and merely introduced to confuse the discussion, because no thinking person would have ever thought of it. No thinking person has an answer to the "ex-gay" challenge, because it doesn't make any sense. Accused of "discrimination" against this fictitious group, a thinking person will seek to make up for their lapse -- no one intends to discriminate against "ex-gays" or anybody else, and so the thinking person is put on the defensive. Maybe they'll try to atone for their misjudgment, for discriminating against some group they never heard of in ways they didn't realize they were doing. It's clever, it's insidious.

And there is no way for the thinking person to figure this out, because nobody tells them what the game is.

People, it's pingpong balls.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The White Knight is Talking Backwards

I recently posted some follow-up about the Montgomery Community Television show that was going to feature an anti-MCPS group explaining what the "future of health education" in Montgomery County should be. It turned out the producer of the show had a bit of a ... history, shall we say ... with the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), and was going to use this show to promote their point of view as if it were legitimate. I concluded that the bias of the show as it was planned was not accidental.

Today two different people forwarded the following letter to me, so I guess it's out there circulating on the Internet. I'm not quite sure who the "Neighbors" are that it was addressed to, but it seems to be quite widespread. I wouldn't publish a private email, but this seems to have gone well beyond any useful definition of "private."

It appears to have been written by the producer of the show, who cancelled it after CRC backed out. Instead of giving the real reason, she posted an announcement on the web saying that there were "email attacks" (which she has not yet shown anyone, as far as I know). Here she's writing to say she's sorry but people are being mean to her. I am going to interrupt her monologue with my own comments, blog-style:
Dear Neighbors:

Subject: The Golden Rule

It seems after an innocent attempt to build awareness by airing a TV Show of the upcoming new MCPS Health & Family Life Curriculum, I have opened old wounds and I am sorry.

Why did I not know this would happen when I suggested the subject for a show? Never did I imagine that good intentions would be so confusing. Unfortunate, but although I've had items posted about me on the website, this was not exactly the best way to feel inclusive in their conversations (smile).

Uh, I would respond to this, but I don't really know what she's saying about us. She has every opportunity to "feel inclusive" in the discussion here, with Orin and Aunt Bea and ~L and Alex and Bianca and multiple Anonymice and everybody else. She obviously has our URL, it's not hard to click on "Comments" at the bottom and say what you think about something here.
I do not in any way condone this type of behavior, but at the same time, I feel I must make a point perfectly clear. For the sake of being adults, I must say this:

When I discussed with my Production members to bring the Health Educational program to a show, we were not totally aware of the data and information available. Which, in a nut shell is sometimes why we host the specific shows. One of us on the team may very well be well versed on a particular subject, but others not. This again makes the shows unique and exciting. Our host commentator always cordial and many times not fully aware of the subject until after guests have been invited. Again, possibly causing a bit of adrenaline to flow, but never did I imagine such a force to be put on us as this topic, and by such unfortunate intimidation.

Now she's making me wonder who has intimidated anyone. Listen, if there's something going on, yall can send us an email, post a comment on the blog, let us know what's up. Hey -- you ... you don't mean me, do you? Intimidating someone? Naw, I just tell you what I see, you don't have to pay any attention to it. I don't want you to do anything different, I'm just going to say out loud what it is you're doing. So .... she must not mean me.
Now...the reason I must sincerely apologize is because I stand before you, humbled... I cannot and will not speak for anyone else, but myself. I have always tried to remain open minded and fair. I have always hoped to stand on the side of justice and good character.

I had a vision when planning the show. It was innocent. I looked into the future of the 2005-06 school year and thought what a good opportunity to begin now, during the summer months to get families talking about the new curriculum. Schools out, families normally spend more quality time together and what a great moment to air the Citizens Link Show that discusses the different issues. Our program was not to fix the curriculum, but to simply address various questions, concerns and challenges.

Um hmm, sure, innocent -- she's used that word twice already. With Michelle Turner, Steve Fisher, Ruth Jacobs, and -- unbelievably -- Richard Cohen? Innocent? Nobody buys that. The fact that she was involved in the Germantown meeting last winter is enough to show that she knew what she was doing when she invited this cell of radicals who have worked so hard against the school system.
Knowing that I had an application in my hand to apply to serve on the new committee, I also wanted to be aware of items that may cause concerns should I be selected. I then thought, well why also educate others in the community in case they too are applying to serve. Then because our show offers the benefit of a DVD copy, I thought it could serve the public as an additional benefit to have the ability to re-watch and discuss the items covered in the show continually.

What?!?! She was applying to be on the committee? Well what do you know -- the CRC is running stealth candidates. That's pretty tricky, trying to stack the citizens committee with people whose names have not been linked with yours.

Note to MCPS Board of Education: look at those applications very carefully. Please.

I am more convinced than ever now that this TV show was an intentional, divisive, and sneaky act of political radicalism.

In case you are new to this situation, let me explain. Earlier this year, CRC and PFOX sued the school board and won money for their lawyers and one seat each on the citizens committee that advises the school board in developing the new curricuum. Here we see that they were going to try to sneak more people onto the committee, by having individuals apply who will support the CRC/PFOX anti-gay and anti-safe-sex mission.

This is a very interesting admission, indeed, and I was unaware that she was doing this.

Who was it that said curiouser and curiouser? Was it me?

It should have been.
Speaking again, only for myself... I broke my own rules and now suffer the same unfair judgements like some of the planned guests.

So without any hesitation or excuse... I offer my sincere apology to our guests. If it has caused anxiety, it was not intentional. Everyone deserves respect.

Hmm, the guests I have heard from don't seem to have suffered any anxiety. It was a bit of an eye-opener, if anything. They seem very cool about it. So maybe she's apologizing to the CRC. Yes, as a secret agent, she has something to apologize for, doesn't she? Her cover was blown; now her mission is impossible.
I would also like to conclude that in one of the website postings from the "teachthe" group, a hurtful remark was made against my rights to advocate for our school children saying;

That's the very same Alice Gordon (who by the way homeschools and doesn't have any stake in the MCPS health curriculum),

I'd like to share that my family did elected to home educate seven years ago with our youngest child in her latter school years, because she developed a serious health issue that directly impacted her attendance.

I would like to say something about this. The health curriculum under discussion applies to Montgomery County Public School district eighth and tenth graders. Anybody in the county of course can have an opinion about it, well, anybody in the world can think what they want about it. But you do question the motives of activists who have no apparent stake in the outcome of a political decision.

We sometimes think that this particular issue, the sex education curriculum in MCPS schools, is only one little battle in a bigger culture war. And this sort of thing is evidence of it. Steve Fisher doesn't have kids in the public schools, Michelle Turner keeps her kids out of the sex-ed classes, Richard Cohen doesn't even live in this county -- why does it matter to them if our kids get comprehensive sex education?

It's something different to them, it's not about what their kids learn in these classes, it's about imposing their weird world-view on the rest of us.

It doesn't matter why she home-schools, that's her business. But why in the world does she want to undermine the public schools for the rest of the community? Can anybody tell me why that's not a legitimate question?
My comments to all as we voice our rights to one another is to be mindful of how it reflects on our children. Many times in history our children have suffered the consequences for the actions of adults. Many times we don't mean to do it, but we act too quickly and we victimize the victim all over again. Let's slow down and rethink our next steps. youngest child is now almost twenty years old and even though my children are grown, I am about to become a grandmother in two weeks, and my families right back into the school world again. So please keep in mind, everyone has a story to tell, so let's be a compassionate society and not jump too fast to judge.

Thank you,

A quick word. I wouldn't bother to "judge" this person. I don't give her a thought except for those few moments where something like this is put in front of my face. She wants to support CRC in their attempt to destroy public education in Montomery County, well, whatever, I wouldn't judge her for that. She can do that if she wants, I don't have the energy or motivation to judge her. Some small number of people feel like them, they can express their opinion, and then the sensible majority needs to do the right thing. There's no judgment of any person in any of this, as far as I'm concerned.

I happen to be one of the group who supports the school board's decision to improve health education in our county. Sometimes that means pointing out when the opposition tries to pull dirty tricks ... as in this situation. And this lady simply made the mistake of thinking that her "cause," the promotion of ignorance in the MCPS heath curricuum, was more important than behaving ethically.

Sorry you had to be sorry. It's not that big a deal.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Light Blogging

It's time to take a little family vacation, and I won't be blogging much. I may encounter a wifi hotspot on the trip, but mainly the laptop's just for saving pictures from the digital camera.

Last chance to have a little fun -- summer's almost over!

Good News All Over the Place

Up in Maine they want that federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education. But the classes don't meet state standards. From the Portland Press Herald:

The Maine Department of Education informed school districts on Friday that a federally funded sex education program doesn't meet state requirements for teaching health.

The two-page letter sent to all school superintendents says Heritage of Maine and other programs that focus on promoting abstinence alone fall short of standards outlined in state law and Maine Learning Results.

The letter says that so-called "abstinence only" or "abstinence until marriage" programs don't fit the state's comprehensive requirements.

Greg Scott, legislative coordinator for the department, said the commissioner's office sent the letter after receiving questions from school districts about Heritage.

The nonprofit organization, which started receiving federal funding in July 2004, has reached out to schools in Maine, volunteering to provide its alternative approach to sex education. Sex education course fails state's test

So it looks like Maine is about to wake up in the twenty-first century.

It's tough, I know. We all want our teens to make the right decisions, and for almost all parents that means we want them to abstain from sex.

The issue is this: one side thinks you get kids to abstain from sex by keeping them ignorant, and just telling them that sex before marriage is wrong; the other side (that would be us) thinks that kids will make good decisions if they are given good information, and the best decision for them at this time of their lives is to abstain from sex.

Do you have a teenager? What happens when you tell them to do something?

Do they do it?

Mine neither.

It looks like Battle Creek, Michigan, is going through something similar. They've been teaching kids to just say no, but the adults of the community have realized they have to do more:
Battle Creek's Board of Education voted unanimously to change the district's sex education curriculum in hopes of better educating students and reducing teen pregnancy.

The changes were approved Monday by a 6-0 vote with one trustee absent.

"We're at a time where we need to include some additional measures," said Board President Kim Watson. "They will help students be more informed and educated to make better decisions."

The changes will take effect at the start of this school year, Aug. 23.


During the 2004-05 school year, a nine-week health course was offered to Central's ninth-graders. The course incorporated "Reducing the Risk" curriculum that focused on teaching refusal skills to students in high-risk situations involving sex, alcohol and drugs, to name a few.

This year, students will be taught those same lessons but with more information about contraception in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases among teenagers living in Calhoun County.

In 2002, there were an estimated 386 pregnancies and 249 live births among 4,841 females ages 15 to 19 living in the county, one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.

As mandated by state law, the district's sex education curriculum will continue to teach abstinence as the best preventative method. Teens to get more sex education

And out in Washoe County, Nevada, we learn this:
School board members have approved a video to be used in the SHARE Program, "Sex, Health and Responsibility Education" in the Washoe County School District.

Kids at more than a dozen area schools will see the tape, which was approved Tuesday night at the school board meeting.

It's designed to teach them there are consequences to their actions, and in the case of sexual behavior, consequences that could have an impact on the rest of their lives.

The tape will be shown to some 30,000 Washoe County middle-schoolers this year.

Board member Jonnie Pullman says it is far from a boring lecture or purely technical discussion. "This shows role playing, consequences of peoples' actions, teens dressed like kids dress today, etc."

