Wednesday, February 28, 2007

One More Thought

I was talking to somebody at lunchtime, and thought of one more thing.

There is only one way I can imagine anybody questioning the idea that sexual orientation is innate. If you hit puberty (or so) and realized you were attracted to your own sex, whether you were homosexual or bisexual, and you lived in a world where gay people were discriminated against and teased and hated, you just might decide to keep your true feelings to yourself. You could act straight, dating girls (if you're a guy), talking macho, joining in the badmouth and manly rowdiness. There's no disputing that people can do that -- I'll bet a lot of gay people will tell you they went through a phase like that, at least.

Talking to my friend about this, I realized that such a person just might not know that other people were different from them. If you chose to act straight, and never let anyone know, you would very likely think that everyone around you was doing the same thing. You would honestly believe that sexual orientation was a choice, since it was for you, and the apparently genuine heterosexuality of people around you would just be interpreted as excellent acting.

Otherwise, why would anybody question whether orientation is innate? It doesn't make sense on so many levels...


The word "innate" appears in the CRC/PFOX/FLN's appeal to the state, by my count, thirty-two times. They just hate it that the new sex-ed curriculum is going to say that sexual orientation is innate.

The CRC's complaint says this:
The definition for “innate” would come from Webster’s Dictionary and, although that definition was not provided at the time the BOE voted to approve the Additional Lessons, information now obtained from MCPS defines innate in its usual meaning: “Innate determined by factors present in an individual from birth.” (See Appellants’ Exhibit B). Despite the fact there is no sound scientific basis for such an assertion.

First of all, let me go ahead and put the full Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary definition on the table:
1: existing in, belonging to, or determined by factors present in an individual from birth. 2: belonging to the essential nature of something. 3: originating in or derived from the mind or the constitution of the intellect rather than from experience.

Number three looks like it must refer to Kantian a priori knowledge, which is, let's say, a special usage of the word. So, unless someone wants to critique The Critique, let's say that "innate" in the curriculum means one or both of the first two things in Webster's.

The word "innate" appears in the tenth grade curriculum, and was added to the eighth at the last minute. The tenth-grade Holt resource says:
Sexual orientation and gender identity are deeply personal, innate, and complex parts of one's personality that define how people see themselves as individuals and in romantic relationships. Children are not born knowing their sexual orientation or gender identity. The come to learn about themselves as they grow up.

This exchange occurred in the January 9th school board meeting, when the board voted on adoption of the new material. Betsy Brown, director of curriculum and instruction, presented a wording change for the 8th grade. The exchange appears at about 1:30 in the January 9th webcast:
Betsy Brown: Before turning this over to Doctor Moon I would like to offer to you, in the interest of continuous improvement, an addition to the 8th grade lesson. The purpose of the addition is to make the lessons consistent across the grades, I'll wait until you have it in front of you and I'll tell you, and the audience, what the proposal is for your consideration today. [pause]

In the 2nd session of the 8th grade lesson on family life and human sexuality or, excuse me, respecting differences for human sexuality, in that second session, there is a section called the Instructional Delivery Plan, and on page three of that Instructional Delivery Plan, in the section numbered three, and referred to as "Learn," we are proposing that the last sentence of that section will read, "Say to the students (and this will be in bold, as a direction to the teachers), say to the students, 'Sexual orientation is innate and a complex part of one's personality.'"

Steve Abrams: What is the basis for this change?

Betsy Brown: The basis for this change is that this is a part of the grade ten text, and it makes ...

Steve Abrams: It's simply to make it consistent, it's not adding any language that doesn't already appear in the curriculum for tenth grade, we're adding it to the 8th grade so there's consistency.

Betsy Brown: Yes.

And that was that.

The CRC has launched several several target-missing attacks on this concept of innateness. First, they will say sometimes that sexual orientation can't be innate because there are no gay babies. This is a silly, simplistic twist on the word, based on the fact that the root of "innate" is a word that means "birth," similar to "neonatal," "native," and other English words. But it doesn't mean just factors that exist at birth -- it also means factors determined at birth.

More commonly, as in the appeal to the state, the CRC and their colleagues argue from an assumption that "innate" means "genetic." For instance, they write:
Since identical twins have identical genes, if homosexuality were a biological condition, then if one identical twin were homosexual, his brother would also be homosexual 100 percent of the time, not 52 percent or 10 percent as the twin studies showed. In short, there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is genetic.

This argument fails for many reasons.

First of all, it misinterprets the meaning of correlation in twin studies. Perfect correlation is never found in science, and criticism of the correlation statistic on this ground is baseless.

Second, the argument misunderstands gene expression. No gene acts directly, without stimulus; all genes require interaction with some environmental factor, whether it is a hormone or protein in the uterus, or physical or social factors after birth. This does imply that a person with a propensity for a behavioral trait may not ever express this trait. If someone thinks that homosexuality is so undesirable, then they may want to search for factors that would discourage the expression of this innate trait. But at this time there is no research on the topic, only speculation. (In the race between social acceptance and scientific discovery, my money's on acceptance. The science of the human genome is very new.)

Third, the argument assumes that all homosexuality results from the same gene. It is very unlikely that such a complex trait would have a single cause.

Finally, the link between genes and behaviors we consider innate is not always clear. Handedness, for instance, is clearly innate, but twenty percent of identical twin pairs differ in handedness. The evidence is that there is a genetic component, but its expression is not straightforward.

What would it mean to say that sexual orientation is not innate? Would it mean that it is a trait that is learned? One that is determined by society? A choice?

None of these explanations are plausible. All social pressure, implicit and explicit, pushes a person toward heterosexuality. Because the great majority of modeled behaviors are heterosexual, most learning will favor that orientation. And gay people will tell you -- nobody would choose a lifetime of teasing and discrimination.

The argument about innateness is only difficult for one reason, it seems to me, which is the obviousness of it. Everybody knows that sexual orientation is innate, and because it is such an obvious fact, very few arguments have been developed to explain it.

XGW Gets on the Phone, Clears Something Up

As far as I'm concerned, this is one way blogs can really make a difference -- by gathering information and putting it out there when the mainstream media won't.

Recently the American Psychological Association announced that it would consider developing a new statement regarding conversion therapy or "reparative therapy," techniques which are intended to make gay people straight. I can't find the APA's original statement on this matter, but Focus on the Family played it as a story of outside groups (read: "the gay agenda") pressuring the APA to be politically correct. Their unbiased, family-friendly headline: Gay Pressure Threatens Counseling. They interviewed Dr. Clinton W. Anderson, director of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns office at the APA, who told them that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute (NGLTF) and PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays) "came to us and said from their perspective issues related to reparative therapy are still very important issues that affect the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual people,"

Warren Throckmorton, as well, blogged it as American Psychological Association Responds to "External Organizations", sort of telling you where he stands on this.

I checked once, and though he is a psychologist he is not a member of the APA. For the record, I have been a dues-paying member for fifteen years.

Well, this story had a funny smell to it right from the start, especially since the rightwing web sites had it before there was apparently any APA press release or anything in the news. So the story started out with a lot of right English on it.

Somebody pasted the Family Blah Blah version into our comments a while back, but the whole story just seemed a little short on facts, so I waited a while.

The guys over at ExGay Watch, though, were not so patient. They got on the phone and called people. They talked to the APA's Clinton Anderson, NGLTF's Jason Cianciotto, and PFLAG's Ron Schlittler. Asked them what happened.

What a strange idea, huh? As if you can't trust Google.

XGW's explanation:
What I learned was that in an informal meeting Schlittler (PFLAG) expressed concerns to Anderson (APA) over: (in Schlittler’s words)
“aggressive promotion of “reparative therapy” by right wing groups.”

Given that the APA’s position statement on reparative therapy is 8-years old Anderson issued a formal memo in September of 2005 to NGLTF and PFLAG seeking formal opinions from both organizations. To be clear, NGLTF never even gave their opinion to the APA until asked for it. I hardly consider that “pressure.”

Focus did not report the primary reason for the formation of the investigative task-force, which is because: (in Cianciotto’s words)
[since 1997 a] “growing body of new research has been published on conversion therapy and a number of other medical and mental health professional associations have released new statements and policies on the issue.”

All three sources I spoke with, the APA, NGLTF, and PFLAG indicated this was the primary reason for the formation of a task-force. Focus neglected to report this.

So the APA asked for their opinions. You might not like it that the psychologists ask these groups what they think is going on, but ... they have that right, and if I were them I'd want to know. There's a lot of stuff going on that you and I don't hear about, and it makes perfectly good sense to go ask the guys in the front lines what's going on.

Ron's with a Family group, I mean a real family group, one that promotes love between family members, not a Family Blah Blah group that just uses the word to prove they're better than you. Clinton's with a psychological organization, in fact, the biggest one. It is not surprising that they would be talking about this. It's Ron's job to bring it up, and it's Anderson's job to know what the GLBT issues are.

The real reason they're looking at this statement is that there's a lot of new research and , because of intense political interest in the topic, there is a social need for a clear statement. The APA can and should clear up some of the confusion -- and if you read our comments section, you see there really is a lot of confusion -- about this kind of therapy and whether it works or not.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ill Logic

We saw something revealing last week, when the Citizen for a Responsible Curriculum's Ruth Jacobs gave a talk to the Magruder PTA titled, "Excluding Information from the Lessons: Does It Put Your Child at Risk?" The whole talk was a series of complaints about things that "should" be in the curriculum, and aren't.

This is a straightforward logical exercise: any particular thing has some qualities, and not others. In fact, there is always an imbalance in the world -- the qualities that a thing does not have always outnumber the things it does have. This includes positive as well as negative qualities. I think we can assume that the number of qualities that any specific thing does not have is approximately equal to infinity, while the qualities it does have are relatively small in number, depending on the complexity of the object.

What this means is that everything can be criticized for qualities it lacks. The intelligent, handsome man is not tidy or thrifty, or, if he is, he's probably not fun-loving and carefree; the fast, beautiful, expensive sports car doesn't hold enough people and can't pull a trailer; the good student lacks popularity, and the popular student lacks good grades. It's a simple logical inevitability: everything lacks an infinite number of good qualities.

In the case of the CRC's criticism of the sex-ed curriculum, it's even worse, because the curriculum does possess many of the qualities Dr. Jacobs was complaining about -- it just doesn't have them in the particular classes she's talking about. She says the new curriculum doesn't discuss risky sexual behaviors, for instance, but the curriculum does discuss that, it just does it in the appropriate section, and -- it's true -- not in the new sections, which are on a different topic from that. The CRC says the new curriculum doesn't mention marriage, or families, but of course there are whole sections already on those topics -- it doesn't fit in a section on condom use, or one on sexual orientation. The CRC says the new curriculum fails to promote abstinence, but there are sections on abstinence, of course -- it just doesn't make sense to put it in these new sections.

What if we used that technique to support the curriculum? We could turn it around, and argue just as badly about the negative qualities that the curriculum lacks. The new curriculum, for instance, does not teach boys how to trick girls into having sex with them; it does not teach girls to wear thick layers of make-up "to attract a mate;" it does not suggest that children should try a range of sexual behaviors just to see if they like them or not.

We could go even further. The new curriculum does not teach students how to ditch school, start forest fires, or murder someone. It does not teach them to eat junk food, drink and drive, or make prank phone calls. It's a great curriculum!

Criticizing on the basis of absent characteristics is simply bad logic. It makes for a lot more constructive discussion if we talk about the qualities that this curriculum does possess; maybe we could think of ways to make it better, rather than just running it down and trying to get the whole thing thrown out.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Doctors Regret Backing CRC

The CRC's appeal to the state school board has twelve references to a petition signed by some doctors -- the full phrase "petition signed by 273 area medical doctors" appears nine times in the main appeal document. The petition itself (we assume, it's referred to, we haven't seen the attachments) was submitted with other documents. The petition is used throughout the appeal document to bolster a number of weak points.

These signatures were gathered by Ruth Jacobs at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

As we reported HERE, one doctor wrote Montgomery County Public Schools to ask that her name be removed from the petition. She stated that it had been misrepresented when it was shown at the hospital, and said that the recommendation to include a statement attributed to the Surgeon General "is not supported by scientific evidence and does not belong in the curriculum."

Clearly, all is not what it seems.

A few days ago we received a comment on an older post from someone who wrote anonymously. They weren't happy, it seems, to see their name on the Internet, and to learn that they had been enlisted to support the radical agenda:
I am one of the physicians who signed the petition. When I signed I was not informed that this was a political issue, rather a medical one. My medical opinion is that anal intercourse, no matter the sexual orientation, incurs greater risk of HIV transmission than vaginal intercourse. That is why I signed the petition...

My personal opinion about most lifestyle choices and sexual orientation is totally non-judgemental. To infer that by signing the petition I or any other of my colleagues have an "anti-gay" opinion or political agenda is simply wrong.

It was not my intention, however, to get caught up in a political debate and be listed on a website and to be ridiculed as anti-gay and uninformed. I am certainly not anti-gay, nor am I pro-gay. My motivation was a true concern for the safety and well being of the children in Montgomery County Public Schools no matter what their sexual orientation may be.

It is sad that so important an issue as sexual education and sexually transmitted disease prevention has been hijacked by those with political agendas.

It seems they wanted to support the CRC without being ridiculed -- is that too much to ask? Well, yes.

Like it or not, this doctor's signature is now an important part of the anti-gay efforts of a radical group trying to undermine the local public school system. Maybe they don't want to be "ridiculed as anti-gay and uninformed," but their signature is now and forever part of the anti-gay propaganda bundle. Plus, you notice, it doesn't appear that they were very well informed when they signed this.

So, is it worse to be ridiculed for supporting the anti-gay extremists, or to let the extremists use your name to support their efforts, without ridicule?

We have fought very hard for a good, solid sex-education curriculum here in our county. The new curriculum would not be improved by adding irrelevant material where it doesn't fit. The STD lessons are a major part of the health curriculum, and in those lessons students learn about the risks of various kinds of behaviors -- nobody is suggesting that that information should not be included.

Statements about the risks of anal sex don't belong in a class about how to use a condom. You use it for certain activities, you buy a certain kind, you open it a certain way, you roll it on correctly, you do this if it breaks, you take it off like this, you dispose of it correctly. Where is it appropriate to tell them what a retired Surgeon General wrote in a magazine article more than fifteen years ago about how dangerous anal sex is? How would that make it better?

And it certainly doesn't belong in a class about sexual orientation, about who you're attracted to emotionally, socially, sexually, and about respect, empathy, and tolerance for differences. Those classes are not about sexual behaviors -- it isn't the place for a discussion of the risks of specific behaviors. Those are addressed, just not here.

The subject is appropriate in the STD section. The Surgeon General quote is ridiculous, it doesn't belong in the curriculum at all, but the topic of the risks of anal sex should come in the classes about HIV. If it's not covered there sufficiently, then the CRC should try to get a member on the citizens advisory committee for that part of the curriculum when it next comes under review. Teach about the risks in the risk unit: we support that.

I'm sorry, but I am not very sympathetic to this doctor's complaint. Shady Grove Adventist Hospital medical staff have lent the weight of their professional reputations to a bunch of bigots. Don't like it? You shouldn't have done it.

Yesterday I had a talk with another one of the doctors who signed the petition. He said he and his partners had called Dr. Jacobs and asked her to remove their names from it. It would be interesting to see if they were redacted in the exhibits given to the state, as well as the name of the one who wrote the school district. Because -- it doesn't seem quite right to submit somebody's name in a legal proceeding, saying they support your position, when they don't and have asked you not to.

I asked this doctor why he signed the petition. He was extremely apologetic. "It was irresponsible on my part," he told me. "I didn't really have time to see what it was about. I wasn't aware of her organization and what its focus was. Really, I'm behind the school system on this."

He told me he was doing his rounds at the hospital several months ago, when Dr. Jacobs asked him to sign the petition. "She has it with her all the time," he said. "I just didn't have the time to read it all. This really wasn't an appropriate venue for this sort of thing. I think it's disappointing that she used that venue."