SHARE Coordinator Katherine Loudon says it is meant to hit home with an important message for young people. "It covers sexual health, responsibility, reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, etc. Those lessons were already there, but this is a new video."

Among some parents, there was concern about this tape. The lessons were described as abstinence based, which is different from abstinence only. Many people believe sexual abstinence only is unrealistic, even among middle-schoolers.

After more than an hour of discussion, the vote was unanimous: the new SHARE tape was approved for use in the coming school year.

Board members agreed the tape taught age-appropriate lessons.

Share lessons are taught to fourth-through-ninth graders in the school district, but this tape will be shown to middle-schoolers only, because the lessons are too advanced for younger students.

Older students continue sex education through their health classes.

I could go on and on here, you know, there are news stories like these coming from every corner of our nation. It's not just Montgomery County, people all over the country are debating the best approach to sex education in the public schools, and are deciding against ignorance education. There is a crisis in teen pregnancy and STD rates, and the answer just might be to educate, rather than indoctrinate.

The TV Show Again: A Slow-Dawning Thought

I just had one of those "well, duh" moments. I was reading an old Gazette article about the time that the CRC and the Germantown Citizens Association (GCA) were going to meet with some school board members. Remember? It was strange, because The Gazette at first said that the meeting was cancelled because of threats to the school board, and then they changed the story but never said there weren't threats to the school board, and anyway CRC President Michele Turner apologized to the school board publicly for the threats ... but then we saw in the CRC's purloined messages that they were calling The Gazette and trying to get special treatment to make up for ... whatever.

Jump ahead to last week. Montgomery Community TV was supposed to tape a show about the future of health education, featuring a whole half hour of CRC people. Lots of people complained, including us, and then the show's producer, Alice Gordon, added some people to the show who represented the majority in Montgomery County, and then after CRC backed out she cancelled the whole thing, with a note on the Internet implying that it was because of threatening emails.

So, tonight, I'm looking for something, and here's a little chunk from way back in January that jumps out at me:
CRC members said they are asking that the school board delay the pilot of the curriculum until a public hearing has been held and enough community input has been gathered.

The GCA will draft a letter to the board vocalizing Germantown residents' opposition to the curriculum, board member Alice Gordon said.

However, because the GCA must remain impartial, she said the letter would present both sides of the issue.

"There's no way that we can choose sides, we have to remain open-minded," Gordon said. Cox avoids Germantown meeting after receiving threats

Besides the obvious fact that you can't both "vocalize Germantown residents' opposition to the curriculum" and not choose sides -- do you see what I see?

That's the very same Alice Gordon (who by the way homeschools and doesn't have any stake in the MCPS health curriculum), up to her neck in CRC's business, seven months ago.

Well, duh.

Interestingly, the not-a-retraction that appeared later in The Gazette changed that part:
The GCA plans to draft a letter to the board spelling out the issues and seeking more discussions. The GCA did not take a position on the issue, contrary to an earlier report.

"There's no way that we can choose sides, we have to remain open-minded," GCA board member Alice Gordon said. Group opposed to sex ed pilot briefs GCA

Man -- don't you just love this stuff? It sounds like the Germantown Citizens Association didn't take a position, but one Alice Gordon did.

Maybe I'm just a little slow, I figured she was friendly to the anti-MCPS radical cell. I hadn't realized how friendly she was. This goes back.

Something Weird

There was something strange in that Washington Post article the other day about Richard Cohen, the "ex-gay" President of PFOX. Here's what they said:
Touch plays a central role in his therapy, said Cohen, who does not treat women. He recommends that clients develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors who will cuddle them in a parental, nonerotic way, making up for the love they did not get from their fathers.

When I first read this article and blogged about it, I started to say something about that part, but I decided to leave it out, mainly because it just seemed too unkind. This Cohen guy is just another minor league screw-up, and if his ... therapy ... is a little on the touchy-feely side, that's not really my issue with him.

Well, there were quite a few comments on our Yahoo group about this. Seems it just stuck in some people's craws.

Like, somebody said
"Now the question I have does Cohen hug his clients to help them develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors? Does he consider himself a mentor too since he considers himself a heterosexual now?"

Somebody else wrote and said
"OK - now this just may be me but, doesn't it strike you that the premise that "he recommends that clients develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors who will cuddle them in a parental, nonerotic way, making up for the love they did not get from their fathers" is a really convenient way for this so-called heterosexual "therapist" to get close to the men he has otherwise denied himself? Creepy squared."

To which somebody replied
" isn't just you...I think most of us had the same reaction. It's Cohen's way of expressing his homosexuality while cloaking it in therapeutic nurturing. How is this different than male psychiatrists convincing women that having sex with them will help them "liberate" themselves and move on...when I lived in NYC there were several high-profile cases just like that. Those folks went to prison for a long time."

See, we find ourselves basically siding with the gay community on this MCPS sex-ed issue. They want to be treated with respect, and we want to see our kids get a fact-based education, so we're on the same side in this one. And Richard Cohen is, well, I hate to say it, but the guy is gay. It's nice that he's married and everything, but nobody over here is buying the "ex-gay" thing. He used to be gay, now he's ... gay. We spend some effort fighting idiots who spread hateful stereotypes of gay people, and so it makes us a little uncomfortable when we look at a situation like this and think, that guy is cuddling these sexually confused male patients?

You see what I mean? There's a little cognitive dissonance in it for us.

And we're not the only ones thinking this. Republic of T. blog (motto: "Gay. Black. Father, Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.") commented:
If you ask me, there's a bit of "Daddy/Son" roleplay going on here that ought to raise at least a few eyebrows.

So ... is that what's going on? Now that Cohen calls himself "heterosexual," is he playing the part of the "heterosexual mentor" who cuddles these confused gay men in a "parental, nonerotic way?"

It sounds like it, doesn't it?

blogACTIVE (motto: Real Truth, Direct Action Tools) had this to say:
"Cohen is married with kids (not that he'd be the first gay man to do that, Right Mr. Schrock?). What really hit me hard in the article was this interesting paragraph (the next to last one):[quotes same paragraph as above] So Richie thinks the way to straighthood is by being cuddled by "heterosexual mentors"...Isn't that what they used to call being in the closet?"

OK, I don't really know what's going on here, I don't know if that's what he actually does. I only know that this seemed fishy, no ... creepy ... to a lot of people who read this article.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is Reparative Therapy Legitimate? --No

The Advocate recently had a story called "Brainwashed No More," about reparative therapy, which tries to convert gay people to straight. In response to that story, the American Psychiatric Association sent them a statement on the subject.

We have seen certain characters try to put forward the idea that reparative therapy is a legitimate form of psychotherapy. I think this statement kinda nails that coffin shut.
The following statement from the APA [American Psychiatric Association] was provided to The Advocate in response to a request related to the story "Brainwashed No More" in the August 30, 2005, issue:

The term "reparative therapy" refers to psychotherapy aimed at eliminating homosexual desires and is used by people who do not think homosexuality is one variation within human sexual orientation, but rather still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder.

The most important fact about "reparative therapy," also sometimes known as "conversion" therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, and thus there is no need for a "cure."

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association and defining the standard of the field, does not include homosexuality as a mental disorder. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality in 1973 as a mental disorder. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or that the emergence of same-gender sexual desires among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy, has no support among health and mental health professional organizations.

Despite the unanimity of the health and mental health professions on the normality of homosexuality, the idea of "reparative therapy" has recently been adopted by conservative organizations and aggressively promoted in the media. Because of this aggressive promotion of "reparative therapy," a number of the health and mental health professional organizations have recently issued public statements about "reparative therapy" as well.

The American Psychological Association, in its Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which is also endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, states: "The American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation."

As these statements make clear, health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people's sexual orientation through "reparative therapy" and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm. Many professional associations are able to provide helpful information and local contacts to assist school administrators, health and mental health professionals, educators, teachers, and parents in dealing with school controversies in their communities.

"Transformational ministry" is a term used to describe the use of religion to eliminate homosexual desires. While "reparative therapy" relies on secular approaches, "transformational ministry" takes the approach that "freedom from homosexuality is possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord." While there is some diversity within the movement, most "transformational ministries" adhere to a belief that "upholds heterosexuality as God's creative intent for humanity, and subsequently views homosexual expression as outside God's will."

The "transformational ministry" movement, which began in the early 1970s, has gained more visibility in the media recently through the efforts of Christian publishers and conservative political organizations.

The most important fact about "transformational ministry" is that its view of homosexuality is not representative of the views of all people of faith. Many deeply religious people, and a number of religious congregations and denominations, are supportive and accepting of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and their right to be protected from the discriminatory acts of others. For example, the following [religious] organizations have endorsed passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation:

  • American Ethical Union
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Jewish Committee
  • American Jewish Congress
  • Church of the Brethren,
  • Church Women United
  • Dignity/USA
  • Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
  • The Interfaith Alliance
  • Jewish Women International
  • National Council of the Churches of Christ USA
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • North Georgia United Methodist Conference
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • United Church of Christ
  • United Methodist Church
  • Women of Reform Judaism
  • Young Women's Christian Association

Although "transformational ministry" promotes the message that religious faith and acceptance of gay, lesbian, and bisexual sexuality are incompatible, that message is countered by the large number of outspoken clergy and people of faith who promote love and acceptance. The real meaning of "ex-gay"

Is that clear enough for you?

The Onion is Perfect

The Onion has outdone itself. Check out this important new scientific breakthrough: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New "Intelligent Falling" Theory.

Hey, if you gotta teach both sides ...

A Diamond at APA

The American Psychological Assocation convention is in Washington this week, and I'm at it. Today was "awards" day, when the different divisions presented awards to distinguished researchers, and then the recipients gave lectures. So I got to see some of the greats -- Ed Diener, Dan Schacter, Robert Sternberg, Richard Nisbett. Very inspiring, each one of them, each representing decades and decades of rigorous research into some aspect of human behavior.

The Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award went to Lisa Diamond, PhD, of the University of Utah, who for the past ten years has been studying fluctuations in sexual identity over time. She has followed a cohort of women who were selected in 1995 and have been interviewed every two years since, about their sexual behavior and self-labeling. These women were selected because they did not see themselves as typical heterosexuals, and she reported on the ways that the labels they apply to themselves -- lesbian, bisexual, unlabeled, or heterosexual -- fluctuated over the years. Most of the sample had changed their self-assigned label at least once in the ten years. These changes have numerous explanations, and the lecture was fascinating.

Afterwards, I talked with her in the hallway. I asked her what she thought about "ex-gays." She said that, living in Utah, she has had contact with men who tell her they "just can't be gay," their Mormon religion doesn't allow it, and they must find a way to change. She expressed sympathy for them, but also noted that the data "absolutely does not support" the idea that they can change their sexual orientation. She seemed adamant as she explained that there is simply no research to support the PFOX-type recommendation that gay guys can go to a shrink and turn The Gay off. I wish I could describe her facial expression as she considered this topic, you do get the feeling that this is a big pain in the patoot (as my wife says in polite company) to real researchers in this field.

The convention so far has been very interesting, I must say. I hadn't expected quite the level of luminaries that we had today -- I subscribe to four or five psychology journals, but -- and I was talking with somebody else who said this, too -- it is definitely easier to learn about a vast research paradigm by sitting in a room watching a PowerPoint slide-show, with the researcher pointing to it and explaining what you're supposed to notice, than reading the whole series of journal articles, with their tables of numbers and graphs and references you need to look up. Guess you get lazy in your old age; I don't have quite the motivation to know everything, as in graduate school.

Well, Arlo Guthrie is performing at the convention right now, but ... I just saw him a year or two ago, so I'm going to miss it and catch up with some email.

Expect light blogging from me over the next week, OK?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Great Article in The Nation

Wow, The Nation nails it in this great article: Teaching Sexuality. It's a very concise and to-the-point analysis of our situation here in Montgomery County, with the CRC and PFOX and Teach the Facts, and the political machinery behind this crazy anti-gay crusade that we're so dead against.

There's quite a bit here, I'll quote a few lines.
Students taking sex education in Maryland's Montgomery County public schools this fall won't be discussing homosexuality, not unless a student raises a hand to ask about it--and even then, the teacher will have to keep it brief. Nor will students be watching a new video called Protect Yourself!, which uses a cucumber to demonstrate how to put on a condom. (Copies of the video now gather dust in administrative offices in Rockville, Maryland.)

I'll skip down a little, you already know this part ... right? They talk about the new curriculum that was going to be piloted ...
No sooner had the school board given the green light than an assembly of right-wing activists formed to block it, mobilizing under the banner Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and launching a sensationalistic campaign that accused the curriculum of having a "pro-gay agenda." Claiming it encouraged students to "self-identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual," and citing what it deemed were inaccurate statistics about STDs, CRC quickly caught the attention of the right-wing Washington Times, eventually being covered by everyone from the Washington Post to Bill O'Reilly.

By spring, the county was mired in controversy. In late April it decided to remove some of the more controversial aspects of the curriculum, including the language about same-sex "sex play." But it wasn't enough. Days before the new curriculum was to enter classrooms, the CRC, joined by a Virginia-based group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), sued the school board. The central charge: "endorsing a homosexual lifestyle."

In a stunning ruling on May 5 (the day before classes were to begin), a federal judge sided with the plaintiffs, invoking their First Amendment rights and writing, "The Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject--that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle--to the exclusion of other perspectives." A restraining order was placed on the curriculum. The Florida-based religious nonprofit--and Jerry Falwell brainchild--Liberty Council, which provided pro bono legal representation for the lawsuit, called the ruling "the most significant curriculum decision ever rendered."

Well, I guess that's a matter of perspective. I'm sure they were proud of themselves, they really did pull off a fast one.
In many ways, Montgomery County is an unlikely setting for these events. Located just north of DC, it has a reputation as a liberal enclave--a "Kerry-supporting, nuclear-free, recycling county," in the words of conservative pundit Mona Charen--that would appear to make it fertile ground for a progressive approach to sex ed. Its public schools are considered some of the best in the nation: Five MCPS high schools made the top 100 in the country in Newsweek's 2005 "Best 100 High Schools" issue. And residents of Montgomery County, the state's largest and wealthiest jurisdiction, donated more money to political campaigns in 2004 than all the rest of the counties in the state combined. Donations to Democrats exceeded those to Republicans by a margin of 2 to 1.

Anyone wondering who could be so opposed to teaching about homosexuality in such a solidly "blue" county would find only partial clues in the local press, which repeatedly referred to CRC and PFOX as a pair of local groups made up of "parents and community members." No thoughtful analysis was provided on the groups' origins or broader political aims. Moreover, the judge's ruling in the lawsuit cast the controversy as a fight between concerned parents and an ideologically driven school board, cloaking CRC and its allies in the hallowed robes of the First Amendment and obscuring its underlying agenda.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum was founded by Michelle Turner, a born-again Christian and mother of six--as well as a former member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee who voted against the final version of the curriculum, largely because of its take on homosexuality. ("Our bodies are not meant or created to be used in that way," she recently told the Washington Post.) In December Turner organized a local meeting unsubtly titled "Recall Montgomery Schoolboard." The strident right-wing atmosphere surprised Christine Grewell, a local mother and now leader of an opposition group called Teach the Facts. "We came out of there thinking, 'Here come Dobson and Falwell,'" she recalls, "and damned if we weren't right."

Soon thereafter, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum was born. The group scheduled meetings, started a petition and launched a website. CRC's innocuous name and catchy tag line, "Safe Schools, Safe Students," helps obscure the group's ideology. Not only does it blast the curriculum's "forceful advocating [of a] pro-gay agenda"; a blog, written by multiple authors, includes everything from potshots at Hillary Clinton to references to Massachusetts's "diversity police state." A prominently displayed question: "What is wrong with the new Curriculum?" appears on the homepage. The number-one grievance: It "normalizes homosexuality and presents it as natural and a morally correct lifestyle."

Well, this isn't right -- obviously I want you to read the whole thing, right?

Click on the link and check this fine story out.

Oh ... I just don't seem to have the self-control I should have. I've gotta show you one more little chunk from the story.
With the demise of the curriculum and plans to create a new one from scratch, PFOX and CRC's lawsuit is basically moot. Still, the ruling remains significant. Much like the current debate over "intelligent design," wherein creationists have won the right to present an "alternate viewpoint" on evolution, the successful lobbying for a right to bring an "alternative perspective" on homosexuality sets a dangerous precedent. It is bigotry sanctioned as a different point of view. "These kids should not feel that they are sick," says David Fishback, former chair of the Citizen's Advisory Committee. Most of Montgomery County, he says, would agree with him. "This [curriculum] didn't get derailed because of the people of Montgomery County. This got derailed because of an extremist group that is trying to impose its beliefs on the rest of the county."

Follow the link at the top of this post, and read the whole thing, and you'll see -- we need to keep our eyes open, or these people are going to make a mess of our county.

The Problem With Abstinence

Interesting wording in the King County (Washington) Public Health document How effective are condoms?:
No method of contraception or disease prevention is effective when practiced incorrectly or inconsistently. A 1988 National Survey of Family Growth found abstinence to have a contraceptive failure rate of 26% when not practiced consistently. So, in abstinence, as in condom use, consistency is key.

... and I'd thought they said abstinence was a sure thing. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

That TV Show: What Happened

Yesterday the Montgomery Community Television show Citizens Link cancelled a planned segment called "Health Education Where do we go from here?" The show was supposed to be taped last night, and the producers cancelled it.

Let me walk through some of what happened, as we have pieced it together.

It appears that producer Alice Gordon arranged to have a full half-hour of the anti-tolerance group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum discussing this topic, even though they have worked and sued to oppose improvements in the MCPS health curriculum.

The show was going to have a guest host, Don Mooers, a local lawyer who I understand has ambitions to run for political office. When he discovered what the show was going to be about, and who the producers had arranged as guests, he asked an acquaintance of his, Maryland Delegate Anne Kaiser, to appear on the second half of the show.

At the same time, Citizen Link published their intended guest link and immediately received a number of emails protesting the one-sidedness of the show. These emails were later described online by the producers as "attacks."

I have obtained one of these "attacks." What do you think?

Can I inquire why only one side is presented in this item noted below?

There has been plenty for support for the past proposed curriculum in health education.

It would seem both sides should be presented and heard.

I would like to include this item Richard Cohen left off in his bio to you and want to know if this item will be noted to viewers on a county channel that my tax dollars help pay for.

Are you going to now include the other side to this issue in equal time?

Please note their has been great opposition to CRC and their friends PFOX.

Please check out and please include reading of the blog contained

There are two sides to this issue. Present both sides. Contact

and it gave a couple of our phone numbers.

How vicious is that "attack?" I have not heard of any that were any more extreme than that.

We learned that the producers also complained that they had been "attacked" on this blog. Interestingly, they did not stick with that story, and did not mention the blog to most people they talked with. Go on back and look what we blogged HERE. Yes, I scolded them for not doing their homework, and complained that tax-supported TV should not be covering up the facts about someone like Richard Cohen. Yes, I said some negative things about Cohen, but not really any worse than The Post this morning. I didn't mention that he was unlicensed, or that he got his degree in some satellite campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The fact is, Richard Cohen has no business discussing the future of health education in Montgomery County -- he doesn't even live here.

At least two people independently contacted the guest host, Don Mooers, and suggested that former citizens advisory chair David Fishback would provide an excellent balance to the show. Ms. Kaiser contacted Fishback and arranged it; the show's producers agreed but, we noticed, never posted Fishback's name on the web site.

Cohen's name was deleted, and only Kaiser's was added.

It seems, from reliable sources, that as soon as these changes were announced, the CRC contingent -- Michelle Turner, Steve Fisher, and Ruth Jacobs -- backed out.

The producers had contacted guests with some information about the show, and included this statement:
Our Production Team has received numerous messages from members both for and against the proposed MCPS Health Curriculum and have decided on the following guest line up. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

We find that interesting, that the "numerous messages" came from both sides. Let us not forget that.

The planned one-sided show falling apart on them, the producers posted an announcement on the Internet which I blogged earlier, but it might be worthwhile to go through:
Notice From The Producers

August 15, 2005

This notice is to inform our viewers that it is with great regret, we have decided to cancel the Citizens Link to Community Awareness, Show #11, entitled "Health Education, Where Do We Go From Here?"

We wish to thank all our members for their hard work in preparing for this show, our hope was to build awareness of the upcoming new Health & Family Life Curriculum for MCPS students, by inviting guests with different special knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately, after only hours of posting our intended guest line up on the Citizens Link website, we began to receive email attacks to both our program and our volunteer Host. Because our focus on the show is to build stronger families and community through information and awareness, our goal was beginning to be lost.

Conflict of guest scheduling and cancellations has placed a tremendous strain on our resources. We wish to express our deepest apologies for any inconvenience.

Just to dissect this a little bit...

our hope was to build awareness of the upcoming new Health & Family Life Curriculum for MCPS students, by inviting guests with different special knowledge and experience. This of course is false. They had initially planned to present one side, the radical opposition to the county's majority position. This statement suggests that they had planned to present this monolithic bunch as they had "different special knowledge and experience," which would have been even more of a hoax.

... we began to receive email attacks to both our program and our volunteer Host. Interestingly, people who have discussed the situation with the host say he never mentioned any attacks. I just showed you one of the "attacks," above, and I do know that the producers tried to allege that my blog piece attacked them. If it is true that there were "email attacks," please, I offer to publish on this blog any messages that the producers would like to provide to us, as evidence that they were attacked.

our focus on the show is to build stronger families and community through information and awareness -- this does make you wonder why they had invited such a biased, anti-educational group to appear on the show then. The CRC's view of sex education is that it should promote ignorance of sexual variation and ignorance of safe sex techniques. Is that "information and awareness?"

our goal was beginning to be lost Hey, isn't this really the issue? CRC had planned to pull off a small-time media coup here, putting forward themselves as experts in health education. The goal was beginning to be lost mainly because of the pure nuttiness of it -- the public was not going to let them get away with it. Was this public statement then issued to conceal the fact that CRC backed out of the show once it became known that other opinions would be allowed?

One of the scheduled guests, Anne Kaiser, who is a gay Maryland state delegate, wrote this articulate note to the show's producers:

I was sorry to hear about the cancellation, especially so late in the day. I would have hoped for a phone call. I was nearing the time that I was leaving to pick-up my car and then go to the studio.

I do appreciate the difficulties that you faced after scheduling such a controversial topic. However, I'm sorry that you decided to cancel, because the citizens of Montgomery County deserve to hear from both sides on this very important, but divisive issue. There is no question that this topic elicits great emotion from both sides of the issue. However, public policy must be shaped by facts, tempered and modified by values, but ultimately by facts. The CRC proponents base their advocacy on mistruths, emotions, fears, and feelings of hatred for people like me.