The doctor I talked to wanted me to know that most of the physicians who signed it are "reasonable people. I would assume that a lot of people would like to have their names taken off the list. They're in the business of helping people -- this is not reflective of the medical community at all."

After talking with someone in the community who showed him his name on our web site, he checked out the CRC's materials. As he says of his colleagues, "There's no way they'd have these viewpoints."

Unfortunately, these are the busiest people in the world, they're saving lives every day. They don't have time to go looking for a way to un-sign a petition they barely remember signing in the first place. They're working with patients, and it was a dirty deal to mix them up in this.

On the other hand: it's happened already. Their names are being used in official legal proceedings to stop the implementation of a sex-ed curriculum that, if they knew what was in it, they'd support. The curriculum was developed by a team of pediatricians, and the information contained in it is consistent with mainstream medical and scientific knowledge.

Go back to the LIST OF NAMES we posted here. This isn't all of them, just the ones the CRC made public. See if your doctor is on that list, or your neighbor. Ask them why they are supporting the CRC. Ask them if they want to retract their names. They can contact us at .

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Crime -- Or Not?

See if you can figure this one out. Two Florida teens, Amber, 16, and Jeremy, 17, took digital pictures of themselves doing something sexual, we don't know what. From Amber's house, they emailed the pictures to Jeremy.

I hate to tell you, but this sort of thing happens every day.

But it's the next part that makes your head spin. Well, first of all, somehow somebody found the pictures. The teens are underage, so this amounted to "child pornography." So they were charged with a felony -- as adults.

I don't know, here's the news story:
Combine unsupervised teenagers, digital cameras and e-mail, and, given sufficient time, you'll end up with risque photographs on a computer somewhere.

There's a problem with that: Technically, those images constitute child pornography. That's what 16-year-old Amber and 17-year-old Jeremy, her boyfriend, both residents of the Tallahassee, Fla., area, learned firsthand. (Court documents include only their initials, A.H. and J.G.W., so we're using these pseudonyms to make this story a little easier to read.)

On March 25, 2004, Amber and Jeremy took digital photos of themselves naked and engaged in unspecified "sexual behavior." The two sent the photos from a computer at Amber's house to Jeremy's personal e-mail address. Neither teen showed the photographs to anyone else.

Court records don't say exactly what happened next--perhaps the parents wanted to end the relationship and raised the alarm--but somehow Florida police learned about the photos. Police blotter: Teens prosecuted for racy photos

Man, you mean they think the parents gave the pictures to the police? Yikes. Why would you do that?

I'll never understand people, I guess.
Amber and Jeremy were arrested. Each was charged with producing, directing or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child. Based on the contents of his e-mail account, Jeremy was charged with an extra count of possession of child pornography.

Some more background: Under a 1995 ruling in a case called B.B. v. State, the Florida Supreme Court said that a 16-year-old could not be found delinquent for having sex with another 16-year-old.

"The crux of the state's interest in an adult-minor situation is the prevention of exploitation of the minor by the adult," the majority said at the time. The court ruled that a Florida statute punishing sex between teens was "unconstitutional as applied to this 16-year-old as a basis for a delinquency proceeding."

The same applies to Amber and Jeremy. Even though he is a year older than her, he is still a minor in Florida.

In other words, under Florida law, Amber and Jeremy would be legally permitted to engage in carnal relations, but they're criminals if they document it.

I know I'm not supposed to say this out loud, but there's something wrong with the child-pornography laws. I have no sympathy at all for people who prey on children, but unfortunately that's not the only thing that's criminalized. Say you take a picture of some adult model, naked, and you Photoshop a kid's head on it. Guess what -- you're in possession of child pornography. You see what I mean? If it's supposed to protect children, it's not doing that. If it's just supposed to make it easier to arrest creeps, then ... I'd want to consider whether we really want to go down that road.

In discussing this case, some people have raised the question, what if you sent some pictures of your naked toddler to Grandma? Could you be prosecuted for some hideous felony?

Skipping down...
[Judge James] Wolf speculated that Amber and Jeremy could have ended up selling the photos to child pornographers ("one motive for revealing the photos is profit") or showing the images to their friends. He claimed that Amber had neither the "foresight or maturity" to make a reasonable estimation of the risks on her own. And he said that transferring the images from a digital camera to a PC created innumerable problems: "The two computers (can) be hacked."

I don't know, what do you think? Do you think a crime was committed here? How long do you think these kids should go to prison for? Life -- or less?

The Holt Resource

The CRC has repeatedly complained about one resource used in the tenth grade. It's one page from a supplement to a mainstream health text; it was first recommended to MCPS by the team from the American Academy of Pediatrics who proposed the initial curriculum.

For instance, HERE the CRC says:
The Tenth grade resource was not developed by a medical expert, but a pro gay advocacy organization.
  • The Holt excerpt is authored by July Chiasson. Ms. Chiasson’s experience is 20 years of special education. She is employed by Project 10, a gay advocacy group, and authored these sections while she was working on her PhD determining efficacy of LBGT diversity training.

Back in November, the CRC's Steina Walter addressed the school board, saying:
I was startled to find that the new 10th Grade curriculum "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" was taken from a "home grown" curriculum created solely for the Los Angeles school District and had only one author Judy Chiasson. Ms Chiasson "appears to have been selected as the author on the basis of her employment of a LGBT advocacy group Project 10. Ms. Chiasson although pursuing a PhD about the "efficacy of LGBT Diversity training had no advanced degree.

...The Board of Education and MCPS must reject this biased single author text written by Ms. Chiasson "because of legal liability" and "because of potential harm".

(I don't understand some of those quotation marks ... but that's how it is...)

I guess the harshest attack was by the CRC's citizens committee rep, Ruth Jacobs, speaking to the school board on November 6th:
On Saturday I was able to finally look at the Holt book and the acknowledgement section for the chapter from which the Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality Lesson 10th grade lesson was derived. In preparing a textbook chapter on sexual orientation and transgender, one would expect educators, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, school counselors, teachers and other experts in the field would be involved. One would imagine that the material would be tested and vetted and all precautions would be used to make sure that the material was accurate, and age-appropriate.

In an alarming reversal of what parents and many others confidently expected, the textbook chapter about Orientation and Transgender used by MCPS was authored by only one individual, Judy Chiasson Specialist Project 10" Educational Equity Compliance Los Angeles Unified School District. Ms. Chiassen single handedly wrote chapter 6 "The Diversity of Human Relationships" of Holt Sexuality and Society which is being recommended by MCPS for the 10th Grade.

One would also expect that the professional involved in writing a textbook would have advanced degrees. A Google search of Ms Chiasson's qualifications that at the time she wrote the chapter suggests that her sole qualifications were those of a mother with 2 children, teacher of special education for 20 years, employment by a LGTB advocacy Group "Project 10", and working part time at a doctoral candidate "on the efficacy of LGBT diversity training" at a tiny college.

While I respect the good intentions of Ms. Chiasson, it is critical to have educators, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians. school counselors, teachers and other experts in the field all involved in writing and vetting the chapter. Why would MCPS find acceptable a textbook only designed for a single school District?

They have used this argument repeatedly, in statements to the school board, in the citizens advisory committee meetings -- we saw Ruth Jacobs talk a lot about this at the PTA meeting at Magruder last week.

We don't have access to the documents supporting the recent failed appeal to the state, so we don't know if complaints about this resource were included. But since it features so prominently in their attacks on the curricula, we expect to find them there, as well.

So I talked with Dr. Chiasson on the phone. I wondered, who is this person, and what's going on here? She also sent me an email, CC'ing her publisher, explaining some details.

Like, for instance, she wrote:
This text book was a collaborative endeavor of experts in the field, including two other PhDs, all under the supervision of a well-respected publisher. Holt Publishers is an extremely reputable firm that scrupulously checks every word in every book they publish.

Dr. Chiasson's doctorate is in the field of Urban Education from Claremont Graduate University. Though Dr. Jacobs likes to refer to this as a "tiny college" in a dismissive tone, if she knew what she was talking about she would know that the Wall Street Journal has called the Claremont consortium "the intellectual capital of the western world." Claremont Graduate University admits only graduate students, no undergrads, and so it does not have the tens of thousands of students that you would find at an ordinary teaching university. It is the first university in the country to do that; it focuses only on higher education, not undergraduate training.

There's nothing second-rate about it.

What about this "gay advocacy group," Project 10? It should have been easy enough for the CRC to find out what this is, looking HERE:
The first and only one of its kind, Project 10 is a Los Angeles Unified School District program that offers technical and educational support to schools and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. In accordance with the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, Project 10’s mission is to ensure safe, supportive and welcoming campuses free from discrimination and harassment for sexual minority youth.

Project 10 is not a "gay advocacy group," it is a program within the Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of the General Counsel. Their function is to see that federal, state, and local laws regarding discrmination against minorities are followed. They monitor textbooks and other materials, for instance, to identify bias and make sure campuses are safe for all students.

Calling an office within the school district a "gay advocacy group" is a stretch, don't you think?

The CRC likes to say that the Holt resource was developed for the Los Angeles school district -- "home grown," Ms. Walter called it. I don't know if that is supposed to indicate something about the influence of Hollywood liberals or what. But here's how it works. Long ago on this blog we talked about how Texas dominates the textbook industry. It's such a big customer that when Texas wants something -- in that case they wanted statements about abstinence and evolution and religion to be edited into their books -- the textbook publishers go ahead and do it. And then the rest of the country ends up getting that in their textbooks.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second-largest textbook purchaser in the country. It works the same way; the publishers know where the business is, and they target the textbook toward that. LAUSD has some very strict policies regarding discrimination, and their textbook have to adhere to them. So Project 10 was included in the development process.

The resource under question, by the way, is page 99 of Chapter 6, "Diversity of Relationships," from the Sexuality and Society supplement to Lifetime Health. Dr. Chiasson told me that schools all over the country are clamoring for this text, it has been a very popular resource. You can see the one page we use HERE, if you scroll down to page 7.

Dr. Chiasson said that Ruth Jacobs had spoken with her. As she said, "Dr. Jacobs is very interested in anal sex." But, as she also said, the text is not about sexual behavior. The MCPS curriculum is about sexual variation, especially sexual orientation -- it isn't about sexual behaviors, and isn't intended to be. Those will be discussed somewhere else.

The idea that anybody would criticize a textbook by singling out the one author who is mentioned in an acknowledgement, and then complaining that her degree isn't the right kind, or that she went to a "tiny college," and that the text was "home grown" for the LA schools, is just ... dumb, OK? You would do that if you couldn't find anything real to complain about.

Hey, Lighten Up: A Sunday Morning Self-Indulgence

It's my favorite time, Sunday morning when the family's sleeping in. I've got the house to myself, a hot pot of fresh coffee, WPFW on the radio. This post will not contain any new information, I'm just talking off the top of my head for a minute, OK? Just thinking out loud.

I was surprised this morning to look out and see the neighborhood covered with snow. It's still coming down steadily, looks like it has been for a few hours already. This wasn't predicted, was it? We were almost clear yesterday, and now it looks like two or three inches on the ground.

Last night my kid went to a party. He's sixteen, and he was kind of excited about this one, because he was going to get to see some friends he hasn't seen in a while, over in Derwood. It was a girl's birthday, and her parents were throwing a nice party for her.

My wife dropped him off, guided with the usual Google map, at about seven. He was dressed especially sharp, and -- oh hey, did I mention? Remember when I told you he got jumped and had his tooth knocked out? It was back in July, he was walking across the schoolyard and some older guys beat him up in the middle of the night, right across from our house. It was a hard lesson for him: there are some places you don't go by yourself when it's late. Anyway, this week he finally got his new implanted tooth. It's a long (expensive) process, but man, he is glad to have the whole smile again. This party was like the debut of that new tooth.

I called his cell a little before eleven, and he didn't answer. Normal, there's probably noise. A few minutes later, he called me back. The party was starting to break up, but there was another party, and maybe he'd want to go to that. Well, I don't like that much, but I'm glad he's having fun. I told him to call me back as soon as he knew what the plan was.

Ten minutes later he called, he's ready to come home. (This is pretty typical, I'd say more than half of "planned" events fail to materialize, for either of my kids.)

My turn: I took the Google map and headed to Derwood. He called me twice on my way out there, to ask me where I was. I'm almost to Shady Grove. I'm almost to the house, hold on, I need two hands to drive. He was waiting outside, and it was getting cold.

He'd had a great time. The parents had hired a DJ, and everybody danced all night. Did you know they still do that? He was beat, dead tired.

He said the cops came. They'd heard there was a "house party," he said, one of the neighbors must've called. So the cops came and made all the kids stand in one part of the house while they searched the whole place. They were there a long time. He said, in so many words, that the police were not nice.

Then everybody left.

Personally, I don't think the parents should have let the police into their house. They didn't have a warrant, there was no evidence that any crime had been committed, some teenagers were dancing to a DJ. Maybe it was loud: Yes, officer, we'll ask them to turn it down. And maybe you can go back and suggest to Mrs. Jones that she turn down her hearing aid. Oh, and while you're there, officer, could you ask her if she was ever young once, herself?

But people are reluctant to say no to an officer. Sets a bad example for the kids, for one thing. And most of us understand that they have an unappreciated job to do, it's hard enough already, and besides, if you didn't let them in it might imply that you were doing something wrong. (Think about that logic for a minute.)

Anyway, my opinion: the cops don't need to be looking around people's houses when there's no crime.

I'm not saying my kid's an angel, he knows where to find trouble. Well, he's better these days, but there have been times, y'know, when you just grit your teeth and deal with it -- if you've got kids, I don't care how wonderful they are, you know what I mean. Here you had the most benign situation imaginable, a bunch of teenagers supervised by parents, dancing at a birthday party. If kids were staggering around the neighborhood drunk, or burning rubber or peeing on the neighbor's flowers, or something, that would be different, but it wasn't that at all. Someone had heard the music, saw some cars pulling up and letting kids out, and they figured something criminal was going on.

As far as I'm concerned, as soon as the police saw parents at the door, they should have tipped their hats, gotten back into their cars (there were four or five police cars out there), and gone back to chasing criminals.

I was talking to a guy the other day at work about when we were kids, and you'd just ... go out. I mean little kids, nine ten eleven. You'd just go out and play, and at some time the neighborhood moms would stand on the doorsteps and holler. J-i-i-i-m-m-m-m-m-y-y-y! T-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-m-m-y-y-y! Then the game -- football, five hundred, army, tag, whatever -- would break up for dinner. Nobody was standing there watching us every second, nobody organized our games. We played, we organized ourselves, we monitored ourselves, and we had fun.

That doesn't happen any more. Kids don't go out and play. It would scare their parents to death. And as teenagers, OK, again, we weren't angels, but driving up and down Central didn't really hurt anybody. The cops'd stop you if you were obvious about turning around at the library, but otherwise, the grown-ups figured it was better that we were cruising Central than parking up on 56th Street somewhere. Somehow most of us survived it, we learned a little bit about life and then we went home.

Now, people make the ugliest assumptions about kids. We hear about dope-dope-dope, sex-sex-sex, and the kids hear that all day, too. People, dope and sex aren't new. And it turns out that there are lots of things teenagers do besides that. Like, the most important social event: chillin'. A bunch of guys can sit in front of a game console and do absolutely nothing but push buttons for, like, all day. They will report afterwards that they had fun.

It seems like people think it's their civic duty to make ugly assumptions now. They assume that the world is an evil place, and that if kids are out of our sight they're doing something bad. And if you don't see that, there's something wrong with you.

Call me weird, but I refuse to go along with it. Maybe this makes me a "liberal," I don't know about that, but I think kids need to learn about life by experiencing it firsthand. I think people are pretty good, pretty interesting, I don't see a world where everybody just wants to hurt everybody else all the time. I see a world where people are interconnected, where people care about each other, where people depend on each other to do the right thing, and where people fulfill that expectation. It appears to me that people can handle freedom, and that people would rather get along than fight.

It doesn't mean you don't have to be careful, it just means that most of the time people are pretty cool. The world doesn't have to be something you're afraid of.