Given the opportunity to promote the facts (like Teach The does everyday) and to positively promote homosexuals as positive and contributing members of the community (what I strive to do everyday) --- I was disappointed that you cancelled the show. Like you, I strive to promote community and family through information and awareness. I'm sorry that today, we both lost the opportunity to advance information and awareness in the county.

-Anne Kaiser

In sum, here's what happened yesterday, as nearly as we can tell:
  • Citizens Link planned a TV show to showcase the CRC's radical viewpoint as if it were mainstream.
  • The public complained, the guest host noted the imbalance, and he invited guests who represented an alternative point of view.
  • CRC refused to go on the show with the new line-up.
  • Citizens Link posted an announcement blaming "email attacks" for the cancellation.

Richard Cohen Profiled in The Post

We'd heard a rumor that the Washington Post was planning to do a story on Richard Cohen, the President of PFOX. PFOX was one of the two groups that sued the Montgomery County School District this spring, and Cohen himself recently addressed the school board in public comments.

OK, he's articulate and engaging, The Post says, and then that's out of the way.
Cohen has a master's degree in counseling psychology from a satellite campus of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He conducts individual therapy at a cost of $150 for an hour-long session, as well as telephone classes for "strugglers" and their relatives. He also runs seminars and workshops, at which he sells his books, two of them self-published and one for children who think they might be gay, as well as tapes and CDs. All of his work, he said, is conducted under the auspices of the International Healing Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization he founded in 1990 to treat what he calls unwanted SSA -- same-sex attraction.

Note that "SSA" or "same-sex attraction" is not a medical term or one used by psychiatrists or clinical psychologists. It's one of those code-words used by people who want to say that homosexuality is a disease -- they like to talk about Same Sex Attraction Disorder, or "SSAD." Isn't that clever?
He is not licensed as a therapist, he explained, because he "didn't want to jump through the hoops and deal with the heterophobia and anti-ex-gay attitudes." He circumvents the licensing requirement by asking for donations to his foundation. "I am not doing therapy per se," he said. "I'm coaching."

In 2002, Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association (ACA) for multiple ethical violations.

Permanent expulsion is a rarely used sanction, according to David Kaplan, chief professional officer of the Alexandria-based organization. Kaplan said Cohen was found to have violated six sections of the ACA's ethics code, which bars members from actions that "seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients," those that exploit "the trust and dependency of clients," and for soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner.

Cohen was found in violation of the following ACA code sections A.1.a; A.1.b; A.5.a; A.6.a; C.3.b, C.3.f. You can read what these are in The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics.

Here's what he told The Post:
Cohen said his expulsion was based on a complaint by a client who told the ACA he felt forced to attend Cohen's classes, buy his books, volunteer to work for his foundation and talk about his personal experiences.

Cohen said he did not contest his expulsion. "Why would I want to be in a totally gay-affirming club?" he asked during a nearly three-hour interview in his office.

Mmm hmmm, yes, thank you.

Look, I learned many years ago -- never believe anyone's explanation for why they went to jail. Or got fired ... or divorced ... or expelled from a professional organization ...

The Post goes on:
His therapy, much of which is derived from his own experience, is outlined in the 273-page book he wrote in 2000 entitled "Coming Out Straight," the foreword of which is written by radio personality Laura Schlessinger, who has called gays "deviants" and "biological errors."

(HERE is an interesting article about Laura Schlessinger's nude photos, which are all over the web.)

Finally, The Post goes into a little bit of description of how Cohen treats homosexuals who want to become straight.
As part of his treatment, Cohen advises patients to pray, exercise regularly and undergo "behavioral and gesture reeducation" in which they practice acting more conventionally masculine. He also endorses a technique using "bioenergetics" in which a client releases pent-up anger by smashing a tennis racket against a mound of pillows while repeatedly screaming "Dad" -- or the name of the person about whom the client has unresolved feelings. This, Cohen said, is how he recovered his repressed memories of sexual abuse.

Touch plays a central role in his therapy, said Cohen, who does not treat women. He recommends that clients develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors who will cuddle them in a parental, nonerotic way, making up for the love they did not get from their fathers.

"You've got to feel it to heal it," he said.


<sarcasm>It is really hard to see how he was ever accused of any ethics violations.</sarcasm>

We thank The Post for this. Richard Cohen is trying to insert himself into the controversy over the Montgomery County sex education curriculum. I think -- I hope! -- that readers of this article will understand that this weirdness is not what we need here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Show is Cancelled

This just in. The Citizens Link TV show, which was originally planning to showcase the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and then decided to balance the show, has now announced that they have cancelled that segment. There is now an announcement on the show's web site that says:
Notice From The Producers

August 15, 2005

This notice is to inform our viewers that it is with great regret, we have decided to cancel the Citizens Link to Community Awareness, Show #11, entitled "Health Education, Where Do We Go From Here?"

We wish to thank all our members for their hard work in preparing for this show, our hope was to build awareness of the upcoming new Health & Family Life Curriculum for MCPS students, by inviting guests with different special knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately, after only hours of posting our intended guest line up on the Citizens Link website, we began to receive email attacks to both our program and our volunteer Host. Because our focus on the show is to build stronger families and community through information and awareness, our goal was beginning to be lost.

Conflict of guest scheduling and cancellations has placed a tremendous strain on our resources. We wish to express our deepest apologies for any inconvenience.

I'll tell you what, people, you wouldn't believe the number of phone calls and emails that have blown around the old Internet this afternoon, about this. Lots of it is very informative -- different people are bringing us different parts of the story, and I think we're seeing the big picture.

Unfortunately, some of it is still hearsay at this point, so I'm going to zip it.

Aw, I gotta say something, I can't stand it.

No, zip it.

[jimk zig-zags off into the sunset mumbling to himself]

Science Teachers Speak Up

A couple of weeks ago, the President made some off-the-cuff comments suggesting that he believed schools should teach "Intelligent Design" alongside evolution. He thought it was good to expose students to different schools of thought.

We here at are primarily concerned with defending our school district from ambush by radicals who believe in teaching ... nothing useful ... in sex education classes. They're against safe sex, they're against teaching about sexual variation, and we think it's time to start teaching the facts in the public schools so our kids can make wise decisions.

But sex-ed isn't the only kind of curriculum that's under attack. It hasn't happened in our county, but in other places the Biology curriculum is also being undermined by religious groups who want to teach creationism, un-deified as "Intelligent Design," in classrooms. It's not a scientific theory, just a kind of wishful thinking, a way that people who believe a certain way can cling to their faith in spite of the scientific evidence.

So we are heartened to see this statement by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), responding to the President's comments. Their statement is reproduced here in full:
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the world's largest organization of science educators, is stunned and disappointed that President Bush is endorsing the teaching of intelligent design - effectively opening the door for nonscientific ideas to be taught in the nation's K-12 science classrooms.

"We stand with the nation's leading scientific organizations and scientists, including Dr. John Marburger, the president's top science advisor, in stating that intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design has no place in the science classroom," said Gerry Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director.

On Monday, Knight Ridder news service reported that the President favors the teaching of intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

"It is simply not fair to present pseudoscience to students in the science classroom," said NSTA President Mike Padilla. "Nonscientific viewpoints have little value in increasing students' knowledge of the natural world."

NSTA strongly supports the premise that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 education frameworks and curricula. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many other scientific and educational organizations. NSTA Disappointed About Intelligent Design Comments Made by President Bush

I want to point out that this is not a political comment. The President certainly has a right to hold an opinion on this matter, same as anybody else. It's just that sometimes he is announcing a shift in how the government will do things, sometimes he's just talking as a private person. I think he was doing the latter in this case, and we need to be careful not to treat his words as government policy.

Citizens Link Update

The Montgomery Community Television show The Citizens Link to Community Awareness was going to have a whole half-hour of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, including PFOX President Richard Cohen, on Channel 21. I blogged complaining about the one-sidedness of it HERE.

Well, word is, the show got more mail and phone calls than they had ever received before. Seems Montgomery County people didn't really all agree that "Subject: Health Education Where do we go from here?" was best discussed by a bunch of anti-MCPS radicals, with no one representing the the majority viewpoint.

So the schedule for taping, which will happen this afternoon, is currently shown as this:
SHOW #11. Subject: Health Education Where do we go from here?

GUESTS for First half of Show:
1. Michelle Turner - President of CRC (Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum)
2. Steve Fisher - PR/Media Chairman
3. Dr. Ruth Jacobs M.D.

GUESTS for Second half of Show:
1. Anne Kaiser - Maryland State Delegate, District 14

It is not posted yet, but we understand that David Fishback, former chair of the citizens advisory committee, will appear with Ms. Kaiser in the second part of the show.

Citizens Link will be shown on Channel 21 at the following times:
Monday at 9:30 PM
Thursday at 5:30 PM
Sunday at 7:00 PM.

Should be v-e-e-r-r-r-y interesting.

Does Bisexuality Exist?

The topic of bisexuality is one we tend to gloss over. It is thrown in with gay and straight, just because we know that some people have sex both ways. And the "ex-gay" thing relies on the assumption that gay men can manage to have sex with women. (It's probably like, "think about baseball ... players.")

This article in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel reports on some research that looked for bisexuality -- and couldn't find it. I'll quote some of the fluffy stuff at the top of the story, just because it is kind of well-written and interesting.
BY FAYE FLAM (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

(KRT) - It's been a year since former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey came out of the closet, and I'm still wondering how he could be gay without either of his wives knowing. Wouldn't he at least have to be bisexual to have pulled that off?

And then came the even more baffling news from writer Terry McMillan that her soon-to-be-ex-husband is gay. The man inspired her 1996 best-seller, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." Wasn't the groove partly about sex? Is this man gay or bisexual?

Research on bisexuality is sparse, but a few intrepid scientists have tried to get data by wiring up a group of gay, bisexual and straight men to a machine that monitored their arousal when exposed to erotic images of men and women. The researchers found that, while some of their subjects called themselves bisexual, their male anatomy showed a notable preference for one sex or the other. That led to headlines proclaiming that bisexual men don't exist. Testing for bisexuals: A study that found none

Well, of course, you can't test a couple of hundred guys and then say that something "doesn't exist." But, still, a third of these research subjects reported themselves to be bisexual... and weren't. Well, let's read on:
But such a proclamation would seem to depend on how you define bisexual. Does a person have to be absolutely equally attracted to both sexes? If you like both but prefer one, do you qualify? Scientists don't know. What they do know from tracking the spread of HIV is that a number of men who have sex with men also have sex with women. A report from the Centers for Disease Control notes that 13 percent of white men who reported sex with other men also had sex with women. Among black men it was 34 percent, and among Hispanic men, 26 percent. Men can and do go both ways.

"This is something we don't quite understand," says Gerulf Rieger, a psychology graduate student at Northwestern University and lead author of the study. Rieger, who told me he's gay, said he, too, is a bit baffled by the way other gay men manage to marry women.

In his study, he didn't see evidence for "bisexual arousal" among the 101 paid volunteers, recruited using alternative weeklies and gay publications. Of those, 38 identified themselves as gay, 33 as bisexual and 30 as straight. The researchers showed the men short films: one with two women having sex, one with two men having sex. They used lesbian sex because previous research showed it is more exciting to heterosexual men than male-female pornography.

(Uh, guys, that makes some kind of sense, right?)
But what really surprised Rieger was that some of those who identified as bisexual liked the women much more than the men. In that sense they reacted like the straight men. Why would a heterosexual man pose as bisexual?

"Maybe they're very open," Rieger says. "I'm not a straight guy, so I don't know."

An article on the subject in the New York Times appeared under the headline "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited." Rieger said the headline came from an expression often used in the gay community and was not meant to imply that bisexuals are liars, though that is what it implied. "Some might be truly confused - that's far from being a liar," he says.

But it may be the scientists who are confused. Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender identity at the University of Utah, said there's no agreed-upon definition of bisexual either in science or in society. Some people define their orientation by whom they're attracted to, others say it's whom you fall in love with that matters. "We have this delusion that we're all talking about the same thing when we talk about arousal and desire and orientation," she said.

If you're lucky, you can focus all those feelings and sensations on one person, and he/she will feel the same way about you. It's a good groove if you can get into it, but it doesn't always last.

Let's just say the case is not closed. Turns out men in this study reacted predominantly one way or the other, but also showed some reaction to the "opposite" scene. The point is, nobody responded equally to both the movies.

That is one interesting finding, though, that some guys who called themselves bisexual actually strongly preferred women, physiologically speaking. That could really be an opening for the "ex-gay" movement. Here's what ya need to do. Find those guys, hook them up with some women, and call it proof that "change is possible." If you start with a guy who prefers women in the first place, your chances of producing a heterosexual seem much higher.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

They Come From A Different Universe

I'm afraid I have to say something about those comments by the CRC forum admin, published in the previous post. He said:
The point is, without typing anything in, you can go from a MCPS approved web site, to hot gay singles ads without ever typing in anything. That is a form of tacit approval.

No, the point is, the gay-straight club web site has some links that have been taken over by commercial search engines. All of them have categories of links you can click on to start. There are literally hundreds of categories available one click away from the Outlook Club's web page. One of them, on one of the many search engines, is labeled "Queer," and will take you to gay stuff, some of which the CRC does not approve.

There is no difference between clicking and typing. Most search engines, including these, offer both input modes.

The idea that the search engine means the school district is giving "tacit approval" to whatever search results you get ... nutty. The school district has thousands of HTML pages on its web servers. Some links have died. That's just the hard part about running a web site, you have to maintain it. Have you ever seen the gopher when you clicked on an MCPS link? Same thing, bad links, but those are inside their system. These club links go out to the Internet where there are no gophers.

Then he said:
This "search engine" defense is truly bizarre. This [the CRC] forum exists to discuss the welfare of children in the MCPS.

Followed by some stuff about bomb plans on Google.

People do send me clippings of the more amusing bits from this one-sided "forum." None of it has anything to do with the "welfare of children." What a crock. Search engines at the school web site have nothing to do with the "welfare of children."

No, the "search engine" attack is what's "truly bizarre." To try and convince the school board that the "gay club" at a high school is using their web site to meet "hot gay men" is ... well, bizarre is a great word for it. Nobody uses the "gay club" web site, or takes care of it. The "gay club" has been overrun with apathy, except for amped-up CRC paranoids who are looking for evidence of the so-called Gay Agenda.

To go into the Board of Education and say, as the CRC's Steina Walter did,
Why is the MCPS allowing the gay-straight club at Walter Johnson High School to use the school's Internet web address to meet sexy, single gay men for dating, romance, and more?

-- Now, that is bizarre.

You want to know what this is all about? In the grand finale of Ms. Walter's statement, she said:
Homosexual clubs have no place in MCPS. Our schools are not safe.

That's what it's about, people. They think that "homosexual clubs" make the school unsafe.

... Now, I'll admit something personal here: I find it embarrassing to be talking about these things. This "search engine attack" was so off-the-wall, so ignorant, that no intelligent person should be forced to respond to it, ever. But if you ignore this stuff, they will just keep it up. They'll have something even dumber next time, and eventually they'll just wear us all down.

These are the times I wish somebody else was doing this.

CRC's Public Forum Allows Their Side Only

I hate to get into this, but to tell you the truth it is kind of upsetting. A second person has just had their comments on the CRC forum blocked.

See, here at this web site we have a blog format where somebody -- usually it's me -- posts something about a news story or something, and then anyone can comment. The very best is when people who disagree with our point of view come here and try to explain. Well, they're often snotty and sarcastic, but at least they're hearing what we say, and they do have a chance to express themselves if they care to. Sometimes the comments section gets a little wild. People aren't real careful about spelling and don't exactly work up an outline before they write something, so sometimes it's just a little ... woolly. But it's real time, it's people talking to one another, and it's often fascinating to watch them interact. I love our comment section.

I have never deleted anybody's comments because of the opinion they expressed. Some stuff, name-calling, pointless obscenity, sarcasm without a message ... I will delete. It's been quite a while since I had to delete anything. What opinion a person expresses has nothing at all to do with my decision.

I've been told that the CRC Forum actually has a thread titled "Slander from TeachTheFacts." It's about some things that were said here when the CRC member told the school board, with well-rehearsed indignation, that you could "meet hot gay men" from the web page of a "gay club" at a high school.

There have been some comments, and apparently quite a discussion over there, about this. Some CRC members actually seem to have seen how it works, they've seen the search engines, and they still think it's terrible that a student can get to a gay dating site through a search engine. My assessment is like the cartoon on Alex's blog that says: "You suck at the Internet." They just don't seem to understand how all this works, and think it all needs to be censored and blocked -- these web sites link to all kinds of things, including Christian sites, but all the CRC sees is gay, gay, gay.

So we learn:
Can you believe this? I was in a discussion there, and the administrator blocked me from saying anything! I can still read what other people write, but even if somebody responds to my last comment, I can't say anything back, because they've locked me out.

Here's what I said:
This is a real education for me -- at least two of you guys seem to be for real about this!

Do you think the school district should have like a sealed-off part of the Internet, where students can only reach things that CRC approves of? Is that what this is about -- a new model of computer communications divided into subsystems?

What about students who really do want to meet gay singles in their area?

Or what about the Students Against Drunk Driving at Walter Johnson? Their web site tricks you -- when you try to go to their "national organization" it diverts you to a web site with a text box -- I typed "sex" into that text box, and it gave me links to 671,000,000 web sites. Will the CRC tell the school board at their next meeting that the Students Against Drunk Driving are promoting illicit sexual behaviors?

I just wonder what kind of world you think you live in.

So later I checked back to see if anybody has had anything to say, and here's what I saw, a message from the Administrator.

It is very simple. This is a click-see world. I don't care if google responds with 10000 ads for anal sex if you type in gay. The point is, without typing anything in, you can go from a MCPS approved web site, to hot gay singles ads without ever typing in anything. That is a form of tacit approval. This "search engine" defense is truly bizarre. This forum exists to discuss the welfare of children in the MCPS. The fact that children can go to google and type in anything is not relevant to this forum. They can get detailed plans using google to build a nuclear dirty bomb, but that does not make that an issue to be discussed here. CRCprecious made her point. It has been discussed to death. Let us all move on.

The funny thing is how they seem to need to control the discussion. They'll tell you themselves, they don't want two sides to a discussion. If you're not talking about what their administrator wants you to talk about, then they'll just lock you out.

Let me say, I've seen this other places, too. I belong to a couple of high-school Yahoo groups, and there is a certain faction that takes this weird approach -- as soon as anyone says anything vaguely "liberal" sounding, these people tell them to shut up. I've seen it at both my kids' high schools.

What they seem to want is for everyone to say the same thing, so they can all pat themselves on the back and tell themselves what a massively important political movement they represent. They don't need a bunch of wimpy stuff like "reasons" -- they know what they believe already, and there's no sense beating it to death with a bunch of blabbering.

Here at, we have a Yahoo group where people can share information and opinions. Almost as soon as we formed the group, people from the other side joined it under fake names. We do consider that group to be an "insider" discussion, more for planning things and noting relevant current events than for debating whether gay people are going to hell or not. But still, we've had several occasions where people from the other side try to impose their alien beliefs on us.

One time I volunteered to remove those people from the list. It'd be easy. And we had a big discussion, and it seemed clear that the majority of TeachTheFacts people did not want to remove the outsiders. They were probably good for keeping our views rigorous and well-defined, and besides it doesn't seem fair to exclude people just because they don't agree with us.

So we have this interesting kind of distinction between the two sides. Our side encourages the discussion, to a fault. We want to hear what the other side thinks, and sometimes some of us even agree with some of what they say. For instance, some of the stuff about STDs -- I think a lot of us agree with the CRC's doctor who says there ought to be more in the curriculum about STDs, especially as they are spread by homosexual behavior. Sounds good to us, some of us would support having a section of the sex-ed curriculum that helped gay students understand what to do to prevent the spread of disease.

The other side does not "do nuance." They don't care what anybody else thinks, they already know what they believe, and contrary opinions are just a kind of background noise, like a mosquito buzzing.

The CRC Forum threw out another person earlier this week, on similar grounds. Just didn't like what the person was saying. Couldn't stand the fact that somebody would have their own opinion and didn't ask permission before they expressed it.

In that case, the administrator wrote:
It is also unacceptable to reprint major "opinion pieces" from a web site that is in direct oposition to the CRC, ever.

That would be us. They don't want to hear anything from Ever.

We remember when the first Recall message board was set up. Oh, how the nuts amused themselves! It was a madhouse, they were threatening people and saying crazy stuff, and they finally had to put a password on it and keep the rest of the world from seeing what they were saying. I remember the CRC President apologizing to the school board for threats that were made against them. It was something else. So I understand their admin wanting to keep a lid on things.

But man, there is a big difference between monitoring and controlling threatening messages and telling people that the topic has been "discussed to death" and that it's time to move on.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Woops -- Scratch That Part

I just finished writing about how unhappy I was that the CRC, featuring barrel-bottomer Richard Cohen, was going to appear on a Montgomery County TV show. Then our CillyGoose just emailed me, and said: You have to change the blog. I clicked the link, and waddya know? Richard Cohen has been erased from the schedule.

So I'm feeling a little like Rosanne Rosannadanna here.

Never mind.

About the Cohen part.

I still meant what I said about the rest of 'em.

It appears that the second half of the show will feature Maryland Delegate Anne Kaiser, who is openly lesbian, and I'll betcha does not exactly agree with everything the CRC leaders are going to say.

Good, cool. We weren't the only ones who noticed how wrong this was.

(It will be fun to find out what the story was here.)


They Gotcha Coming and Going

I see the Montgomery Community Television show Citizen Link is going to host the radical cell that has worked so hard to undermine the public school system. Bizarre -- it's just like nothing happened. Sue the county, take their money, and then let the county promote your extremist cause for free.

Show 15 will feature Michelle Turner, Steve Fisher, and Ruth Jacobs from CRC, plus Richard Cohen, of the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). No, wait, that would be PFOX-GAG, they must just mean Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays. (Because ... we know that gay people don't consider them their friends (see LINK).)

The show's web site has links to some PR stuff on each of them. Ms. Turner's name links to a profile on her at the Mormon-based United Families International web site, telling about how wonderfully her lawsuit went and how nice the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays are. Great quote from Ms. Turner: "I think if we allow the liberal sex education program to happen, we will see the end of families and it will serve a tremendous blow to society."

(Please, people, pause and meditate on that statement for a moment. Liberal sex-ed ... the end of families... I hope you appreciate the profound thought that goes into something like that.)