I just get a little tired of the ugly assumptions sometimes.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's Tough When They Can't Stand Each Other

We noticed recently that Michelle Turner has started referring to herself as a "spokesperson" for the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, where she used to be "president." Now John Garza is referred to as "president."

Seems like a kind of weird thing to do, to change meaningless figurehead titles in the middle of the battle.

But an anonymous commenter here who seems to be a peripheral CRC supporter left this observation:
... the truth is most evangelicals would not want to be active in a group headed by a Mormon. The theological differences have too many practical implications.

We notice that the latest legal action was filed by two of the usual suspects -- CRC and PFOX -- plus an outside group called "Family Leader Network."

Family Leader Network is a spin-off of Meridian Magazine (motto: "The Place Where Latter-Day Saints Gather.") This Mormon magazine recently featured an article (HERE) linking Michelle Turner (who is Mormon) to RoseMarie Briggs, Family Leader Network executive director who lives in Potomac. There's a picture of them and another lady, sitting in what appears to be the MCPS boardroom peanut gallery.

The article notes:
Michelle Turner, RoseMarie Briggs and Martha Schaerr came to the highly publicized school board meeting as leaders.

You will remember that Martha Schaerr, also Mormon, is the PTA president who tried to pull a fast one at Magruder last week, inviting the CRC rep on the citizens committee, Ruth Jacobs -- who is also a Mormon, we have been told -- while telling the school community she had invited "members of the citizens advisory committee." As if they would be getting information about the curriculum.

I know, I know, we didn't think so at first, either.

So here's what it looks like is happening. The evangelicals in the CRC didn't accept the Mormons and wouldn't work under the leadership of Michelle Turner. So they gave John Garza the title of president and then let this Mormon group, the Family Leader Network, join in with them as a third party in appealing to the state board.

Meanwhile, they've got their Catholic doing all the heavy lifting, maintaining the mailing lists, sending out the press releases. Let's see if the Catholic League doesn't sign on to the next lawsuit.

A Quotable Judge Up in Lexington, Mass.

Somebody just sent us a link to this Boston Globe news story. This is extremely relevant to our situation here in Montgomery County, where the suers are getting restless again.
A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by two Lexington couples who claimed the local public school district violated their constitutional rights by teaching their young children about different types of families, including those headed by same-sex couples.

Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of the US District Court said that under the Constitution, public schools are "entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy. Diversity is a hallmark of our nation."

In a 38-page decision, Wolf said the two couples -- David and Tonia Parker, and Robert and Robin Wirthlin -- have the option of sending their children to private schools or home-schooling them. He also said the couples can ask the school district to excuse their children when classroom discussions touch on issues of homosexuality.

But they have no right to prescribe what the school district teaches, he said, citing precedent-setting federal court rulings.

"As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, 'I pay the school master, but 'tis the school boys that educate my son,'" Wolf wrote. Judge dismisses Lexington suit over school lesson involving same-sex couples

This is exactly what the next judge should say, when CRC and PFOX file their next lawsuit. This guy hit the nail right on the head.

The story:
The couples filed their suit in 2006 after Jacob Parker, then in kindergarten, brought home a book depicting different families, including a same-sex couple. Joey Wirthlin, then in first grade, was read a book featuring a prince who married another prince.

Moments after he heard about today's ruling, David Parker said, "We will continue to move forward, as we always have, with patience and tolerance in these matters." He declined to elaborate.

Patience, maybe.

PFOX Spreading the Love

PFOX loves everybody. They love gay people so much they even added them to their name: Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays

...and Gays.

(But wouldn't that be PFOX-GAG?)

But it makes you wonder about the email they sent to some Montgomery County educational groups yesterday. The title:
Neutral Unisex Bathroom Created for Cross-dressing Student

When I saw that, I thought, hoo boy, some school is trying to set up a special bathroom for a transgender student. I can see the nuts going to town over that one.

But, like most of this, it turned out there's no unisex bathroom. Oh, there is one -- in a story. A unisex bathroom was created for a student in a textbook vignette.

The email starts like this:
Montgomery County, Maryland – Three parent organizations are asking the Maryland State Board of Education to halt the new sex ed curriculum approved by the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education (BOE). Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), and Family Leader Network have filed an appeal requesting Maryland to stay Montgomery County Public School's sex ed plans.

This is roughly an accurate statement. On February 7th, these groups asked the state to issue a stay. The state had five days to do it. They didn't.

I guess that last part got cut.
The newly approved curriculum, entitled "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality," promotes cross-dressers, homosexuals, transgenders, bisexuals, the intersexed, and other non-heterosexuals. It teaches children about "coming out" as gay, "gender identity" for men who think they're women and vice-versa, and "homophobia" as a label for anyone who disagrees.

Look, I know they're rolling their eyes and wearing indignant-looking facial expressions through all this, but, really -- we can't see that over the Internet.

The real question is: so what? Don't they love the cross-dressers, too? Isn't that part of their name -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays and Cross-Dressers and Stuff? (PFOX-GAG-CDS)

It turns out, in the world, that some people are not heterosexual. This is going to be taught in a class. Nothing is "promoted." "Homophobia" is clearly defined, and special wording is included so that bigots like PFOX and CRC are not judged for believing as they do.
In one lesson, a boy begins to wear dresses to school, calls himself "Portia," and wants to be known as a girl. The principal gives him a key to a private restroom and a new student ID identifying him as a girl. "Although transgenderism is considered a gender identity disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, the lesson plan fails to recommend counseling for students with gender confusion," said Regina Griggs, PFOX Executive Director. "Instead, it implies that schools should create new unisex bathrooms for cross-dressing students."

The lesson also refers to "Portia" as a 'she' when the law and biology classify 'her' as a "he." "This gender bending forces students to acknowledge 'Portia' as a female when he is not and creates gender confusion for children," said Griggs. "This flawed educational policy is not based on medical or scientific facts."

There it is. There's the unisex bathroom.

And tell me, why is Regina Griggs, PFOX Executive Director, so intent on labeling this Portia as mentally disordered? How does that advance the cause of "ex-gays?"

They incessantly whine about discrimination against "ex-gays," which may or may not exist, but they fly into spasms of outrage when a transgender student in a story gets a special bathroom.

I mean, come on, this is too easy.
Despite repeated appearances by former homosexuals and a former transgender before the BOE, the Board voted to exclude ex-gays from the lesson plans although gays, transgenders, and the intersexed are included and taught to students. "Why do the lesson plans censor ex-gays when every other sexual orientation is discussed and supported?" asked Griggs. "The BOE violates its own sexual orientation non-discrimination policy by choosing which sexual orientations it favors based on politics and not science. Its discriminatory actions contribute to the intolerance and open hostility faced by the ex-gay community."

I can just see the "ex-gay" community marching on Washington, all of them, spilling into the streets, clamoring for fair treatment. PFOX might be able to get a crowd numbering well into the double digits, if they were willing to pay travel expenses.

OK, I'll say it again: "ex-gay" is not a sexual orientation. If you've really stopped being gay, you're heterosexual. That's covered in the curriculum. Plenty.
PFOX was a member of the curriculum committee representing the ex-gay community, yet the BOE voted to teach students that it is normal to change your sex (transgender) but not normal to change your unwanted same-sex attractions (former homosexual). "The lesson plans instruct students that homosexual orientation is innate and inborn, despite testimony by former homosexuals before the BOE and all contrary scientific research," explained Griggs.

The word "normal" is not included anywhere in the curriculum.

Oh, and you'd think there was a constant stream of "ex-gays" testifying before the school board. Uh, no, not quite. They bused in a guy from a church in Pennsylvania or New Jersey or somewhere once. There was Reverend Grace, who lived as a lesbian back when she was doing a lot of coke; she's testified to the school board before. (I like Reverend Grace, and I'm glad she was able to pull herself out of a bad nose-dive.)

Is that it?

Ah, no, one more -- I guess Richard Cohen qualifies. Kicked out of the American Counseling Association for ethical violations, kicked out of PFOX for general creepiness. I think he claims he used to be gay and is now straight.

So if you add them up, that's three. All of them making their living off the cruel "ex-gay" hoax.
"The lesson plans are entitled 'Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality,' yet the ex-gay community receives no respect and is deliberately left out of the curriculum," Griggs said. "The actions of the Montgomery County Board of Education are discriminatory, endanger children, and are politically motivated."

Whatever. Somebody swat that fly, will you?

But they're right about this part:
"What happens in Montgomery County will happen to the rest of Maryland, so it is imperative to stop this 'sex ed' program now before it is fully implemented," said Griggs. Concerned Maryland residents can take action at [CRC web site].

The suers are trying to rally the troops these days. They're sending out waves of emails, they claim on the CRC web site that "efforts are underway to contact every church, and every school – public and private, in Montgomery County." There're only a few of them, but the Internet amplifies their noise.

I think by this time, people who have an interest in the situation see what's going on. But you know as well as I do that most people aren't going to bother to read the curriculum. They'll hear these nuts saying that it "promotes" this or that, or it "leaves out" this or that, and they'll figure there's something to it. So we have to keep vigilant, we have to speak up every time they pull something like this.

It's ridiculous, and sometimes it's demeaning to have to come down to their level, but it needs to be done.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Alternate Universe, Documented

You know about Wikipedia, a vastly successful and useful kind of on-line encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Studies have found its error rate to be slightly higher than Britannica's, but on the other hand it may take decades to make a change in Britannica, whereas Wikipedia can be fixed as soon as sombody sees an error.

A wiki, in case you haven't been in on this, is a kind of web site that the user can modify. At first they were mainly used as a kind of whiteboard for groups, where everybody could leave notes or update the plan or whatever, but with Wikipedia the form grew to maturity. It's a crazy idea, on the face of it, that just anybody can write the encyclopedia, but ... I've made changes to it, haven't you? Where you might expect it to degenerate into vandalism and grafitti, there are just enough rules, just enough checks on the behavior of users, to keep the thing in good shape. Oh, there are errors and abuses, but in general everyone relies on it as a pretty good source of information on a gazillion topics.

Problem: it's got too many facts. Too much reality, not enough faith.

So now there's Conservapedia. As they say:
Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian “C.E.” instead of “A.D.”, which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance. Read a list of many Examples of Bias in Wikipedia.

Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America. Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of “political correctness”.

Actually, Conservapedia is good if you want to avoid all kinds of correctness.

Like, this is from their authoritative discussion of the Theory of Evolution:
Supporters propound upon the Theory of Evolution as if it has scientific support. They switch tactics when pressed against the wall with solid scientific proofs against the Theory of Evolution by stating that evolution is “only” a theory. Using this flip-flop approach they try to have it both ways. They claim scientific support when none exists, and they claim it is only a theory when the theory straddles them with outlandish, impossible conclusion that violate scientific truths.

Nobody can tell how much of this is parody and how much is for real. The rightwing site Townhall recommends it, they seem to think it's for real. I think it is.

I'm having some trouble getting the site to come up this morning, mmm I suppose there are just so many people using it as a reference.

Some of the folks at Science Blogs are having fun with this. For a joke they edit the Conservapedia with actual scientific facts and then wait to see how long it takes for it to get changed back. Or even for the contributor to get banned from the site. It's usually just a matter of several minutes.

Just a fascinating idea. Create your own reality, and then annotate it in minute detail. Let's watch how this works over the next weeks and months.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sub May Spend Her Life in Prison

We haven't been following this story, but it really should be on our radar screen, if only because it shows how out of control things can get.

The story in today's Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin sounds plain enough:
NORWICH -- Sentencing could be postponed for the former substitute teacher convicted of exposing her seventh-grade students to pornographic images on a middle school classroom computer. Norwich porn case may be delayed

Do you know this case?

Here's a wrap-up from last week.
NORWICH -- State Prosecutor David Smith said he wondered why Julie Amero didn't just pull the plug on her classroom computer.

The six-person jury Friday may have been wondering the same thing when they convicted Amero, 40, of Windham of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. It took them less than two hours to decide the verdict. She faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Oct. 19, 2004, while substituting for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School, Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images appearing in an endless cycle on her computer.

"The pop-ups never went away," Amero testified. "They were continuous."

The Web sites, which police proved were accessed while Amero was in the classroom, were seen by as many as 10 minor students. Several of the students testified during the three-day trial in Norwich Superior Court to seeing images of naked men and women.

Computer expert W. Herbert Horner, testifying in Amero's defense, said he found spyware on the computer and an innocent hair styling Web site "that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control."

"If you try to get out of it, you're trapped," Horner said.Teacher guilty in Norwich porn case

If you're reading this, you're on the Internet, and if you're on the Internet, you've seen those pop-up windows that, when you close one, it opens another one. I once had to replace my hard drive, it got so bad -- sites for kids are especially likely to have this sort of thing, and a lot of it is porn.

This substitute teacher was in front of the class when this started happening. And now she may go to prison for forty years.

Here -- a Washington Post reporter talked to her, see if this sounds like any teachers you've seen:
I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.

On the morning of Oct 19, 2004, Amero said she reported for duty at a seventh grade classroom at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn. After stepping out into the hall for a moment, Amero returned to find two students hovering over the computer at the teacher's desk. As supported by an analysis of her computer during the court proceedings, the site the children were looking at was a seemingly innocuous hairstyling site called "" Amero said that shortly thereafter, she noticed a series of new Web browser windows opening up displaying pornographic images, and that no matter how quickly she closed each one out, another would pop up in its place.

"I went back to computer and found a bunch of pop-ups," Amero said. "They wouldn't go away. I mean, some of the sites stayed on there no matter how many times I clicked the red X, and others would just pop back up."

Amero said she panicked and ran down the hall to the teacher's lounge to ask for help. "I dared not turn the the computer off. The teacher had asked me not to sign him out" of the computer, she recalled. Amero said none of the teachers in the lounge moved to help her, and that another teacher later told her to ignore the ads, that they were a common annoyance. Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware

Now ... I just did an experiment.

I just went to and looked at it. I didn't get any pop-ups (yet), probably because I'm behind a firewall and I run a special popup-blocker.

This is sneaky, all right. Like, if you look at the page, you see a list down the left side that says "Woman's hair galleries," "Men's Hair Galleries," etc. Under "Man's Hair Galleries" their is a subheading ">> Short hair styles." If you click on the words "Short hair styles," you go to the next screen, which shows you ... short hair styles. But IF you click on the ">>" part, it sends you to this link: -- a Russian porn site. Links like this are hidden all over this web page. It's like a minefield.

This teacher was running Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 5, obsolete software seriously lacking in security features. The antivirus software subscription had expired. The computer was found to be infected with spyware and trojans. There was no firewall, no content protection, and no pop-up protection.

On the other hand some children were exposed to nudity, so this substitute teacher just might be spending the rest of her life in prison.

(If you'd like to donate to her defense, the family has set up a web site HERE.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Magruder Last Night

Last night, Magruder High School was planning to have a special PTA meeting about the new health curriculum. In their newsletter, the PTA president, Martha Schaerr, announced that:
Our February 20 PTSA meeting will be a forum on the Family Life Curriculum. I have invited our health teachers and members of the Citizens Advisory Committee to present their thoughts on the curriculum.

Somebody pointed this out to me a few weeks ago. I asked around, and none of the majority members of the citizens advisory committee (CAC) members had been invited. We asked around at Magruder and found out that the PTA had invited only Ruth Jacobs, the representative of the anti-MCPS group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, the group that sued last year and intends to sue this year over the curriculum.

Dr. Jacobs is entitled to her views about the courses, though ... oh, never mind. The fact is, she is all alone in her interpretation of what's in the curriculum and what it signifies. She loves to go into public comments at the school board meetings and tell them about rimming and fisting and people putting their heads into the toilet ("swirlies"), things like that. Gay people, according to her, have anal sex and eat poop, and that's why all of them die of AIDS. Even if they do use condoms.

She voted against almost everything in the curriculum, and proposed at least a hundred changes, most of which were ... not accepted. Misleading quotes from obsolete and irrelevant sources. Data from obscure, inconclusive studies. C'mon, we're talking to 8th and 10th grade kids here.