There is also a link to the flyer for the CRC town hall hate-fest, where the various national organizations sent in their guys to whip up the anti-gay frenzy. Steve Fisher's name links to a radio interview and a blog post that links to ... the same interview.

The strangest, though, is PFOX's Richard Cohen. According to this Montgomery Community TV site, Cohen, "a psychotherapist and educator, is one of the leading experts in the field of sexual reorientation and the author" of some books.

Now, I am thinking of Montgomery Community Television as a community channel. I see they receive funding from the County Council. And I would like to think that my community is reasonable and well-informed.

I would be offended if the TV channel put somebody like Richard Cohen on with a sweet bio and no mention of the fact that he was expelled for life from the American Counseling Association for multiple ethics violation. You'd hope they'd mention that. One of two things happened here. Either Cohen sent the TV channel his bio and did not mention this very important fact (and Montgomery Community TV and host Don Mooer did absolutely no research), or he mentioned it and the TV channel covered it up. You can't tell which of these things happened, but they sure are leaving out a big ol' chunk of the truth here.

Telling the county that Richard Cohen is a psychotherapist, educator, and editor is like saying that John Wayne Gacy was a professional clown. In the field of psychotherapy, Cohen is at the bottom of the barrel. No doctorate, no scholarly publications, kicked out of the counseling association... His main professional focus, trying to convert gay people to heterosexuals, violates the policies of all mainstream medical and psychological associations. (I wondered how he got to be called an educator -- because it seemed ironic, given the campaigning that his colleagues have done to keep people like him out of the schools. Turns out he has done training for the Red Cross.)

I would be offended if my county's TV channel featured someone like the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and PFOX, and didn't mention that they had sued the school district capriciously, won on the basis of some background materials that were not going to be part of the curriculum anyway, brought in Jerry Falwell's legal-eagles, and then settled for lawyer's fees and undeserved membership on the citizens committee.

The story here for Montgomery County is that the elected school board was attacked by a radical minority who wanted their anti-gay and anti-safe-sex perspective inserted into the school curriculum. The curriculum was very tame by any standards. It did introduce the topic of sexual variation, as required by law, and it updated the video about condoms. But that almost didn't matter. The small group organized and established connections with national religious organizations such as the Family Research Council, Concerned Women For America, and others; they contacted Liberty Counsel, a law firm devoted to eliminating the distinction between church and state. They waited until days before the new curriculum was to be pilot-tested, then filed suit as if it were the last thing they wanted to do, though we have documentation establishing that they had begun planning it back in January. The lawsuit was full of allegations, most of which the judge rejected; his decision to issue a temporary restraining order against the school district appears to have been largely influenced by confusion in the complainants' documents about what was in the curriculum and what was in the teachers' background materials.

To tell you the truth, this makes me a little angry. This anti-MCPS group goes out on the county's television channel to promote their hateful views on the taxpayers' dollar. They take our money in the lawsuit, and they take it in free promotion on county-subsidized TV. This noisy minority of extremists set the curriculum back a year, wasted thousands of dollars and many hundreds of hours of people's time, and now they've conned the county into giving them free advertising.

Teach Both Sides: Some Friday Silliness

I admit it, I love AmericaBlog. I keep it open in a browser window and refresh it every hour or so, just to see what's new.

Well, this afternoon, the news is about the Kansas school board deciding to teach about "Intelligent Design" in science classes (read about it in the New York Times).

This exclusive from AmericaBlog:
In honor of this, Americablog has obtained some exclusive peeks at what future test questions in science and math and other areas will be like in Kansas after the revamping. See how you do!

Question: What does DNA stand for?
Answer: God.

Question: What is 21 divided by 7?
Answer: God.

Question: Which came first, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: The Bible.

Aw, bummer! I guessed "ex-gay" for number three and got it wrong. No fair.

On a related note, I also loved this. A LiveJournal blog called One Technical Writer's Quest For Love In A World Gone Mad has a new theory: "Design by Unintelligent Hand," or "DUH" for short.

I'm all for teaching DUH
in America's schools!

Of course, it would be unfair and un-American not to "teach both sides" of the controversy. DUH makes perfectly good sense, when you look at the evidence. Pretty good.

David Fishback's Statement to the Board

David Fishback, the former chair of the citzens advisory committee that produced the new curriculum, made a significant statement during the public comments segment of the June 27th MCPS school board meeting. He gave the board a handout that contained policy statements from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Assocation, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, condemning conversion or "reparative" therapy, as well as the letter from the American Counseling Assocation expelling Richard Cohen for life.

Here is the text of Mr. Fishback's presentation to the board:
Last month, the PFOX/CRC lawyer asked you to develop a health curriculum that's "not offensive." What did PFOX/CRC find offensive in the pilot curriculum that their lawsuit derailed?

Was it the use of definitions from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association?

Was it the factual statements:

That "all major professional mental health organizations affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder"?

That "most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice"?

That "different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion"?

That "having homosexual parents/guardians does not predispose you to being homosexual"?

That there are families in our community headed by same-sex couples?I have just described nearly everything on sexual orientation contained in the derailed curriculum. PFOX/CRC apparently find this offensive, as they find offensive any omission of their perspective on so-called "reparative therapy." At your last meeting, PFOX president Richard Cohen alluded to reparative therapy, while misrepresenting much of what PFOX and like-minded James Dobson-connected groups do. Perhaps the misrepresentations are not surprising, for the American Counseling Association has expelled Mr. Cohen for life for unethical conduct.

All mainstream health care organizations reject the PFOX/CRC approach. The American Medical Association specifically states 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, attached).

MCPS has a choice: It may choose not to offend PFOX/CRC OR it may choose to follow the lead and wisdom of the mainstream health care professionals and end the silence on sexual orientation which has caused so much harm in the past. Indeed, failure to do the latter would be offensive to the vast majority of MCPS stakeholders.

I have confidence that you will choose wisely.

For your convenience, I have attached pertinent documents from the AMA and other mainstream health groups.


Documents of the
American Medical Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Letter from the American Counseling Association, expelling Richard Cohen.

Mr. Fishback's handout is available from the Resources page here, or from HERE. It makes some interesting reading. This "ex-gay" topic is a red herring. The professional organizations don't buy it, and neither should our school district.

And note that last item. Richard Cohen is the President of PFOX, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays. He calls himself a psychotherapist, but he does not have any doctorate, and was kicked out of the American Counseling Association for numerous ethical violations.

Misconstrual: A Form of Lying

Yesterday I mentioned one technique that the CRC and their allies use to pursuade people. The technique I mentioned was misconstrual. You take something someone says and simply change the meaning of it.

The blogosphere is lit up this week over a video that was posted on a California Planned Parenthood web site.

The video, called "A Superhero for Choice," features a superheroine named Dianysis. She conquers several bad guys. The first one is an evil-looking little guy named "Sleasy Dude" in a top hat who is telling kids they need to be sexually abstinent. Dianysis throws him into a vat of "Aqua Slide," whatever that is, and gives the kids a safe sex kit. Then she comes upon an anti-choice demonstration, some people in the streets with signs. She says, "...they can sometimes become unruly. and sometimes they get a little too close." So she zaps them with a condom gun. Those evil anti-choicers are encased in condoms. Then the condoms blow up, apparently vaporizing the bad guys. So Dianysis says, "That's more like it! Open for business!"

OK, you know cartoons, like .. that poor Wile E. Coyote. Getting shot with a condom gun would be better than usual for him.

Listen to how Right Blogistan is playing it: has the headline: Planned Parenthood Removes Cartoon Advocating Abortion Violence. And they say:
A Planned Parenthood abortion business in California has quietly removed a cartoon video promoting violence against pro-life advocates that has drawn national outrage.

Mmm hmm, Planned Parenthood "promotes violence," sure.

The Write Wing Blog is even more to the point -- their headline: Planned Parenthood Cartoon Advocated Killing Pro-Lifers.

How about some more?

Here's Marquette Warrior:
A video from the San Francisco branch of Planned Parenthood that derides all those (abstinance advocates, anti-abortion protestors, conservative politicians and Jerry Falwell) who disagree with Planned Parenthood's positions.

It features a "superhero" who is a black woman who eats organic vegetables. We are obviously deep into politically correct territory here.

The video shows her using violence against those who disagree with Planned Parenthood.

Check out Writing Right, who uses the headline: Planned Parenthood Cartoon Depicts the Murder of Pro-Lifers.

Oh, here's Evangelism Today with a little graphic that says: Planned Parenthood would abort Jesus. WorldNet Daily has this one: Planned Parenthood superhero terminates Christian protesters (some of the demonstrators had signs with religious slogans on them.)

A blog called Historio uses the headline: Planned Parenthood Celebrates Violence Against Pro-Lifers.

And so on. I used a filter on my RSS aggregator and found literally hundreds of these anti-choice web sites, all interpreting this silly cartoon in the same way.

I am not saying it's a great video, actually it seems kind of dumb to me, but then I never liked Scooby-Doo or South Park either. But, all in all, it's a cartoon, people, fer cryin' out loud.

So here's today's lesson about how the rhetorical technique.

I'm am going to address the emperor's clothing: Planned Parenthood does not advocate violence against those who disagree with them. Can you see that? They do not want you to shoot anybody with a condom-gun or any other kind of weapon. You may disagree with Planned Parenthood's policies regarding birth control and abortion, but they are not "celebrating violence" in this cartoon, any more than any other cartoon "celebrates violence."

This kind of irrational verbal attack is absurd, but it has become commonplace -- this is the way people talk about the issues now.

Misconstrual: a kind of misinterpretation resulting from putting a wrong construction on words or actions (often deliberately).

It amazes me that modern, civilized human beings will allow this kind of discourse, which is really a form of lying. But it has become the norm.

I will cite a couple of examples from our Montgomery County debate over sex education, just so we get comfortable with the concect of misconstrual and learn to recognize it when it appears.

When the curriculum outline said: As we study human sexuality we will discuss how you develop your individual sexual identity, CRC President Michelle Turner said in a public speech:"The new curriculum encourages students, beginning in 8th grade, to "develop your individual sexual identity," i.e., to begin to question their sexual orientation."

It didn't say that. Misconstrual.

Based on the same line of the curriculum outline (apparently), the CRC says, in a handout, "To encourage impressionable youth to self-identify as homosexual is to violate their dignity and put them at risk of the premature sexual behavior which accompanies gay self-labeling."

Nothing in the any document anywhere says that a student would ever be expected to "self-identify as homosexual." Again: misconstrual.

When an early draft of the curriculum said: Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation, the CRC said in a handout that the curriculum "Advocates sexual experimentation by stating: "Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence…"

No, the curriculum did not advocate sexual experimentation, the statement -- which is factual -- was reassuring teens that having played doctor as a kid doesn't mean you're gay. Saying that this statement "advocates sexual experimentation: Misconstrual.

Putting the word "gay" into a search engine, and then using the search results to prove that the web site is promoting homosexuality: misconstrual.

There are very many of these examples, I won't list them all.

Life is difficult, and there are a lot of hard decisions to make. Often there are differing points of view, and rarely is one perspective perfectly correct. So we have to discuss issues.

It does not help anything when one side is so compelled to win the argument that they feel they are authorized to change the meanings of things that are said. You can make anything sound terrible, there's nothing to it -- but why do it?

(Another one I just thought of: the condom video stresses abstinence, mentioning it many times in its seven minutes. The CRC says that MCPS produced "a video that laughs at abstinence as a joke." Misconstrual.)

We have seen misconstrual come from the highest levels of government, from the church as well as the state, it is extremely common on talk radio and in certain realms of the blogosphere. It is a completely unproductive way to address a debate -- it's intentionally dishonest and insulting. Let's learn to identify it when it is thrust upon us, and call it what it is.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ugliness at Focus on the Family

Sometimes you forget how bad it really is. The Drudge Retort today links to a web page put up by Focus on the Family, to tell you what to do if you think your kid is growing up gay: Helping Boys Become Men, and Girls Become Women.

The page itself is mainly just a list of links to other pages on the web site. You click on them and ... it's unbelievable. The links are:
  • 1. Is my child becoming homosexual?
  • 2. The facts about homosexuality.
  • 3. The fact that change of sexual orientation is possible.
  • 4. The homosexual campaign against children.
  • 5. How to protect your child from sexual abuse.
  • 6. How to prevent homosexuality.
  • 7. What to do if your child needs help in the area of sexual identity.

Like, you know you're kid is turning gay if they have a strong feeling that they are "different" from other boys or a tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy, if they have a strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes, or even if they have a susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them "queer," "fag" and "gay."

Mmm, yeah, that's how you can tell, it's when the other kids call them names...
If your child is experiencing several signs of gender confusion, professional help is available. It’s best to seek that help before your child reaches puberty.

"By the time the adolescent hormones kick in during early adolescence, a full-blown gender identity crisis threatens to overwhelm the teenager," warns psychologist Dr. James Dobson.

Oh, and this page links to another one that tells you what you can do about it: that is, you can call Exodus International or NARTH for reparative therapy. Yeah, great idea, just great.

And I was wondering about some of those facts about homosexuality. Here're some:
  • 1. Homosexuality is a disorder
  • 2. Homosexuality is rarely "chosen."
  • 3. No evidence indicates that homosexuality is inherited.
  • 4. Homosexuality often results from early sexual abuse.
  • 5. There is growing evidence that change of sexual orientation is possible.
  • 6. Parents can help prevent homosexuality in their children.

You might have noticed that these "facts" are just the opposite of the facts that you get from actual psychologists, this is the opposite of the scientific findings. Flat-out, hundred-eighty-degrees, back-to-back opposite.

That "growing evidence that change is possible" thing was a hyperlink, and I was interested to find out about it. Because it seems to me that, if anything, there is growing evidence that change of sexual orientation is a pipe-dream. So I clicked on the link.

Oddly, the page it linked to had nothing about any evidence for change. Instead, you went to a page called The Homosexual Campaign Against Children, which talked about how gay people want the age of consent to be lower and lower so they can molest your children legally. As an example ...
Dr. James Dobson reports: "There is also the vigorous effort by gays to infiltrate the Boy Scouts in the same way lesbians have done so successfully in the Girl Scouts, where 33 percent of their staff is said to be lesbian."

I get a creepy feeling looking at this anti-gay web site, full of lies and distortions, saying anything to make you hate and fear homosexuals. They'll say whatever it takes, it doesn't matter if it's true or if it makes sense. It only has to be something negative about gay people.

Look, these people are among us. They are a tiny minority in Montgomery County, but they're out there, and they want to spread the hate and fear to you and to your kids. We've got to stop them. This just isn't the way we live. We know some people are different from us, and we believe in the personal freedom to be whoever you are and express yourself openly. We don't hate people we don't understand in this county, we prefer to accept differences and even help people who might need a little extra. We start by teaching facts in the public schools, not this hateful junk.

The Post Explains Those Spurious Search Engines

The CRC was recently embarrassed when a member complained to the Board of Education about gay dating services and gay porn on a high-school web site. It turned out that some of the links from the Outlook club had gone out of business, and the domain names had been bought by advertisers who implemented a kind of commercial search engine. So, for instance, if you look for, which apparently started out as a "coming out" site for gays (see THIS article about it), you now find a kind of crummy search engine at that URL. The search engine returns "sponsored sites," so it gets paid when you click on the link.

A freaked-out CRC member put the word "gay" into the search engine and wow -- she got gay stuff. This proves, of course, that the gay agenda is taking over our schools. (Read HERE.)

The Washington Post this morning has a little article about these commercial search engines and how they're taking over the Internet:
Search-related advertising is fueling a new wave of Web sites that seem to have as much appeal as a cheesy Hollywood set. That's because many are created to look good to search engines, much as fake scenery fools TV cameras.

Everywhere I turn online these days I stumble over junky sites that do little more than clutter up the search results at Google and Yahoo.
Search ads started as simple text links displayed next to regular results when you type a word like "camera" into a search box. Every time viewers click on one of the advertising links, the advertiser pays the search company.

Google and Yahoo have programs that allow those ads to be displayed on other Web sites and share the ad revenue with those site publishers, and Web sites have proliferated to take advantage of that. Some of the sites get you there under false pretenses, suggesting that you'll find articles about cameras but displaying only paid links of marginal relevance. Web Increasingly Cluttered By Sites Full of Paid Links

It seems that the people who do this, who put links on the web to these commercial search engines, really defend it as a service to the public.
The search engine ad industry appears to have touched off a moneymaking frenzy only slightly less intense than the original dot-com boom. But I can't help but think that this new wave is generating too many useless link directories designed to provide no value to site visitors, while making money the same way Google and Yahoo do, by showing links to sites that pay each time someone clicks on them.

So just think, when the CRC enters "gay" into the search engine and clicks on it, and then excitedly follows all those links to "meet hot gay men in your area," they are actually making money for these search engine companies.

They should take my advice, and search for things like "Bible" instead.

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Ex-Gays" in the MCPS Curriculum? (Maybe Not)

David Fishback was the last chair of the citizens advisory committee working with the Montgomery County Board of Education to review and develop the sex education curriculum. He sent us this discussion this morning, and agreed to let us blog it:
The curious statement last month to the BOE by PFOX President Richard Cohen that it is "OK" to be gay led me to review my notes from the meetings of the Citizens Advisory Committee. Had I somehow missed this PFOX perspective in all the materials that PFOX and its supporters submitted to the CAC?

In the Winter of 2004, the PFOX representative on the Committee offered to bring Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College to speak on reparative therapy. Throckmorton's article entitled "What Is Reparative Therapy?" was presented to the Committee. It may be found HERE.

I took the time to read the article carefully. In it, the author noted that the principal proponent of reparative therapy was one Joseph Nicolosi. I decided to check out Nicolosi, and I then shared my findings with the CAC. Nicolosi's positions on homosexuality were those rejected more than three decades ago by every mainstream American mental health professional association. To illustrate, at a Focus on the Family Conference on Youth and Homosexuality, Nicolosi stated unequivocally that "there is no such thing as a homosexual. We are all heterosexuals. Some of us have a homosexual problem." He went on to say that "homosexuality is a gender identity disorder," and asserted that male homosexuality is simply the result of rejection by the person's father. He related that he had "never seen a good father-son relationship in [his] clients." Nicolosi then explained that because homosexuals are the victims of "defective detachment. . . . gay relationships don't last." These statements are quoted in a report on the Focus on the Family Conference that may be found HERE.

Consistent with Nicolosi's statements, Throckmorton explained that "reparative therapy takes its name from the basic idea of the approach: Homosexual arousal and identification are efforts on the part of the person to repair a damaged bond with the same-sex parent." He went on to relate that "reparative therapists usually see the same sex attraction and homosexual identification as the results of poor parenting in the formative years." While he further suggested that there might be other causes of homosexuality, the common factor in all reparative therapy approaches is that all "have some explanation and then impart that understanding to the clients, whether directly or indirectly." "An implication of this observation is that the actual causes might matter less than the fact that a person has an explanation and that in itself is comforting."

In other words, it doesn't matter whether the theory of causation is correct, just that there is someone or something to blame.

Not only are Nicolosi's and Throckmorton's fundamental approaches and statements directly contrary to the considered findings of every mainstream medical and medical health professional group in this country, but they are affirmatively dangerous - destroying families and hurting children.

At bottom, they assert that no one is really homosexual, and that if they think they are, they should blame their parents (or, maybe, other influences). At bottom, they tell the homosexual that he or she MUST be "healed" to be happy, even if that means rendering asunder their families, and denying who he or she is. To satisfy their non-scientific assumptions about homosexuality they are prepared to destroy families and make people who may be healthy into emotionally disturbed, and even suicidal, individuals.

In the Spring of 2004, the PFOX CAC representative offered a "recommended reading list for educational staff and students." She did not provide the actual books or pamphlets. In any event, the list included two items by Nicolosi, "Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality" and "Healing Homosexuality: Case Studies of Reparative Therapy." So it certainly appeared that the PFOX position was essentially the Nicolosi position - and one far from the it is "OK" to be gay statement by PFOX President Richard Cohen.

Has there been a coup at PFOX? Is PFOX President Cohen a person with an entirely different perspective who somehow infiltrated the organization and is taking it in an entirely different direction? Or did he just exhibit the kind of misrepresentation that caused him to be expelled for life by the American Counseling Association?

It would seem to be the latter. Indeed, one of the other items on the PFOX recommended reading was "Coming Out Straight" by Richard Cohen. Interestingly, the full title of the book is "Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality." A description of the book, the introductory chapter, and the table of contents may be found HERE.

It is significant that the full title tells the reader that the book discusses the "healing" of homosexuality. It is hard to see how you heal something unless you see it as an illness or injury to be cured. That is why Cohen's presentation to the BOE was so extraordinary (Let students "decide if they want to be gay or ex-gay. Both are OK."). I suspect the action of the American Counseling Association tells us all we need to know as to whether PFOX no longer is a proponent of the material it submitted last year. (Note: At its May 2004 meeting, after full opportunity for discussion, the CAC voted 14-2 to not recommend the PFOX reading list to the BOE.)

David S. Fishback
Former Chair, Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Nonsense of the "Ex-Gay" Thing [Note: This Post Will Be Occasionally Updated]

[I have decided to keep this post "open," and add to it as people mention things or I think of them. Normally it's kind of unethical to edit after posting, but the list below will be an exception.]

Well, I'm back from the most beautiful week in Montreal with my daughter. I had to go to a conference there to receive an Outstanding Paper award from a journal, along with my co-author. There was a great music festival going on downtown -- Les Franco Folies, and we heard some top French and Canadian bands and singers of all types. Took lots of pictures, had lots of adventures, got lots of sunshine, walked until our feet were falling off.

So I see that there were a number of good comments on that last post, which I love. Look, this "ex-gay" thing is a stroke of genius, the wackos knew exactly how hard that would be to refute. I've been seeing the topic on TV, even in Canada, I saw Warren Throckmorton in my hotel room, and I see they're cranking up the volume on this "ex-gay" machine, because it has the potential to work spectacularly for them.

Let me enumerate some of the problems with the "ex-gay" point.

To begin, here is the argument: some people who have a homosexual orientation can pretend to be heterosexual. They can marry someone of the opposite sex, and some can even manage to have children. This is considered preferable to marrying someone that the person finds attractive, usually for religious reasons. The CRC and PFOX intend to use this argument to undermine the Montgomery County sex-ed curriculum. They plan to try to force the district to include teaching about "ex-gays" in the classes, and will claim that the schools are dicriminating against them if they don't include it.