So the mainstream members of the committee (which I'm on, in case you forgot) were concerned that she was being invited by this PTA to represent the committee and answer questions.

Well, some phone calls were made, I won't go into it. Then the PTA invited one of the CAC's student members, Margaret Ellen Johnson, who is also a student at Magruder. That was good, Margaret Ellen is a cool kid. She was going to present the student's view of the curriculum.

Good, but not balanced.

More phone calls were made. Eventally, the chair of the CAC, Carol Plotsky, was invited to speak. I know she hates doing that sort of thing, and it was most gracious of her to agree to do it. Most of the members had already decided to go anyway.

So last night, I think I counted eight members of the 15-person committee in this high-school cafeteria. The PTA president said she was real nervous. She had prepared a form for parents to ask questions, and gave us some rules at the start; there would be the presentations, then only parents would be able to ask questions until nine o'clock ... She was really expecting a fight, it looked like.

Dr. Plotsky was introduced as "the chair of the committee." Dr. Plotsky recently retired as the chair of the Shady Grove Pediatrics Department, and also used to be assistant attorney general in Connecticut -- a doctor and a lawyer, both. As the PTA president neglected to mention.

Dr. Plotsky gave a good, coherent introduction to the process of the citizens committee and what it accomplished. She discussed the origins of the committee, from the 2005 lawsuit and the requirement that CRC and PFOX be represented on it, and noted how that requirement led inevitably to a division within the committee. I really appreciated Dr. Plotsky's even tone and informative presentation -- she has been just what the committee needed, a firm hand at the rudder.

Then Margaret Ellen talked. She was surprisingly cool for a teenager talking to a room full of grownups. She talked about how boring the video was, about how important it is for gay students to know what's going on with them, how important it is for their friends to understand. She talked about bullying and how mean eighth graders can be. And she listed some things she wished had been included in the curriculum: statements from the AMA and the APA that homosexuality is not a disease; statements that gay people can live full, happy lives and be good parents. Everybody on the committee is proud of Margaret Ellen, and she gave a great presentation.

Then, after a grand introduction describing her wondrous career, Dr. Jacobs took the podium. Her Powerpoint didn't work at first. When she got it going, we saw that the title of her talk was "Excluding Information from the Lessons: Does It Put Your Child at Risk?"

Her whole talk was about things that are not in the curriculum. Speaking about "excluding information."

Rather than bias the description by interpreting what she said, I'll just reproduce my notes from her talk:
anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex germs anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex AIDS anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex self-labeling anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex germs anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex germs anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex innate anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex "there's no gay gene" anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex gay people die anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex anal sex

There were some questions from the audience. Magruder, like everywhere, has a couple of vocal conservative parents who think kids ought to just be told not to have sex, and that should be that. There seemed to be a little core group of them, three or four people sitting together, but of course most of the people (there were probably thirty or forty people there) are reasonable, just parents who want to know what the big deal is about. Parents who want their kids to be safe and happy, and especially ones who don't want to see their kids get trapped in some stupid political tug-of-war.

Different members of the committee helped answer questions, which was a good thing. Of course, we've gone over this with a fine-toothed comb, there're a lot of details and a lot of back-and-forth here, and people were candid about what they thought could have been better and why certain decisions were made.

It wasn't real smart of this PTA president to try to do this. She says she's friends with Dr. Jacobs, and that's nice, but it was not going to serve the community at all to hear a talk about all the things that were not in the curriculum. It was a sneaky trick, and I hope the parents at Magruder realize what she tried to pull.

This is the kind of thing that keeps parents from participating in their school community.

There are serious issues here, a lot of people have done a lot of work to implement this curriculum, and to invite one strange cookie in to complain about what it doesn't include was not the brightest move in the world. Luckily it all worked out OK.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The New Curriculum Online

Hey, I don't think I ever mentioned this. If you are following the story about the Montgomery County sex-ed curriculum, and you want to know what it's actually about, you really should read it yourself, rather than trusting somebody to tell you what's in it. We have the whole curriculum posted HERE. We took the huge PDF file that the school district put out, and broke it into sections. The 10th grade condom lesson and each of the 8th and 10th grade sexual variations lessons are further subdivided into citizens advisory committee recommendations, MCPS staff responses to the recommendations, and final drafts. There is also a memo from the Superintendent there.

The recommendations are kind of interesting, because they give the results of voting on the different items. Like, "some people" like to say that everybody was against them, but you find a lot of close votes there, and even a couple of unanimous votes.

Breaking it up makes it easy to deal with, I think. I hope, anyway.

If you're looking for it sometime and you don't have this link, just go to the Resources page, and look on the lefthand side, at the top. Below that you can also find documents from the previously developed curriculum that was cancelled and the current curriculum, as well as some other documents of varying degrees of relevance.

Good: Kid Fights Back

We're going to have to watch his one. This kid in New Jersey was upset because the Christian teacher was essentially preaching to them in class. Nobody believed it could be as bad as he said it was, so he brought a tape recorder into class.
... Last fall, Matthew [LaClair], 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they “belong in hell.”

On the recordings, which Matthew made surreptitiously starting in September, Mr. Paszkiewicz is heard telling the class that there were dinosaurs aboard Noah’s ark and that there is no scientific basis for evolution or the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Since Matthew turned over the tapes to school officials, his family and supporters said, he has been the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and “retaliation” by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem. The retaliation, they say, includes the district’s policy banning students from recording what is said in class without a teacher’s permission and officials’ refusal to punish students who have harassed Matthew. Student, 16, Finds Allies in His Fight Over Religion

Yes, you understood that correctly. The result was a new rule that students are not allowed to tape-record their teachers.

Some people might think this is OK. Others might think it is better to maintain a separation of church and state, such that public schools avoid promoting a particular religion in the classroom. That would be me.
The LaClairs filed a torts claim notice on Feb. 13 against the school board, Mr. Paszkiewicz and other school officials. Such a claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed in New Jersey. “The school created a climate in which the students in the school community held resentment for Matthew,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the A.C.L.U. in New Jersey. She said Kearny High School had “violated the spirit and the letter of freedom of religion and the First Amendment.”

Ms. Jacobs added that the A.C.L.U. would support the LaClairs if they sue the school board and might join the action.

Richard Mancino, a partner with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, which is representing the family, said he did not understand why school officials would not “stand up for this student, who had the guts to raise this constitutional issue.” Instead, Mr. Mancino said, they appear “to have adopted a shoot-the-messenger policy.”

I know, I know. <waves_hand_in_air> Is it because everybody is a bunch of gutless conformists who are afraid to think for themselves?

It's hard to stand up for what's right, as this kid is finding out.

Oh, I love this part:
Angelo J. Genova, a lawyer in Livingston, N.J., who is representing the school board, said Kearny school officials had addressed Matthew’s complaints and had reaffirmed their commitment to the separation of church and state in the classroom.

Bernadette McDonald, president of the school board, said in a statement: “We took his concerns very seriously. The result was that we have received no further complaints about such religious proselytization in our schools.”

Because, y'know, the problem was the complaining. And now it's OK, because people have stopped.
For his part, Matthew said he recognized that “there are going to be a lot of consequences” at school from the Monday news conference. He said he had already felt hostility from students after the school switched his history class from Mr. Paszkiewicz to another teacher.

The district would not disclose what action it had taken against Mr. Paszkiewicz, who is teaching the same course to a different group of students. He has taught in the district for 14 years.

Granted, it is difficult to establish a secular education in a world where many people participate in a religion. The problem is that there are a lot of different religions, and some people don't belong to one at all. So the schools, and government institutions in general, are obligated to stay neutral on the issue. It makes sense, unless you start thinking that your specific religion is the only true one, and that everybody else should accept that. And, sadly, some people do think that.

Luckily, there is a whole world of secular topics that do not require a religious explanation. Reading, writing, math, health, science ... you can learn these things without taking a position on which god, if any, is the true God, and what practices should be implemented to honor Him or Her.

Here in Montgomery County, the critics of the new sex-ed curricula can water it down as much as they want, they can claim to have secular objections, but you can't get around the religious underpinnings of their complaints. The fact is, the new curriculum is nice and objective, by secular standards; it was developed by a team of pediatricians, and it is entirely consistent with the current state of mainstream medical and scientific belief. The CRC's appeal to the state was full of religious complaints. Sorry, that's not how it's going to work. They may have gotten away with it for a while in Kearny, New Jersey, but it ain't gonna fly here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What We're Up Against

Digger, in the comments, pointed out a letter to the editor yesterday (Saturday) in the Washington Post, by the former -- as of last week, I guess -- president of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. You remember that the CRC has people on the board of directors and advisory board of the Rockville Pregnancy Center, which was recently kicked out of Montgomery County schools after it came to light that they have been having MCPS students chew a piece of gum and pass it around in class. I think the story first broke HERE.

Ms. Turner has a letter to the editor, as spokesperson for the CRC. Here's the whole thing:
We at Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum agree with Deputy Superintendent Frieda Lacey that gum-sharing exercises in Montgomery County public schools are "repulsive."

We also are concerned that students learn about sexually transmitted diseases. So how does Ms. Lacey feel about a curriculum that refuses to find anal sex "repulsive" or dangerous, but instead recommends that kids visit organizations that promote such sexual contact, and worse?

Last week our organization asked the State Board of Education to halt testing of the revised sex-ed curriculum. One reason for doing so was the failure of the new curriculum to address objectively the government-confirmed health risks of anal sex and other practices that spread sexually transmitted diseases.

So what's "repulsive" and requiring "immediate review" is all in the eye of the beholder, right? Unless you are a teenager who has just found out he or she is HIV-positive.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum

The first sentence is ... not news. The CRC opposes children sharing their gum. We applaud them for adhering to that bold position.

But man, look at that second paragraph. Read this again:
So how does Ms. Lacey [actually, Dr. Lacey] feel about a curriculum that refuses to find anal sex "repulsive" or dangerous, but instead recommends that kids visit organizations that promote such sexual contact, and worse?

How can they say these things? You just wonder, as a normal person, how does somebody say something like this?

First of all, she asserts that the curriculum refuses to find anal sex "repulsive" or dangerous. Yes, it refuses to judge anal sex; it also refuses to condemn pickpockets and terrorism and illicit drug use, it says nothing about scrawling graffiti on street signs or the use of bad language by modern-day youth, there's nothing about a single one of the Ten Commandments or whether people should support our troops, and not a word warning people not to cross the street in the middle of the block.

Listen, the curriculum doesn't say anything at all about anal sex, except that you should use a condom if you do that -- which is good, mainstream medical advice. As Ms. Turner no doubt knows, the STD rate for teens who practice "abstinence" is about the same as for kids who do not. The reason? They practice anal sex without protection, thinking it keeps them technically virgins. I think it's a good idea to mention this to them, as they seem not to think of it on their own.

Part of the new curriculum is about condoms, and part is about sexual orientation. There is nothing about anal sex anywhere in it, and there shouldn't be. The CRC is so interested in anal sex that they think it is a terrible shortfalling of the curriculum, but really, nobody else is in any big hurry to teach kids about anal sex.

And then, this: ... but instead recommends that kids visit organizations that promote such sexual contact, and worse?

I suppose it is best that the CRC go ahead and publish this sort of thing in the newspaper, where people can see them for what they are. These kinds of statements are an embarrassment to our county and the intelligent and fair people who live in it.

Let me state clearly: there is no recommendation anywhere in the sex-ed curricula that recommends to anyone that they should visit any organization that promotes anal sex. That idea is entirely bizarre. But the CRC has succeeded, with the complicity of the Washington Post, in planting the seed of an idea in people's mind that the Montgomery County sex education classes somehow send children out to learn how to perform anal intercourse.

I'm pretty sure I know where this came from, some books that were handed out at a conference one time, which elicited an apology from the sponsoring organization and a clear statement that the material violated their principles. Somebody screwed up once, the year before last. We've been over it here many times, as the anti-gay betterthanyous jumped all over the incident to "prove" that gay people are evil.

To take that event, which has nothing to do with the new curriculum, and use it to typify the result of months of hard work by many people ... just amazing.

Then she says Last week our organization asked the State Board of Education to halt testing of the revised sex-ed curriculum. One reason for doing so was the failure of the new curriculum to address objectively the government-confirmed health risks of anal sex and other practices that spread sexually transmitted diseases.

She could have mentioned that the state had five days to order the stay, and they didn't.

This anal-sex business was one of the things in there. They sued for a bunch of reasons, ranging from their desire to include more anal sex in the curriculum to the fact that people in Montgomery County don't agree with them or appreciate them.

The last paragraph: "repulsive?" Why would the curriculum describe something as "repulsive" that it doesn't even teach about? "Immediate review?" What would that have to do with the HIV epidemic? There must be some covert politically correct code talk in there that I am unable to detect, about immediately reviewing something having to do with HIV. Same with the teenager who has HIV -- where did that come from? This is simply incoherent.

When I see this kind of thing, it motivates me in two directions. First, it makes me mad to think that people who "think" like this have any say at all in anything that happens in my county. If the people of Montgomery County disagree on an issue and want to debate it, fine, I'm good with that, but to do it with outright lies and distortion like this, where the only thing that matters is winning even if you have to poison the public well to do it -- I'm against that, and this just makes me fight back harder.

On the other hand, with real estate values what they are, maybe I could sell the house, pack up the family, and move into an adobe shack somewhere in the foothills of New Mexico, where we could listen to the coyotes singing and look up every night at a million stars. Maybe have a little garden and a couple of chickens, go into town on the weekend and two-step to the local country-western band -- hey, maybe they'd need a guitar player, and I could pick up a couple of bucks playing.

Sigh ... Not yet, I got things to get done still. But ... man, that sounds good sometimes.

It isn't right that any intelligent person would be drawn into this kind of idiotic discussion.

But you have to.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Incurious" is Nowhere to be Seen

Carpetbagger Report points out a kind of fun result in an ongoing Pew survey (pdf). Since early February 2004, Pew has been asking people for a single word that best describes President Bush. In Feb-04, the top words were:
Liar (woops -- people knew in 2004?)

You get the vibes, right?

And of course, you know where this is going.

By July 2005, "incompetent" had risen to second place, and some other modern favorites were rising in the charts:

Yeah, a mixed result there, no doubt.

In February 2007, that is, last month, these were the top ten:

When you've got an incompetent, arrogant, honest, good idiot leader with integrity, who's strong and stupid ... you got Trouble with a capital T.

Just interesting how things pop out of the data. I'm glad they ask this question (even though my favorite didn't make the list).

Something Entirely Different

When I was in China, a friend of mine, a Polish guy from North Carolina who lives in Australia and writes books about computer science and brain-teasers and managing your finances, showed me a kind of puzzle that he said most people can't get.

It's the weekend, let's take a break.

Look at this little puzzle. See how you do.

Here is a series of objects. The question is -- what comes next? What is the next object in the series?

OK, do you know?

See the answer HERE

Friday, February 16, 2007

Families, Hate, and Other Things

Please indulge me as I try to tie a couple of thoughts together.

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin attended the Love Won Out conference in Phoenix last week, and is reporting on it in a series of fascinating, very emotional blog posts.

He describes the audience at the conference as consisting generally of three groups: church leaders and Bible study groups who are there as part of their Christian education; gays who want to become straight; and relatives of gay people. This last group, he says, is by far the largest.

He makes a big point that the people at the conference are not hateful, in fact quite the opposite.
Instead, let me draw your attention to a gentleman I talked to in one quiet little corner of the church courtyard. He was there with his wife and we were talking when he began to tell me about his son. For a long time, this gentleman had been wondering why his very good-looking and popular son hadn’t gotten married yet, when about eight years ago his son came home for a special visit in order to explain why that wasn’t going to happen. This father was very forthcoming in telling me that he took the news very badly, and he said a lot of things that he shouldn’t have said. And when he talked to his son more in the months that followed, he repeated some of those awful things which brought their relationship to a terrible break.

Since then, he’s talked to his son on the phone many times, but too often it often hasn’t gone very well. There are too many times when the conversations between them break down as old patterns repeat themselves. There’s just too much pain and anger on both sides, although he’s careful not to blame his son. He wishes he knew how to talk to him, and as he said this he began to cry very softly. His wife, who had been standing silently next to him the whole time, gently reached for his hand and she began to cry as well. But she remained silent. She never shared her side of the story and I didn’t ask.

I just stood there and watched this man’s heart break before my very eyes. His lower lip quivered ever so slightly as he continued speaking — the hopes that he had for his son, the many things he admired about him, his pride in his son’s successful career, and yet, his utter puzzlement that his son could possibly be gay. Eight years later and he still can’t quite bring himself to fully believe it. All he wants is for his boy to come home.

See? Interesting.

I want to say a word about hate and ignorance. Hate does not always wear an angry face. When you believe that someone is evil in their heart and soul, when you believe that the love that one person feels for another is an ugly thing, I'm sorry, but that feeling is called hate. It's heartbreaking on both sides when it happens in the context of a family, when you raise a child up from infancy and then find that they disgust you.

I optimistically think that this kind of unintentional hate is usually caused by ignorance. Nobody wants to hate their own children, they want to understand and love them. That's one reason the new health classes should be important. People might learn that you don't have to hate someone because of who they love, and someday there might be fewer confused parents like these.

There are two groups that attempt to work with family members: PFLAG and PFOX (I prefer not to put them in the same sentence, but I do want to discuss them in relation to one another).

PFLAG stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It offers support groups for families, and puts together brochures and conferences, things like that. PFLAG understands that families may react angrily to their child's or sibling's coming-out, or may become depressed or just confused, and they work with them to deal with that. In the long run, PFLAG is about acceptance and loving your family member as they are, whether you understand how they feel or approve of it.

PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays -- also offers support groups and informational services, but their message is the opposite, in a way, from PFLAG's. Where PFLAG encourages acceptance, PFOX offers denial. Their message is that your gay family member can change, that they might stop being gay. You love them, yes, but you hold out hope that they will become something different someday.

PFOX likes to say that people who criticize them are "discriminating against ex-gays" or that they are acting like "ex-gays don't exist;" this is simply a smokescreen. There are perfectly good reasons to oppose PFOX. The fact is, and everybody knows it's true, sexual orientation isn't something that changes. If it ever does, the phenomenon is incredibly rare. The product they manufacture and sell is really nothing more or less than false hope, nurtured by ignorance.

Listening to the man described in Box Turtle Bulletin, one is struck by the fact that he just didn't know how to take it when he discovered his son was gay. He doesn't go into any detail, but it is clear that the father didn't know anything about it. And you have to think, how much better would it have been, if he had received a little bit of education about sexual orientation, if he had knowledge beyond what you pick up on the playground and at work, from peers who don't know any more about it than you do?

Spitzer's (Weak) Explanation

We have been talking here about the strange situation where researcher Robert Spitzer has a video on the PFOX web site in which he advocates their position and says that gay advocates are not being truthful about the immutability of sexual orientation. The Flash video comes up whenever you load their home page.

Spitzer's research has been used by rightwing groups to promote the idea that gay people can and should become straight, and he has said he does not approve of that use of his findings. So a few of us were surprised that he turned up as the spokesman for PFOX.

Truth Wins Out released a video yesterday where Spitzer seems to explain the situation and expresses his opinion about it. At least, because of the timing of the release of this video, we assume that the interview he refers to is the one that ended up on PFOX's site. Nothing in the TWO story says that it's the same one.

In the video, Spitzer says he was interviewed by James Dobson and gave permission for Dobson to use it however he wanted, and now he's "uncomfortable" it's being used to promote Focus on the Family's anti-gay viewpoints.

Here's what he says on the video:
Spitzer: When I did the study, that was several years ago, six years ago. At that time there was not as much controversy about gay marriage and whatnot as there is now. I think I would be more reluctant now to start such a study, knowing the way in which it would be used. Since I'm totally uncomfortable with the aims of Focus on the Family.

It's understandable that Focus on the Family would be delighted with the results of my study because the study did indicate that there was evidence that some gays can change not only their sexual identity but their sexual orientation, fantasy, arousal. So of course they were delighted with that study. What they failed to mention, and it's not I guess a big surprise, is that in the discussion I noted that it was so hard for me to find two hundred subjects to participate in the study that I have to conclude that although change is possible and does occur, it's probably quite rare. And of course they don't want to mention that.

Narrator: We asked Dr. Spitzer how he feels about how Focus on the Family used his work to support a program that essentially seeks to deny civil rights to gays.

Spitzer: It makes me feel quite uncomfortable, and I'm kind of caught in that I think the study needed to be done, but I'm not happy that the people who are making use of the study are people whose program I'm totally am at odds with and feel therefore uncomfortable with their use of the study.

Dobson interviewed me at one point and he used that interview as part of their distribution process, and what I've found out about that I was quite unhappy with it because I didn't realize that I'd given permission for it to be distributed in that way. I wasn't happy with his reporting it because he failed to mention the point that I mentioned, which is that I thought change was rare. But there was nothing I could do, I had signed a permission and so they were free to distribute it.

As far as the gay person who is thinking about change, the gay person wants to know not only can some people change but how likely is it if I go into some kind of therapy or program. So my study I think does indicate that some gays can change but it also suggests that it's probably pretty rare. So the gay who is thinking about entering some kind of program to change should know that the likelihood of success is probably quite small. And of course Focus on the Family doesn't want to say that.

OK, so let me get this straight. This guy goes and does an interview with James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, a notorious anti-gay religious right organization. He tells Dobson, on camera, that:
... the gay activists have taken the viewpoint that from a political/strategic point of view they do better if they can convince society at large that once you're homosexual you can never change. Now, I can appreciate that that helps them politically, and I'm sympathetic towards their political goals, but I think it's just not true.

Then he signs a permission form that lets Dobson do whatever he wants with the video recording. And now he's on PFOX's web site, helping sell the message that gay people can and should become straight.

Look, it's pretty clear to me that no amount of editing could put those words into Spitzer's mouth, saying that the gay activists are making claims that are "just not true" in their attempt to "convince society at large that once you're a homosexual you can never change." He said that, on-camera, to James Dobson, and gave him permission to use it however he wanted.

I don't see him doing anything to stop being the PFOX spokesperson, other than complaining on Wayne Besen's video about how it doesn't make him comfortable or happy.

Maybe I'm too cynical here. Maybe he really is "uncomfortable," as he says, and unhappy, but just not unhappy enough to do anything to stop being the PFOX spokesresearcher. What am I missing?

[Update: Warren Throckmorton has commented here that he doesn't think this video is referring to the PFOX promotion. Maybe the TWO video is not an explanation of that, but a more general comment by Spitzer about his view of Focus on the Family. In that case, we are still left wondering why he is speaking for PFOX.]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

CRC v. Covert Politically Correct Code Talk

Let me warn you: this is a long one. The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, PFOX, and some other group filed an appeal last week with the state school board, which you can read HERE. The appeal asks the board to overrule the county school board's decision to implement a new sex-ed curriculum.

Interestingly, three different people have emailed me analyses of the CRC's appeal to the state court. Turns out the appeal document is chock-full of lies and misdirections. I never would have expected that. He said, without even a hint of weary irony.

All three analysts took their own approach to it, some more legal, some more checking for accuracy, etc. It would not be practical to try to list out everything, but let me hit some important points -- I will not get into fine legal details, even though that's what it will ultimately turn on, mainly because I don't understand it all. We recognize that the CRC filed this appeal knowing there would be no chance the state would go along with them. We are considering it a dress rehearsal for their inevitable lawsuit.

Here's the kind of thing they say:
Appellants maintain that teaching respect for persons with same-sex attraction is appropriate and right, but that the revised materials go beyond the ethic of teaching respect by demanding affirmation of a homosexual behavior, and in fact teach only one side of this controversial topic, ignoring substantial health risks associated uniquely with same-sex sexual activity.
This last phrase is meaningless. There is no "same-sex sexual activity" that is not also "opposite-sex sexual activity." If there is no unique behavior, how could risks be associated uniquely with it?

We have several responses to this section:
1. Health risks are not in this section, they are found in the section on STDs. This is a very important point. The CRC says "it doesn't emphasize STDs enough," but the fact is, there is a whole section about STDs.
2. Anal sex is NOT uniquely "same-sex sexual activity." According to a recent CDC survey, about 40 percent of adult Americans have engaged in anal sex with a partner of the opposite sex.
3. These classes are not about sexual behavior or activity; they are about sexual orientation. Lesson 10.2 states, "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may, or may not express their sexual orientation and homosexuality in their behaviors." APA 2006 and "A person may be a particular sexual orientation, but never express it through action." APA 2006

MCPS does not intend to teach 8th or 10th graders about anal sex, and I don't think they should, either, even though the CRC wants them to.

The suers say:
... the revised materials go beyond the ethic of teaching respect by demanding affirmation of a homosexual behavior ...
Pure fabrication. There is no affirmation anywhere in the curriculum, stated or demanded. As stated in Number 3 above, "These classes are not about sexual behavior or activity; they are about sexual orientation."

CRC and their co-whiners told the state:
Appellees made a deliberate decision to include discussion on the highly controversial social issue of sexual orientation, including homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism, transgender, intersexual, gender identity, 'coming out' for gays, and gender identity in its comprehensive health education.
So, why did they leave these other words out of the 10th Grade Vocabulary: gay, heterosexual, human sexuality, prejudice, sexual identity, tolerance, trusted adult, and validity, and these other words out of 8th Grade: empathy, epithet, generalization, harassment, heterosexual, respect, sexual identity, sexuality, stereotyping, tolerance, trusted adult?

Easy: they left them out because they wanted to take the controversial-sounding words out of context. Students learn a lot of vocabulary in these lessons. That's a good thing.
the school district introduces the subjects of "sexual orientation" and "sexual identity," instructing staff to present only one side of the story...
Of course no one is instructed to "present only one side of the story." That's a lie. Teachers present the facts as agreed to by all the mainstream medical and scientific organizations.

Appellees were presented with materials explaining the unique health risks for gender identity confusion. Nevertheless, the CAC uniformly rejected those materials.
The citizens advisory committee (CAC) spent many hours discusing the CRC's and PFOX's suggested changes to the curriculum. All proposed changes were discussed and then the group democratically voted to accept or reject materials that were presented in a timely manner (even some presented late) to the CAC. These particular changes were not accepted by the group.

Section 2 of the 2005 Settlement Agreement ... states in part that MCPS agrees that the revisions to the Grade 8 and Grade 10 Comprehensive Health Education curriculum as well as associated resource materials, will not discuss religious beliefs.... This would not preclude a general acknowledgment that there may be differing religious views on some of the topics discussed in the Revisions without discussion of what those differing beliefs are.... (2005 Settlement Agreement, p.20).
Telling MCPS students that some people view homosexual behavior as a sin would violate this section of the Settlement Agreement. Any mention of religious beliefs must NOT include "what those differing beliefs are."

I gotta say, this next one floors me.
Many on the Second CAC are related to the abortion industry as well, certainly a beneficiary of increased teen sexual activity.
Nobody on the committee is related to the abortion industry, if there is such a thing. One member represented NARAL, the pro-choice organization, but even that group is not related to any "abortion industry." And the NARAL representative herself works for a private school, nothing to do with abortions. No one on the committee, as far as I know, has anything to do with any abortion industry. This is a lie, designed to inflame.

Efforts of Dr. Jacobs, Mr. Sprigg, and Ms. Faustino to make contributions to the CAC or to find a response to their views from the MCPS Board and MCPS Supervisor were ineffective.
This is correct. They were ineffective. Many of their suggestions were voted down, after spirited discussions, by a majority of others on the CAC. Some were accepted, but it's true they were ineffective at convincing the other committee members of many of their points.

Efforts by Dr. Jacobs to ensure that homosexual students and other students would be fully informed of the very serious health risks of homosexual sexual practices were totally rebuffed.
This citizens committee was tasked to evaluate the sexual orientation and condom lessons. The committee was not asked to evaluate the lessons on sexually-transmitted disease, which seems to be Dr. Jacobs' area of expertise. She should volunteer for that committee.

The fact is, none of these lessons talked at all about "homosexual sexual practices," and, again, most in MCPS and on the committee did not think the topic was appropriate for children of this age, though the CRC insisted on it.

Evidence submitted by those minority members was ignored or voted down or members refrained from voting thereby not reaching a quorum.
Numerous items "submitted by those minority members" were approved by the CAC. Many other items were voted down by the majority of CAC members. Every CAC meeting had a quorum present. Maybe they mean to say that some voters abstained, and thus a majority did not accept some suggestions. That is standard orderly procedure in most committees.

Nothing was ignored. The committee added extra meetings to its schedule and stayed more than an hour late many times, in order to discuss and vote on the often-spurious offerings of the CRC's representative.

The petition was never permitted to be presented in full to the Second CAC and was effectively ignored by the MCPS.
Even though the petition was not part of the committee's business, and even though at least one doctor who signed it has written MCPS to say that the petition was "misrepresented" to the physicians who signed it, Dr. Jacobs did read her entire petition to the CAC and told them how many doctors had signed it.

In November 2007 Ms. Faustino wrote a speech to the MCPS...
How'd she do that? It's only February 2007 now. Sorry.

The three Second CAC minority members, Appellants CRC and PFOX and, additionally, Maria Pena Faustino, wrote an independent report of their views which report was entitled "Minority Report," dated December 12, 2006, ... [and] ...the Second CAC refused to accept it.
The minority report contained items that the CAC had already discussed and voted to reject. The document was not requested by the committee or added to any committee agenda.

It [the word "innate" to be added to the 8th grade curriculum] was submitted by MCSP upon a spontaneous recommendation by the MCPS staff.
MCPS staff suggested adding a statement about innateness when it was realized that "innate" was in 10th grade but not in 8th grade so there would be internal consistency within the curricula, which is important for teaching.

Despite the fact there is no sound scientific basis for such an assertion.
All major medical and scientific organizations agree that sexual orientation is innate. If the CRC would like to march over to the university and challenge their methods, they are free to do that, but I think they will be in over their heads.

The Additional Lessons convey the message that homosexuality and cross dressing is [sic] as normal as heterosexuality, but fails [sic] to inform students of the very serious and unique health risks associated with same-sex sexual activity or that there are recognized contrasting points of view on the subject.
I think this sentence confuses the word "normal" with "common." Sexual variations are normal but rare. There is obviously no health risk to cross-dressing, and none to homosexuality, if the person adheres to common-sense safe sex practices, for example has sex only in a monogamous, faithful relationship.

This paragraph is full of misdirection and lies:
Appellees also have set up a system where students are compelled to speak on a sensitive subject. District policies state that students should not be required to reveal their moral, ideological or religious views on sensitive issues. Yet, the only way for students to escape the biased, non-factual discussion of sexual orientation is to "opt-out" of the ongoing comprehensive health education course. And it is clear that the opt-out is not really an option for students who want to avoid looking conspicuous; instead, it is a traumatic matter which is no option at all.
First of all, no student is compelled to speak on any subject.

Second, a student opting-out will be expressing their parents' views; the option says nothing about their own.

Third, the system requires opt-in. It is impossible that the complainers don't know this, especially given the correction that was published by The Examiner. Parents have to sign a permission slip in order for their children to take the classes. In most states, conservatives fight for this approach, as it makes it harder for students to take the class. CRC/PFOX fight against it.

Fourth, looking conspicuous: are they really that afraid for people to know what they believe?

Appellees failed to show respect for varying opinions on this controversial issue by rejecting Appellants' recommendation that the curriculum include the statement that "Civil expressions of disapproval of homosexual behavior out of sincere religious, moral, or health-related concerns should not be labeled as homophobia."
The citizens committee voted to include this, but the school district decided not to. Some things I wanted didn't make it, either.

In contrast, Appellee refused to include the term "heterophobia," although they approved the term 'homophobia.'
Yes, this is typical. One of their numerous suggestions for the curriculum was that it should include a definition of the word "Heterophobia: the fear or hatred of the ex-gay community and homosexuals who seek to fulfill their heterosexual potential." There is a word heterophobia, but it doesn't mean that. It has never meant that. This kind of proposal was simply made so they could cry later that the committee voted against it -- but the proposal was simply erroneous.