So here's what I scribbled in my notebook while I sat in a terminal in Boston waiting for a flight to open up (there were thunderstorms all up and down the East Coast last night, we almost didn't make it back):
  • People don't change You will not hear even the staunchest proponents of "ex-gayism" say that people can actually change their sexual orientation. If there are actually "ex-gay" people in the world (and it may be possible, though nobody seems to be able to find any of them), they are a big secret. The most anyone can say is that gay people can suppress their feelings or change their behavior.
  • It's religion Many straight people are confused and uncomfortable with the topic of homosexuality, but the only people who really oppose it use a religious argument. Groups like the Taliban and certain Christian groups focus on scraps of scripture and ignore the larger message of forgiveness and minding your own business. The "ex-gay" movement is almost entirely centered around religious ministries. Some religions don't eat ham, some don't eat beef, some don't shave their beards, some have to cover their heads, some believe gay people should pretend to be something other than what they are. None of it belongs in the public schools.
  • There is nothing special about suppressing your impulses As a straight married guy, I can tell you there are times that I see attractive women and don't do anything at all. This is not a bit different from a gay person who has learned not to act on their feelings. Do they deserve a medal for that? If they get one, I want one.
  • "Ex-Gay" equals Straight If somebody used to be gay, and now they're not, then they're "straight." Heterosexual. There doesn't need to be a special word for it. The sex-ed curriculum already teaches about straight people.
  • What's wrong with love? The "ex-gay" argument is essentially an anti-love position. Maybe I'm overly romantic, but it seems to me a person should be able to follow their heart and fall in love with someone who is actually attractive to them.
  • The Gay Gene The anti-gay groups like to repeat "there is no gay gene." First of all, they don't know if there's a gay gene or not, genetic research is a very young field. Second, nobody ever said there is a gay gene. The argument suggests a false dichotomy, as if there were 1.behaviors you can choose and 2.genetically determined behaviors. Of course, all genes interact with the environment, nothing about the human personality, especially, is carved in stone at birth. That does not prove, or even imply, that sexual orientation is a choice.
  • God's Plan I saw a preacher on TV the other night saying that homosexuality is not part of God's plan for us. But ... how does he know that? Is God so obvious? It is one thing to say that God's plan is revealed in the Bible, but does anyone really think all of God's plan has been published? Doesn't anybody wonder why God would have given some people (and members of other species as well) a same-sex orientation? The divine will is profound and mysterious, and it is a presumptuous oversimplification to quote a few Bible verses and say how God feels about something. When someone is hurt in an accident, they talk about how hard it is to understand God's plan; I say, let's love the whole world as a great, unfathomable, constantly-surprising mystery, not just tragedies but everything.
  • Religion is a choice You will hear the argument that gay people don't deserve "special rights," for instance protection from discrimination, because "it's a choice." (Of course it's not, but they like to hear themselves say it.) This argument is often made by the same people who complain that the world discriminates against Christians. Make up your minds, would you?
  • Statistical insignificance If there are "ex-gays" who have changed their sexual orientation, their numbers must be very small -- you see a couple of "personalities" who represent the big organizations, and that's it. Certainly there are more important sexual phenomena to talk about in a high-school class, things that real young people will deal with in their real lives.
  • Not Gay in the First Place Does anybody really believe you can just switch? If someone changed from being gay to living wholly, without conflict and strain, as a straight person, I'm pretty sure most people would understand that he was never really gay to begin with.
  • Conversion therapy is dangerous There is a tragic history of people becoming depressed and even committing suicide after failed attempts to change their sexual orientation. Proponents will tell you that "tens of thousands" of people have changed, but they won't produce one, besides the usual poster children. The "therapy" is based on bizarre psychological theory, and in its usual form attempts to break down the personality before building it back up anew. This is unwise and can lead to tragedy.
  • Jesus Jesus never told anyone to be ashamed of their sexual orientation. Hypocrites who quote the Bible overlook this very important fact. What would Jesus do? He would almost certainly not waste his time telling homosexuals to pretend they are straight. He would almost certainly encourage his followers to love others, even when they don't understand them. It seems impossible to me to get from the Beatitudes to the hatefulness of the "ex-gay" rhetoric.
  • Change can go both ways I heard Larry King, of all people, bring up this point the other night. If you encourage gay people to go straight by saying that "change is possible," you will be simultaneously encouraging apparently-straight people to come out of the closet. Which do you think there are more of -- "out" gays who wish they were straight, or people living straight who are hiding same-sex feelings?
  • Professional ethics Every mainstream professional organization in the fields of psychology, mental health, and medicine has issued a statement specifically denouncing conversion therapy, which attempts to make "ex-gays" out of gay people, and declaring it unethical for their members to practice it. The explanations are thorough and scientifically sound. Anti-gay groups would like you to believe that these statements are politically motivated; the disrespect that this shows for science generally, and specifically for those who devote their lives to improving ours, should tell you something.
  • False hopes There are some things about a person that really don't change, no matter how hard you try. Telling a guy who is lonely, confused, and persecuted by society that he can change his sexual orientation may give him unjustifiable hope that leads eventually to even deeper depression, when he has to face the fact that he is, actually, the way he is. This is not a nice thing to do to somebody.
  • Morality Some people claim that homosexuality is "immoral," based on religious authority. But morality can be derived by reason, too, there are good reasons to separate choices into right and wrong. A reason-based morality will almost certainly value kindness, cooperation, understanding, and empathy over arbitrary authoritative pronouncement. It would be very hard to give reasons why it is morally better for a person to act on feelings they don't have, in order to satisfy social pressures emanating from people who don't like them.
  • Biblical hypocrisy The Bible is a long and complex record, and contains very many proscriptions and statements about what God (and various prehistoric tribal leaders) wants us to do. It would be interesting to remove all the adulterers and divorced people, who would have been put to death according to biblical law, from groups like the CRC and PFOX, and see how many people are left to tell gays that the Bible demands that they pretend they're straight.
  • It's insulting Telling people that "they can change" is logically equivalent to telling them there's something wrong with them. But experts in psychology and mental health agree, there's nothing wrong with being gay. Gay people can have their problems, but they're the same problems the rest of us have. It is not correct, and not nice, to tell them there's something wrong with them. It would be much better for our society to learn to accept its variety rather than abnormalize entire classes of people.
  • Sex in the Bible Let's not forget that the same Bible that is used to attack homosexuality also describes situations involving incest, adultery, and polygamy, without comment. Do these religious experts have a belief about the appropriate number of concubines for a man to have? Mmm, so what's the big deal about a guy having a boyfriend?
  • Ex-"Ex-Gays" It does appear that there a whole lot more ex-"ex-gays" than "ex-gays," even if you count the poster children, the leaders and spokesmen of the movement. They're always going back to the gay bars, always getting caught doing something scandalous. If they were really "ex" anythings, that wouldn't happen, would it? (The fact is, they're still gay.)

I'm sure that people will suggest other arguments, these are just what I could come up with sitting in an airport terminal with time on my hands.

The sad thing is that the debate will not be won by reasoning. The "ex-gay" thing is crazy, it's wrong, it's mean-spirited, but these noisy people will only be driven out of business if everybody stands up to them. It doesn't really matter, you might say. Well, it will matter when you wake up in the morning and discover that the nuts are running things in your county.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Take Away One and What Do You Have?

Sitting in a restaurant today in Chinatown, here in Montreal, I was thinking about something I saw on TV last night. We were clicking channels in the hotel room, and there was Warren Throckmorton, the psychologist to claims to make "ex-gays" out of gay people. Oh, he is doing them a favor, y'know. He just wants them to know change is possible.

And I was thinking about this:
  • There is something wrong with you
  • But don't worry, change is possible

All they say is the second part: change is possible. They say, "We just want them to know there is hope," or "We want to tell gay people there is an alternative," or "We want gay people to know they can change."

All the same thing.
  • Don't worry, change is possible

Without the first part, the second part is meaningless. And that's what stinks. It wouldn't matter if change was possible or not, if there was no reason to change. So in order to make sense of the statement, you have to assume the first part.

It's very subtle, I am impressed by the strategy of, well, not saying what you mean, but laying it in boldface between the lines.

Imagine if the first part was, "You are very intelligent." Or "You are a very likeable person." Or any other non-degrading comment. And then: "Don't worry, change is possible."

Hate can be very clever.

Another Ex-"Ex-Gay" Speaks Out

John Evans, co-founder of Love in Action (LIA), wrote the following letter to current LIA President, John Smid. Love in Action is the unlicensed program that Zach's parents sent him to in Tennessee, in an effort to change his sexual orientation.
July 30, 2005

Love In Action
ATTN: John Smid, Director
Memphis, TN

Dear Mr. Smid:

We as born again Christians believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. We Basically agree on the fundamentals of salvation. I've been a born again Christian for over 50 years and I've noticed Christians reading the same scriptural passages, yet arriving at different personal interpretations regarding moral issues. Some of these issues that have divided Christians within recent years have been slavery, women's rights, the Charismatic movement and other issues, including divorce.

Within my lifetime, I've known members of my own family being asked to leave churches they had attended for years over issues of divorce and re-marriage, yet later welcomed back when a different interpretation of scripture was explained.

Today, the subject of homosexuality is being discussed among Christians. Most Christians find the subject too uncomfortable to make a personal investigation, but rely upon the traditional Christian condemnation of homosexuality. There are more scriptures dealing with divorce than homosexuality, yet, today, Christians give each other the freedom of personal interpretation regarding divorce. I'm sure homosexuality will be added to the long list of disagreements among Christians.

In 1973, when I helped organize the "ex-gay" ministry called Love In Action, I admit I had never heard of a different view of homosexuality or made an effort to research the issue. I held to the traditional Christian condemnation that all homosexuality was sinful.

One day, I read a booklet by Dr. Ralph Blair called, "An Evangelical Look At Homosexuality." I prayed before reading this booklet and was shocked, yet refreshed, because I had never heard such remarks regarding this subject from another Evangelical Christian.

I wrote Ralph Blair that I would like to discuss his views regarding this matter and his return letter informed me he could meet with me at my home in San Raphael, Calif. The night he arrived I invited several of my friends who were also involved with Love in Action to join us. We studied the scriptures dealing with homosexuality. I had struggled most of my life with this matter and I would continue to try to be "ex-gay" if it were God's will. Over the past 30 years I have studied both sides of this subject and now know it's not my sexual orientation that's wrong or sinful. But one should allow the Holy Spirit to guide his or her life whatever one's sexual orientation. I challenge other Christians to study the scriptures to show yourself approved unto God and don't be afraid to challenge the traditional condemnation of homosexuality.

The Church has been wrong in the past regarding other issues and I'm sure there will be others before Jesus returns. I know my views regarding homosexuality and being Christian does not agree with most Christians and I've been accused of being "deceived and tricked by the Devil."

God alone knows my heart and Jesus Christ means too much to me to go against the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides me as a born again Christian. Someday, each of us will stand alone before God to give an account of our lives and I want Him to be satisfied with me.

I just returned from the 25th annual Conference of Evangelicals Concerned, a group of gay Christians who know that it is possible to be both gay and Christian. In the past 30 years since leaving the "ex-gay" ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the "ex-gay" movement.

At the E.C. conference I met gay Christians who have an even closer relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit seemed to hover over the entire conference. The closing communion service seemed as if Jesus Himself was there saying, "Come to me all who labor and are laden with the burden of trying to conform to the impossible conclusions of others, and I will give you rest."

Again, I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of the issue of being gay and Christian. The Church has been wrong in the past regarding moral issues and I'm sure there will be more before Christ returns.

Love in Christ,

John Evans
Original Member of Love In Action, 1973


Christine Grewell