The Additional Lessons recommend students to GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) school clubs, but rejected Appellants' request for inclusion of GSC (Gay to Straight) school clubs.
As far as we know, there has never been a Gay to Straight club formed at any MCPS school. GSAa are common in our county, with nearly every high school havving one. Why would they even suggest this?

the Appellants seek to protect their legitimate, albeit unpopular, religious belief that views the homosexual sex acts as sinful from being refuted to their children in classes teaching the Additional Lessons.
MCPS does not teach about sin. The curriculum does not discuss any religious beliefs, one way or the other. Whiners' religious beliefs are not challenged at all by this curriculum -- if they think it's a sin, then, to them, it's a sin. Nobody says it's not.

Lesson 8.1 states: "People sometimes stereotype others based on their beliefs. Just as stereotyping others based on sexuality is not an acceptable behavior, stereotyping others based on personal beliefs also is not acceptable"
Lesson 10.1 and 10.2 advise the teachers: "Special Note. It is particularly important to maintain an environment of respect and sensitivity toward all perspectives and individuals at all times."

These statements in the curriculum are intended to make sure students don't hold it against somebody if they hold anti-gay beliefs. There is no statement contradicting these.

No legitimate state purpose outweighing Appellants' constitutional rights can be shown.
How about these: The state seeks to reduce harassment, bullying, and violence directed toward LGBT public school students. The state also seeks to reduce rates of self-destructive behaviors including suicide among LGBT public school students.

... the Additional Lessons present the homosexual lifestyle in a totally rosy light
"Totally rosy?" We found the following examples from the curricula that show some of the many challenges LGBT teens face:
Lesson 8.1
1. Definition: "Harassment--any kind of repeated attention that is not wanted (Glencoe)"
2. Worksheet: "HOW IT [harassment] HURTS
This hurts the target's self esteem.
This makes the target feel angry.
This makes the target feel embarrassed."
3. Definition: "Stereotyping--an idea or image held about a group of people that represents a prejudiced attitude, oversimplified opinion, or uninformed judgment (Glencoe)"
4. Worksheet: "When people do not understand others, they may stereotype them.
People sometimes stereotype others based on differences in sexuality. "Sexuality is everything
about you as male or female.,' (Human Sexuality, Glencoe, 2005)
People sometimes stereotype others based on sexual identity. Sexual identity is the way you act,
your personality, and how you feel about yourself because you are a male or female (Glencoe),
People sometimes stereotype others based on gender identity. Gender identity is your
identification of yourself as a man or a woman, based on the gender you feel to be inside (Holt).
People sometimes stereotype others based on their beliefs. Just as stereotyping others based on
sexuality is not an acceptable behavior, stereotyping others based on personal beliefs also is not

Lesson 8.2
From Glencoe: "A teen who thinks that he or she may be homosexual or bisexual may experience stress. Concerns about how family and friends will accept the situation are reasonable, and fears about being teased or even attacked are not unfounded. Some teens, however, may also believe that they are the only ones who are attracted to members of the same gender. This belief can lead them to feel Isolated and depressed. It can be helpful for adolescents who have issues about their sexual orientation to speak with a trained counselor. "
Think questions:
"1. Why do you think that some people may be more at risk than others to be the target of harassment or stereotyping?
2. Have you ever seen/heard someone harassing or stereotyping based on sexual orientation?
3. How can harassing or stereotyping based on human sexuality hurt the individual targeted and the school climate?

Lesson 10.1
Question 1: What percentage of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trausgender (GLBT) students report they regularly hear anti-gay comments? (92%, Holt p. 9)
Question 2: What percentage of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) students report they
are verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation? (84%, Holt, p. 9)
Question 3: What percentage of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) students report they
feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation? (64%, Holt, p. 9)

Holt Resource: "To identify oneself as gay or lesbian can be very difficult given that many people do not understand sexual minorities...Unfortunately discrimination against gays lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people is common...Many people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) celebrate their self-discovery and feel relief and a new sense of joy when they can be honest with themselves and their loved ones. Others may feel isolated while coming out and may even turn to drugs, alcohol, suicide, and other dangerous behaviors. Because many youths who come out are met with hostility, they are at greater risk for engaging in harmful, damaging, and even life threatening behaviors and for being the targets of violence and harassment."
Lesson 10.2
Michael (gay): "I was very popular...played football, had...a cute girlfriend...The pain of lying became so great that I started using drugs and eventually got kicked off the team."
Tyrone (gay): "At a very young age, members of my family called me mean names like "sissy"...I was mother found a letter to my boyfriend...She got so angry! She kicked me out of the house and said that she never wanted to see me again. I had to live on the streets. It was mother still won't talk to me. I can't understand why. I'm the same son she always had..."
Adrianne (bisexual) "The hardest part about being bisexual is that people think I'm confused or can never be satisfied."
Portia (trans female) " middle school, things got pretty bad. I was made fun of, shoved in the halls, and pushed down stairs....I was very depressed...I hated myself..."

"....what are...challenges gays teens may face in the process of coming out?
- Fear to express openly
-Family or friend issues
-Personal doubt

... does that sound rosy to you?

Replacing the overt religious discrimination directed at identified religious sects with covert politically correct code talk does not avoid the unconstitutionality of the lesson. We note that the views expressed with the Additional Lessons are clearly in the realm of morality, and can be identified specifically with the religions mentioned in the First Revisions and generally with the morality of Secular Humanism (identified as a "religion" by Justice Black in fn.11, Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 388 (1961).
Nothing replaced anything. The concept of "covert politically correct code talk" is to be expected of a paranoid mental patient, and does not belong in a legal document, though really in a way we thank them for using the term, which so vividly describes the aspects of the curricuulum they oppose.

It is interesting that the CRC fights so hard against morality, and it will be interesting to see how they make the point that the consensus belief of the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Assocation, and others can be crumpled up and thrown away as "secular humanism."

MCPS is still advocating the moral viewpoint that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle. In fact it is worse. Where before Appellees at least acknowledged that there was diversity of moral views on the subject, it now simply and directly omits the acknowledgment that there is any diversity of moral views entirely, As such, this is a clear case of the government impermissibly teaching religion.
This is beautiful. This paragraph asserts that by not saying anything, the school district is "impermissibly teaching religion." How insidious: "covert politically correct code talk." The school doesn't even have to say it -- it's covert -- but everybody knows what they really mean, because they know the politically correct code, which was implanted in all our brains by the NEA and other liberals.

The curricula do not concern themselves with moral issues. If you can convince a court that that is a moral position in itself, and thus impermissible, then OK, you win. Pass the Thorazine.

There are statements included in the revisions, however, specifically to protect the "diversity of moral views" on these issues, including anti-gay elements.

For instance, from Lesson 8.1: "People sometimes stereotype others based on their beliefs. Just as stereotyping others based on sexuality is not an acceptable behavior, stereotyping others based on personal beliefs also is not acceptable."

Lesson 10.1 and 10.2 advise the teachers: "Special Note." It is particularly important to maintain an environment of respect and sensitivity toward all perspectives and individuals at all times."

Yes, all perspectives, even bigoted ones.

Lesson 10.1:
MCPS Policy ACB—Nondiscrimination...
To affirm the Board of Education's position that it regards all acts of hate/violence and illegal discrimination to be unacceptable and intolerable and in particular those based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, martial status, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, physical characteristics or disability...
MCPS Policy ACA~Human Relations...
(1) Respect for the individual regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, marital status, socio-economic status, intellectual ability, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, or disability.

Now, any opponents of the MCPS' moral view, that being anyone who takes a negative moral view of homosexual conduct, are castigated in the Additional Lessons as "prejudiced" . . . "uneducated" . . . "homophobic" and engaging in "stereotyping." Appellants are even blamed for the suicide rate and other ills suffered by homosexuals in society.
No, appellants are not named. The idea that relentless hateful speech and behaviors might drive a teenager to suicide is not so remote. If that is what the CRC is defending, then let us acknowledge that the rest of society feels otherwise. And again, the curriculum points out stereotyping based on beliefs is not acceptable, and points out two MCPS policies that protect religion as well as sexual orientation.

Erotic techniques of human intercourse may not be discussed. Discussion of anal and oral sex in the condom lessons and video clearly and patently violate this standard.
This argument has been exposed many times. First of all, there is a lie. There is no discussion of anal and oral sex in the condom lessons and/or video. The video teaches that a condom should be worn during anal and oral sex, but it doesn't discuss, and doesn't even say what those words mean. The condom video that is in current use in MCPS health classes, Hope Is Not a Method, says the same exact thing. CRC leaders have seen that video and said nothing.

The introduction of the topic of anal intercourse but concomitant failure to provide information on risk of disease transmission during anal intercourse, including risk with condom use, is inconsistent with the goal and therefore contrary to sound educational policy and arbitrary and capricious.
The condom lesson immediately precedes the lessons on sexually transmitted disease in the health curriculum.

The introduction of the topic of homosexuality without disclosure of the very serious health risks and other adverse factors associated particularly with homosexual sexual practices is inconsistent with said goal and therefore contrary to sound educational policy and arbitrary and capricious.
Interestingly, the CRC does not seem to be able to comprehend that sexual orientation and sexual behavior are two entirely different topics. There is nothing in the curriculum about homosexual sexual behaviors. The topic is irrelevant here. These lessons are about sexual orientation.

The Condom Lesson creates a misleading impression that condoms are similarly effective in preventing disease transmission in anal intercourse episodes as in vaginal intercourse and is inconsistent with said goal and therefore contrary to sound educational policy and arbitrary and capricious.
They must be referring to more "covert politically correct code talk," because the lessons do not compare the effectiveness of condoms for anal and vagina intercourse at all. In fact, there is no conclusive research on this subject.

For some reason, they really want the schools to teach all about anal intercourse.

The introduction of the topic of anal intercourse but concomitant failure to provide information on risk of disease transmission during anal intercourse, including risk with condom use, is inconsistent with said goal and therefore contrary to sound educational policy and arbitrary and capricious.
Anal intercourse may be somewhat more dangerous than vaginal intercourse. There is no discussion of either in these lessons, and so it would be inappropriate to discuss the risks, which are covered in the STD section.

Additionally Appellees introduction of the topic of homosexuality without disclosure of the various health risks and other adverse factors associated particularly with homosexual sexual practices is inconsistent with said goal and therefore contrary to sound educational policy and arbitrary and capricious.
There is nothing about "homosexual sex practices" anywhere in the curricula. Health risks are covered in the STD section.

Sex of any kind with strangers is risky for everyone. Gay men have an increased risk factor if they have unprotected sex with people of positive or unknown HIV status. HIV is covered in another section of the curriculum.

This part of the appeal document is redundant. They say the same thing over and over again. At first I thought they had simply hit "Paste" too many times, but there are some differences in wording between these sections. Perhaps this is some legal requirement, that you say everything every possible way. It makes for bad reading, though.

In developing the Lesson Plans, Appellees use information derived from a gay advocacy group in order to attempt to provide "statistics" to students on the number of incidents of anti-homosexual behavior in public schools. This gay advocacy group, Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), relies on a small internet survey of gay youth that it conducted in 2003 in order to promote biased statistical data favoring a high incident of harassment against gay, bisexual and transgender students. GLSEN's conflict of interest in conducting its own survey is self-evident. GLSEN's survey was not published in any peer-reviewed professional journal and its methodology remains suspect. MCPS rejected Appellants' submission of statistics derived from a neutral viewpoint source such as the U.S. Department of Education, which contradicts the GLSEN statistics.
There is nothing unscientific about a survey targeting a particular population, in this case, gay students, in order to make estimates from a sample to that well-defined population. As no survey samples from the entire human race, we can say that all surveys do this to some extent.

Likewise, there is nothing unusual or unscientific about an advocacy group conducting a survey regarding the topic of their interest. For instance, we would not dismiss a survey by the American Heart Association about the prevalance of heart disease.

The government survey that was proposed did not "contradict the GLSEN statistics." Those results appeared to be about the same, but that government survey did not specifically look at only gay students. If gay students make up X percent of a school population, and Y percent of gay students have been harassed at school, the government's results would show that X-times-Y percent of all students are harassed because of their sexual orientation. The reported numbers are different, but the conclusions are identical.

To put it in numbers: if 3 percent (0.03) of students are gay, and fifty percent (0.50) of them are harassed, then the GLSEN study reports fifty percent of gay students are harassed, while the government study would report 0.03 x 0.50 = 0.015 or 1.5 percent of all students being harassed. Different numbers, same conclusions.

Further, it should be noted that the CRC's government survey was also "not published in any peer-reviewed professional journal," and the authorship of that survey was completely unknown to the CRC member who proposed it.

Here, then, is the big conclusion that CRC wants the state's lawyers to draw:
By inviting an advocacy oriented outside speaker like GLSEN into the classroom, Appellees converted the classroom from a non-public forum into a limited public forum. Regardless, regulations on both non-public and limited public forums must be viewpoint neutral, and that is not the case here.
This is far-fetched, to say the least. Citing statistics from a group is not the same thing as inviting speakers into the classroom. If it were the case that only peer-reviewed and government information was allowed in a classroom, then no teaching could take place, ever, on any subject.

Appellees' refusal to include any mention of former homosexuals is arbitrary or unreasonable. It also violates Appellees' obligation to present opposing viewpoints on controversial topics.
If there are "former homosexuals," then these would now be heterosexuals, who are covered in the curriculum.

MCPS rejected any mention of the ex-gay community yet define and support every other sexual orientation (intersexed, homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, etc.) in its curriculum.
Two of these four things are not sexual orientations, and "ex-gay" is not, either. The things that are mentioned are significant phenomena observed widely in society. "Ex-gays" are not.

Appellees also refused to include the term 'heterophobia,' although they approved the term 'homophobia.'
Yes, this is true, especially since the definition that was introduced in the citizens advisory committee seemed to have been invented by the person who submitted it. There is a word "heterophobia" in the dictionary, but straight people are not discriminated against, and there is certainly no definition which has to do with "ex-gays." This is the kind of foolishness they want to spend our tax money on.

MCPS tells gays, lesbians, transgenders, and bisexuals that their "sexual orientation" is healthy and normal, while denying the existence of other sexual variations such as those who are ex-gay or attempting to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.
Lie. The curricula say nothing about what is "healthy and normal." The major categories of sexual identity are well covered in the curricula. The CRC wants to include the concept of "ex-gays" for its ideological implications.

MCPS teaches students that it is normal to change your birth sex (transgender), but that it is not normal to change your unwanted same-sex attractions (former homosexual) because sexual orientation is innate from birth.
Lie. The curriculum does not contain these statements.

Appellees refuse to include inclusive information to students that heterosexuals include former homosexuals, despite the presence of an ex-gay group on the committee as representative of the community.
PFOX's representative on the CAC had every chance to make his case. The citizens advisory committee considered his suggestions, discussed them, and voted not to include them. Had he made a convincing argument, the outcome may have been different.

The Additional Lessons were adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of eliminating any discrimination or hostility toward people based on their sexual orientation. The Additional Lessons are entitled "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" and promote tolerance of homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, crossdressers, and the intersexed. Yet the only sexual orientation in MCPS which receives no respect or tolerance is that of ex-gays.
"Ex-gay" is not a sexual orientation. I'm sorry, it's just not. The sexual orientation of an "ex-gay" person would be "heterosexual," which is amply covered throughout the health curricula.

Three of the curriculum committee members showed outright disrespect and intolerance of the ex-gay community by public emails, statements, and blogs continually written against PFOX and former homosexuals.
I have blogged in opposition to PFOX, which is a bogus organization based on a ridiculous and false premise. No one on the committee ever said anything disrespectful about any "ex-gays." Disrespect and intolerance of a community is very different from disagreement and repudiation of an ideological position and the group that espouses it.

And ... which three?

A footnote says:
There is no medical or DNA test to determine if a person is homosexuality [sic], heterosexual, or bisexual. Sexual orientation is a matter of self-affirmation and public delcaration [sic].
This is a causal dichotomy entirely of the suers' own making. DNA on one hand, self-affirmation on the other. Human psychology is much more interesting than that.

These committee members continually stereotyped former homosexuals and misrepresented PFOX's mission to the public, the MCPS Board, and the CAC.
PFOX's mission was never mentioned in any CAC meeting, and in fact there was hardly any discussion in those meetings of "ex-gays" at all. At this blog, I have represented PFOX in a way they don't like -- that is not the same as misrepresenting them.

For example, one of the CAC members, an organization named 'Teach the Facts,' compared PFOX's representation of the ex-gay community to the Klan and child molesters, despite PFOX's mission of tolerance for both ex-gays and gays.
This statement refers to a document they call "Exhibit O," submitted to the state, which I'd like to see. And the "child molestor" comment -- is that because I pointed out that PFOX uses sweet words to lure gay teenage boys into contacting them? That is exactly what they are trying to do with their flyers in the schools. I didn't compare them to child molestors, I said they were "creepy."

They also helped to organize a picket against an ex-gay conference in Montgomery County last summer where they labeled the ex-gay community a "cruel hoax."

Does anyone know why this is included in a legal complaint? The citizens advisory committee contained a range of points of view, I admit that. I don't buy the "ex-gay" rap, I do think it's a cruel hoax. So what? Are they actually complaining here that there are people in the curriculum-development process who don't agree with them?

Because, remember, most people in Montgomery County don't agree with them. Election results will tell you that.

Another CAC member falsely claimed that ex-gays are subjected to ice baths, electric shock therapy, and viewing pornography.
Yes, in an email which was posted HERE, a CAC member talked about reparative therapy: Soaking someone in an ice bath, administering electric shock therapy, or forcing them to watch pornography does not make someone straight. In fact, all of these techniques have been used by therapists attempting to change the sexual orientation of gay individuals. The CRC's lie here is in the word "falsely."

Another CAC member, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) continually stereotyped former homosexuals and misrepresented PFOX's mission. Yet these same members promoted tolerance for gays, the intersexed, crossdressers, and transgenders, and most of their curriculum recommendations on tolerance for their favored sexual orientation groups were accepted by MCPS while Appellants' recommendations on tolerance for former homosexuals or former transgender individuals were rejected.
Lie. The PFLAG representative on the committee never said anything about PFOX one way or the other. The CRC has audiotapes of all the meetings; let us hear a snippet from them, supporting this claim.

Also, I have to address that "favored sexual orientation group" idea. Since all but one of the members of the CAC are heterosexual, you would have to say their "favored sexual orientation" is straight.
Indeed, MCPS blocks student's access to PFOX's website on school computers while permitting student access to PFLAG's website.
Lots of computers at schools and workplaces block hate-speech sites. That really has nothing at all to do with the content of this curriculum, but rather reflects on the general consensus that PFOX is a bad influence.

Appellants' viewpoint was not seriously considered, in violation of district and COMAR regulations mandating that ...
Lie. The citizens advisory committee added extra meetings and stayed late many times to seriously consider capricious and absurd suggestions by the CRC and PFOX representatives.

In this discriminatory and hostile environment, the recommendations of the CAC were biased and unreasonable.
Even if this were true -- and it's not -- the Superintendent's staff took CAC recommendations as suggestions, and were empowered to accept or reject them as they saw fit. They rejected some things that the majority of the CAC considered very important, and added some things none of the members expected.

MCPS admits that they have not received any complaints of sexual orientation intolerance or discrimination against gays, bisexuals, transgenders, or the intersexed.
As the CRC knows, this is because the reporting procedures for harassment and bullying have changed in recent years, and schools have not fully implemented the new policies. It is reprehensible to use this as evidence that no bullying or harassment occurs.

But former homosexuals are subjected to ridicule and prejudice within MCPS.
We won't bother, but a FOIA request similar to the one that CRC filed would show that this assertion is also undocumented in school district files. Besides, we have never heard PFOX or CRC allege one instance of "former homosexuals" being ridiculed in the Montgomery County schools. Oh, PFOX is ridiculed, as a creepy, reality-denying organization, but there has never been an allegation that a "former homosexual" was harassed in an MCPS school.

Then, they have bolded this next part, so I guess it must be especially important to them:
... the "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" portion of the Additional Lessons does not serve its purpose and cannot be considered curriculum, and therefore is not entitled to deference as such.
Uh, yes, the new curriculum is not a curriculum. We wish them luck here.

The "curriculum" affirms students who consider themselves "gay" or "lesbian" and boys who consider themselves girls, yet it does not even acknowledge the existence of those students or their relatives who identify themselves as former homosexuals or former transgenders. This can only be considered discrimination, pure and simple, and creates a hostile learning environment in violation of state law and district policies.
CRC and PFOX have never produced one instance of this. They have invented a possible category of people, and then argued that neglecting them in the curriculum is a form of discrimination.

People who have been actual targets of discrimination should be outraged by this.

The curriculum points out in Lesson 8.1, stereotyping is "not acceptable" and "People sometimes stereotype others based on differences in sexuality." It does not say "ex-gays" should be discriminated against. If all students stopped stereotyping each other "based on differences in sexuality," all students could maintain a non-hostile learning environment.

Finished with the "ex-gay" argument, they switch gears:
The statement that sexual orientation is innate and inborn, and the statement that sexual orientation results from a combination of various factors, contradict each other.
This is not a contradiction at all. Freckles are innate, yet a person with the predisposition to have freckles only gets them if they go out in the sun. The phenotype always emerges from the interaction of the genotype with the environment. It's not a contradiction: it's how genes work.

Further, the "innate" statement was added by MCPS staff as an addition to the proposed curriculum on the day the MCPS BOE voted on the curriculum. Thus, the statement was adopted without any review from the curriculum advisory committee or citizens, in violation of their established procedures for evaluating and selecting instructional materials, district policy, and state law.
The school district has the right to modify curricula at any point when they find something that needs to be changed. They added this to correct an inconsistency.

The Additional Lessons convey to students the factually incorrect message that homosexuality is innate or present in an individual from birth. State law prohibits the teaching of factually incorrect information. There are no DNA or medical tests to determine if an individual is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Evidence of an individual's sexual orientation is dependent on his or her self-affirmation and public declaration, and not upon any medical test administered at birth. The Additional Lessons fail to cite any source verifying the veracity of its 'innate' statement.
Almost no behavioral tendencies can be detected in DNA or genetic sequences. This assertion has no foundation, and only demonstrates a lack of understanding of biology and psychology.

The appeal document goes into a long section which I will not quote here, about the Supreme Court's interpretation of what comprises an "immutable" characteristic. Clearly, the Supreme Court can rule on legal definitions to be used in determining whether discrimination has occurred, but the schools have no obligation to teach those, except perhaps in a government class.

Ditto the argument about a genetic basis for homosexuality. The human genome has only been analyzed for a few years. It is impossible to say whether there is or is not a genetic component to sexual orientation, and it is irrelevant, as the curricula make no statement on the topic of genetics.

The capper of this discussion is the statement:
Indeed, ex-gays (former homosexuals) are living proof that homosexuality is not innate.
Interestingly, this statement has a footnote that says See affidavit of Richard Cohen attached as Exhibit U. Richard Cohen was expelled for life from the American Counseling Association for numerous ethical violations, and has now been kicked out of PFOX as well. He has a Masters degree and makes his living off "donations" given in return for a bizarre form of psychotherapy that he is not licensed to practice (which is why he calls the payments "donations"). "Ex-gays," if they exist, are not evidence of anything about other gays, any more than two-headed snakes prove that all snakes can possibly come to have two heads.

They say:
Psychologists who treat individuals in overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions can testify to the fact that the sexual orientation of a person is not an inborn or innate characteristic of that person; and that homosexuality is caused by a number of factors, including environment and experience, and is potentially changeable.
Ah, yes, but the far greater numbers of psychologists who don't make a buck off it will testify that sexual orientation does not change.

There is a long, bulleted section that I am obligated to wade through:
Other Factors establishing that the Additional Lessons are against sound educational policy and therefore arbitrary and capricious:
A. the Additional Lessons, without exception, communicate a strongly negative stereotype of anyone whose faith beliefs are not supportive of homosexuality.
Lie. Not only are these statements not present, but MCPS included several statements that it is wrong to stereotype people based on their beliefs.

B. the Condom Lesson creates a misleading impression that condoms are similarly effective in preventing disease transmission in anal intercourse episodes as in vaginal intercourse. (See Affidavit of Dr. Jacobs, Appellants' Exhibit F).
This must be "covert politically correct code talk." A person who sees this in the curriculum is hallucinating.

C. The Additional Lessons go beyond the ethic of teaching respect and tolerance and intimidate or threaten to intimidate students into moral affirmation of homosexuality.
Lie. No such thing happens anywhere in the 8th or 10th grade curricula. In fact, the curricula teach students empathy, tolerance, and respect, regardless of sexuality.

D. The Additional Lessons negatively stereotype and negatively label students and their families who have religious convictions that define homosexual conduct as sinful.
Lie. How can they say these things? Nothing like this exists in the curricula. In fact, the curricula teach students that stereotyping on the basis of belief is "not acceptable" and violates two MCPS policies.

E. The Additional Lessons take the unproven and inflammatory position that the feelings of isolation which may be experienced by homosexuals and the negative behaviors exhibited by homosexuals of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse are caused by disapproval by others.
Given that the CRC wants to support those who insult and demean gays, they object to this language, but most medical and mental-health experts and their professional organizations agree with this opinion.

F. The Additional Lessons take a strong and exclusive moral viewpoint that homosexuality and other sexual variations should be free of all negative moral censure while at the same time teaching that people with moral beliefs that homosexual conduct is sinful are prejudiced, biased, and homophobic, and negatively stereotype homosexuals,
Lie. Nothing like this is included anywhere in the curriculum, unless you have the secret mystical power to understand the "covert politically correct code talk." In fact, the curricula teach empathy, tolerance, and respect, regardless of sexuality, and that stereotyping on the basis of belief is "not acceptable."

G. The Additional Lessons fail to teach that homosexuality correlates more strongly than heterosexuality on factors of depression, drug abuse, promiscuity, HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
No, this section does not present the negative stereotypes of gays. Each one of these items is deserving of its own discussion if one were to refute this statement in its entirety, but it should be sufficient to say, that's not what the curriculum is about.

H. The Additional Lessons fail to warn students that early sexual experience in homosexuality is highly correlated with increased risk of disease.
Again, there is nothing in the curricula about "sexual experience in homosexuality" at all -- that's not what the curricula are about.

I. The Additional Lessons teach the students that sexual variation is "innate" (meaning something that one is born with which is immutable) as a scientific fact while in fact it is a theory, not a fact. Further the weight of scientific evidence refutes that theory and there is no credible study supporting such a theory. All evidence that the cause of sexual variation has not been established (except to rule out that it is innate) is caused by other factors.
All major medical and scientific organizations agree that sexual orientation is innate.

And that last sentence ... does it have a subject and a verb? "All evidence ... is caused by other factors?" What does that mean?

One senses that the CRC will (again) propose any assertion, in case one might manage to gain the approval of a judge or official. This particular assertion simply shows that they don't understand the function of theory in science.

J. The Additional Lessons fail to warn students that the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other STDs through anal intercourse has not been proven to be significantly reduced by the use of condoms and in fact contain information which is likely to mislead students into believing anal intercourse can be made effectively safe by the proper use of a
Lie. There is plenty of evidence that condoms significantly reduce the risk of contracting STDs , particularly HIV.

But HIV/AIDS and other STDs are handled in a separate section of the health curriculum. The idea that the curriculum teaches that "anal intercourse can be made effectively safe by the proper use of a condom" is more "covert politically correct code talk." It doesn't say that.

K. The Additional Lessons introduce 8th graders to the concept of sexual variations despite the fact that they are not mature enough to receive instruction in this area without negative consequences and without any specific justification in COMAR which only specifies that sexual variations are to be taught in the school system (not grade specific) in optional courses. Also, encouraging children to self label their sexual identity with out parental input or support and then teach them that said identity is innate and lifelong violates sound educational policy.
"Negative consequences?" 8th graders are given some terms and taught not to bully.

"Encouraging children to self label" is just more "covert politically correct code talk." It's an outrageous lie. No child is encouraged at any point to "self label." In fact, the Glencoe resource (Lesson 8.2) reassures MCPS students, "A person may develop an interest in the opposite gender much earlier or later than some of his or her friends," specifically to dispel the "myth ... that a person is homosexual because he or she is not yet interested in the opposite gender."

L. In the 8th grade lesson, insofar as homosexuality is unscientifically defined as "attraction' to members of the same sex, with no reference to age, or maturity, or strength or frequency of attraction, and with no reference to the component of active self-identification in sexual orientation, the Additional Lessons highly likely to confuse 8th graders and cause likely cases of spurious self-identifications into homosexuality and other non-heterosexual variations. In fact several resources contained in the First Revisions ADMITS that an attraction at that age is not indicative of homosexual orientation.
Attraction is part of the definition of sexual orientation, there is nothing wrong with the word or the concept. Fleeting same-sex attraction does not mean one is gay, but the CRC and PFOX voted against including that statement in the curriculum explicitly. They can't have it both ways. And again, the curriculum dispels the myth and reassures late bloomers.

M. The Additional Lessons fail to promote tolerance and respect for homosexuals in a manner which does not obfuscate the fact that heterosexuality is the norm and that only very small part of the population is identified as non-heterosexual.
Again, they throw things like this against the wall to see if they will stick. There is no implication, from two classes in 8th grade and two in 10th grade, embedded in a lifetime health curriculum, that homosexuality is statistically comparable to heterosexuality in the population.

N. The Additional Lessons employment of the concept of "innate" prevents students from realizing their own potential to actively participate on a cognitive and emotional level in their own choice of sexual self-identification, even though current research and scientific thought demonstrate the reality and validity and value of such effort and even though the concept of self-determined self-identification of sexual orientation may help interested students avoid the health risks associated with homosexual behavior.
This argument is so twisted and error-riddled that one hardly knows where to start. From the idea that a person could or should "self-identify" as something they are not, to the "health risks" mentioned, this is simply puerile and absurd reasoning.

O. The Additional Lessons bias against the potential of the individual to actively participate in the choice of his or her own sexual orientation sexual causes the further failure of the Additional Lessons to recognize and teach that both heterosexuals and homosexuals may benefit from choosing to master sexual impulse and attraction to obtain desired outcomes such as the avoidance of high risk sexual behaviors, protection of self-esteem, and the achievement and protection of a valued monogamous sexual relationship under the terms and conditions acceptable to the individual.
Nothing in the new curricula is about sexual behavior, either its mastery or its risks. These topics are covered elsewhere in the health curriculum. The curriculum certainly is clear; abstinence is strongly encouraged throughout.

A note: Readers of this complaint must be aware that it is not possible to include everything in every section of the health curriculum. The argument that "X is not included" is not meaningful if X is included in another part of the curriculum. Families and marriage, risks of sexual behaviors, and sexual behaviors themselves are not part of these new curricula -- that is not an argument against them, only an admission that they are finite.

(For some reason, there are no points labeled P or Q.) (Looking ahead, we see that this has been arranged so they can go from A to Z.)

R. The Additional Lessons fail to promote tolerance and respect for homosexuals in a manner which does not minimize the value of self-determined sexual self-definition into monogamous heterosexuality in terms of the avoidance of high risk sexual practices associated with homosexuality and avoidance of increased risk of depression, drug addiction, partner abuse, multiple partners and poor self esteem issues associated with homosexuality.
See the note on the previous item. Monogamy is addressed in other parts of the health curriculum, and abstinence is strongly encouraged throughout.

These last negative points (depression, etc.) are not only "associated with homosexuality," but occur commonly among heterosexuals, as well.

S. The Additional Lessons, without exception, communicate a positive moral view of homosexuality and portray it as a natural and morally correct lifestyle.
More "covert politically correct code talk." No moral views are expressed. Empathy, tolerance, and respect are encouraged regardless of sexual orientation, while stereotyping, making generalizations, and harassment are discouraged as "not acceptable."

T. the Additional Lessons, without exception, communicate a negative moral view of anyone whose faith beliefs are not supportive of homosexual conduct.
Lie. "Covert politically correct code talk." No such statements exist. In fact, the curricula teach that stereotyping on the basis of belief is "not acceptable."

U. The Additional Lessons, without exception, communicate a strongly negative stereotype of anyone whose faith beliefs are not supportive of homosexual conduct.
Lie. "Covert politically correct code talk." No such statements exist. In fact, the curricula teach that stereotyping on the basis of belief is "not acceptable."

V. The Additional Lessons included as an opt-in portion of a mandatory health education course and are not offered in or as part of an elective course. Students who are taking the mandatory Health curriculum are forced to leave their normal class to avoid it. This normally means sitting in the library by oneself doing independent study work and may mean checking in with the teacher in front of the normal class every day before going to the library.
This is a complaint? That a student would have to sit in the library?

W. The Additional Lessons fail to provide students with current scientific studies and current government warnings to permit them the opportunity to evaluate their sexual practices from the perspective of a fully informed person.
No, these are middle and high school classes. Further, if the scientific evidence were to be introduced, CRC would be very much unhappier. This is another criticism of the form of "X is not included." The classes are geared to the educational level and age of the students.

X. The Additional Lessons are entirely or nearly entirely scripted and students are not permitted to discuss the matters being taught in order to express contrary views.
This is school, it's for learning, it is not a public forum for airing personal opinions. This statement should be true throughout the school system, for most classes.

Y. "Transgender" is portrayed as sexual variation when in fact transgenders are classified as having mental disorder. Transgenderism, gender dysphoria, and gender identity disorder constitute mental illnesses according to the American Psychiatric Associations's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The Additional Lessons fail to mention this fact, despite Appellant's request for same. Instead, the Additional Lessons contain a personal story about a boy who wants to be known at school as a girl. In the lesson plan, boy calls himself "Portia," receives a new student ID identifying him as a girl, and is given a key to a private unisex restroom by the principal. The Additional Lessons fail to include information on counseling for students like "Portia" who experience gender confusion. The Additional Lessons refer to "Portia" as a "she" when the law classifies her as a "he." This forces students to acknowledge that "Portia" is a female when he is not and creates gender confusion for our children. This is not sound educational policy.
It may seem outrageous to the CRC to refer to someone in the terms they prefer, but that is good civil behavior. We will ignore their usual comments about transgender people, etc. They're people, the curriculum talks about them.

Z. No positive vignettes are offered to reflect the experiences of former homosexuals or former lesbians or heterosexuals.
This is correct; the vignettes that are included are directly relevant to the lesson that is being taught.


The story is this: the school district proposed a really nice curriculum in 2004 and the CRC formed to oppose it. They finally got the school district to discard it through some legal chicanery, and the district proposed a new one. The CRC seemed shocked to find out that this one was not more conservative than the first one. Now they want to force the school district to discard this one, too.

That should not happen.

Marc Fisher on the Gum Game

The Washington Post's Marc Fisher rang in on the "gum game" this morning, saying a few things that people may be thinking but not saying out loud.

Fisher wrote a nice column last year about some things we said here on the TTF blog, and you know he's been following the sex-ed controversy here in Montgomery County. So it's not entirely surprising that he would have something to say about this.

--Also, he's gone out and talked to people, and has some new information.
In the matter of the "gum game" -- the yucky attempt in Montgomery County schools to impress upon teenagers the dangers of sexual promiscuity by asking them to share a piece of gum -- all involved now appear to be appalled at themselves.

"In hindsight, it's gross and disgusting," says Gail Tierney, founder and head of the Rockville Pregnancy Center, the evangelical, antiabortion clinic that taught abstinence classes to thousands of Montgomery schoolchildren until the gum hit the fan. Don't Gum Up Sex-Ed; Leave Instruction to Professional Teachers

In hindsight? It's gross and disgusting any way you look at it.

It would be the grown-up's job to see this fact in foresight.
"It's a disgusting, gross exercise that no adult should have asked a child to do, no matter what the purpose," says Brian Edwards, spokesman for the county school system, which has now banned the Pregnancy Center from public classrooms.

And, we find out, it's been going on for nine years.

But Fisher is going to make them squirm. Because, look, this isn't just about the gum.
Okay, the game is revolting, and the group is gone -- we got that. But I still have questions: Why, exactly, was teaching about sensitive and difficult issues of sexual activity and sexually transmitted disease outsourced? And why was this job entrusted to the Pregnancy Center, which says its abstinence program is based on the belief that "pregnancy is not the root problem, but a symptom of a lifestyle that is outside of God's will"?

"It's a mystery why this group was approved by the central office," Edwards tells me. I appreciate his candor, but if I were a Montgomery parent, I'd be keen to see that mystery solved.

I've already said that this part of it doesn't bother me. And maybe that's because I trust my kids to be resilient. They are, shall we say, very skeptical about anything an adult tells them. My son gets up and goes to a Baptist church some Sundays. Well, the preacher has a couple of cute daughters, and his girlfriend goes there, so he's pretty motivated. But the fact is, sitting in a pew thanking God for his good fortune is an OK thing to do. It balances out the South Park and ebaumsworld, let's say. He used to attend services at a neighborhood synagogue with a friend, same thing. He's a steady kind of kid, and exposure to some religious ideas will give him something to think about, but it's not going to rock his world in any major way.

So, personally, I don't worry about it, but then, we seem to be more liberal than some parents.

Fisher continues.
Tierney notes that the county repeatedly approved the Pregnancy Center's abstinence program, which was presented to more than 6,500 Montgomery eighth- and 10th-graders last year. She produces a stack of evaluations of the program by teachers and students, many of whom singled out the gum game for praise as a dramatic way to get across the role peer pressure plays in making bad decisions.

But the Pregnancy Center is not entirely aboveboard here. The six-page synopsis of the "Worth the Wait" program that the center submitted for the school system's approval goes into great detail about some exercises used in the class. For example, there are 27 sentences about the No STDs Game, in which kids pass around slips of paper naming different outcomes of random sexual contact, the idea being to demonstrate the nasty surprises awaiting those who hook up.

Here, in contrast, is the entire description of the gum game: "Gum game. Discuss results."

Ah, yeah, he gotcha with that one, lady.

And here's the full text submitted about another favorite exercise that won't be used anymore: "Exlax game."

In this game, students were handed squares of Hershey's chocolate, but before they popped the candy, they were told that a few kids had instead received Ex-Lax laxatives. Still want to eat it? Few did, and, in fact, Tierney assures me that although this exercise "really freaks them out," it is only a mind game designed to drive home the idea of random risk -- no laxatives were distributed to students.

Oh yeah, wonderful idea. Brilliant. Passing out medication in class. Laxatives, no less.


And oh so fun.
These games are certainly popular. On an evaluation form, one student gave the exercise high marks: "If you refuse to risk taking a laxative, why risk having unprotected sex?" A Springbrook High teacher noted that students were still "wearing the buttons" -- pro-abstinence pins that say "I'm Worth The Wait!" -- even days after the class.

Still, the gum game was wildly inappropriate, says Brenda Willett, whose son was the eighth student to chew a piece of gum in a class at Churchill High in Potomac. "Are our health teachers devoid of any common sense?" asks Willett, who wants the county to test all children who chewed the pre-munched gum for STDs, mono and other contagions.

Doctors say it's not likely that anyone caught anything from the gum, even if 15 students did chew the same revolting ball of spit at Poolesville High, leaving precious few kids for the abstinence educator to praise for resisting peer pressure.

Who would know? At Einstein, I know of at least one kid in the class who was on antibiotics for a respiratory infection. Nobody went back, as far as I know, and checked a couple of weeks later to see how everybody was doing.

And anyway, as I said before -- I'd think a kid would figure, with all these people saying you don't really catch anything from the gum, that you don't really catch anything from sex, either. Yeah, it gets the Pregnancy Center off the hook, but it also defeats the purpose of the demonstration, totally.
The primary problem here is not one of goals or even of tactics -- teaching the value of abstinence until an age of greater emotional maturity is a fine idea, and as dumb as these games are, they're not nearly as harmful as rampant sexual activity by 14-year-olds.

No, the main issue here is the one that gums up communication between adults and teens in the first place. Sex is hard to talk about, and not everyone agrees on the right message. Battered by years of debate over sex education, the Montgomery school system was relieved to offload some of the job to outsiders.

Especially when those outsiders had members of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum on the board of directors and on the advisory board.

Throw the CRC a bone, and see how long that takes to backfire on you.

OK, see if you want to walk down this road with Mr. Fisher:
Those outsiders have a hidden agenda of their own. Tierney assures me there is no religious content to the school lessons. But her abstinence instructor says she makes a point of offering each class free pregnancy tests at the center. There, Tierney shows me how each woman who comes in for a test gets the full-court antiabortion press: a showcase of cute little plastic fetuses, a walk through a treasure chest of baby clothes, a video on the ravages of abortion and a sonogram "so they can hear the beating heart and see that this is a real, live baby," Tierney says.

"If a woman is totally panic-stricken and confused, if she wants to know that God loves her and has a plan for her, we're here for her," she says. "If she doesn't want to hear it, fine. There's no condemnation."

Wow, what a positive message.

Hey, wait a minute. These are CRC guys here. Why aren't they being paranoid? Why aren't they whining that people are discriminating against them? Why aren't they claiming that this is all because people are prejudiced against their religion?
Tierney suspects the school system was "looking for a way to get rid of us" because of the center's religious, antiabortion perspective. Edwards says religion played no role in the approval or expulsion of the center.

Tierney is searching for a way back into the system's good graces: "If we're not there, who is going to give them the abstinence message?" How about the professionals we pay to do the job -- the teachers?

Oh. There it it.

I'm getting the feeling they aren't getting back into the classroom.

And in fact, I hope the school district is looking into that comment the other day about "after school" meetings. Those aren't happening on campus, are they?

Parent Involvement

From yesterday's Gazette:
Parents blasted the county school system this week, saying that it moves forward with initiatives - ranging from the closing of secondary learning centers to the approval of a sex-ed curriculum - without properly involving them in decisions that directly affect their children.

School board members, faced with a constant barrage of letters and e-mails from parent advocates this year, counter that parents had ample opportunity to weigh in on issues during two budget worksessions last month.

The board held a daylong retreat last month where members discussed open communication with parents and advocates. During an informal breakfast with the school board last month, some County Council members said they hear about important initiatives from constituents before hearing from the board.

"Why do you think parents are upset for so many different reasons?" asked John Garza, new president of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which has fought with the school system over revisions in the recently passed sex education curriculum. "Parents aren’t included. There’s a feeling in the school system that they know what’s best for the children." School system leaves out parents, advocates complain

Ah, interesting: John Garza is their new president.

Let's see what else he's whining about this time:
CRC, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays and the newly formed Family Leader Network have filed an appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education, claiming that the county school board released factually inaccurate information and did not put out material for public review before unanimously approving a revised curriculum.

If the state board does not throw out the curriculum, CRC will sue the Montgomery school board, Garza said. "I just wish they’ll pick up the phone and say, ‘Let’s sit down and work this out,’" he said.

Oh, that's rich. Garza wishes the school board would call him.

Why would they?
Board member Patricia B. O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda, a member of the board’s communications and public engagement committee, does not agree with parents who claim they are not fully involved in school system’s decision making.

"People believe that if their opinion is not adopted, then they didn’t have input," she said. "Everyone in Montgomery County has their own opinion about everything."

Amen, sister.

Everybody has an opinion. And as long as everybody can negotiate and compromise, I'm sure the school district will be able to work with them.

The controversy in MoCo over the sex-ed curriculum is not that some parents are more conservative and others are more liberal. The problem is that the CRC insists that everything has to be their way, or no way. The problem is that they want to recall the board, and file lawsuits, and appeal to the state, when they are outvoted by the majority.

There are conservative parents in Montgomery County, people who are concerned about their kids learning too much too soon. And that's fine, everybody understands that, the trick is to find a balancing-point between what they want and what the more progressive parents, who are also more numerous in this county, would want. I think the school board and the citizens advisory committee have really succeeded at that, even with all the background noise.

Here's an example, here's the problem. After the citizens advisory committee had seen the school district's proposed condom video, the CRC member announced she would vote to adopt it -- but only if no changes were made. Well, there were things wrong with it -- misspellings, incomplete information, some production details -- and the committee did vote to change it. So CRC voted against it. The video was improved greatly by the committee's recommendations, but CRC was unable to compromise, unable to accept that the version they liked could be improved.

I don't know about other changes the district has been working on, special ed issues, mobile classrooms, Seven Locks, other things, but as far as sex-ed development goes, it has seemed to me that parents are pretty well integrated into the change process.

It doesn't bother me that the school district is staffed with professionals who are competent to see that our children are educated well, and it doesn't bother me that decisions are made inside Carver without a referendum by the public. Because the board is elected, members are motivated to serve the public. If they don't ... adios.

The school board notices when parents show a commitment, they hear the public comments, they read the emails -- but they are human, they recognize who the nuts are, too. Just because you write an email or talk to them about some gross sexual details, or just because you hold up signs at a school board meeting, doesn't mean you get your way. Sometimes you lose, and that's part of the process, too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More on Spitzer @ PFOX

This is an interesting situation. Robert Spitzer worked in the 1970s to have homosexuality taken out of the DSM as a mental disorder, and then a few years ago published a paper asserting that some people had convinced him that they had "changed" from a homosexual to heterosexual orientation. The radical religious right just loves to cite his study, implying somehow that people choose to be gay and can (and should) choose not to. So gay activists are ambivalent about him, to say the least. But he seems to have always kept his head above the water and stayed out of the bitter political battles; I don't know him, but I tend to think of him as a researcher whose curiosity and love of a good fight get him into trouble sometimes. There are lots of scientists like that -- Daryl Bem, definitely.

So now Spitzer's on a video that pops up when you go to PFOX's web site:

Ex-Gay Watch is looking at the PFOX web site and wondering, as well as we have been, what in the world Robert Spitzer is doing there.

They quote Spitzer's section from that video, and note:
There’s a significant factual distortion in that quotation: “Gay activists” such as Ex-Gay Watch don’t say that once someone is homosexual, one can never change; we say that “change” has been poorly defined by ex-gay activists, and we note that permanent change in predominant sexual attraction is exceedingly rare, may not be possible for most same-sex-attracted persons (who are neither abused nor badly parented), and should not be politically or spiritually coerced.

That isn’t the only factual omission by PFOX on its new front page….

1. Spitzer has warned that his research should not be politically misused to justify discrimination against same-sex-attracted persons. PFOX supports discrimination, opposes antibullying programs, and opposes gay access to civil unions, marriage, and church leadership positions.
2. In an interview with pro-exgay pundit Prof. Warren Throckmorton, Spitzer says “change” is extremely rare. (PDF copy of interview.)

PFOX Video Distorts Spitzer’s Views on Orientation Change

So, everybody's wondering ... why does Spitzer have a video on PFOX's web site?

PFOX had a booth, apparently, at last week's Love Won Out conference in Phoenix, which Box Turtle Bulletin noted. (I tell you this because it is mentioned below.)

XGW continues:
Ex-Gay Watch wants to know:

1. What is the source and date of the video? Why is PFOX reluctant to say?

2. Was the video posted with permission of the video’s producer?

3. When will PFOX provide its supporters with the uncensored original video so that they may develop informed opinions?

4. Why are LWO’s organizers, Exodus and Focus on the Family, hosting an organization which quotes Dr. Spitzer out of context and which mischaracterizes the varying views of gay equality advocates?

Spitzer on PFOX Site, More

Warren Throckmorton doesn't know what that Spitzer video at the PFOX web site is, either:
...A flash video clip of Dr. Robert Spitzer is featured on the front page and loads automatically. I cannot tell from what video the clip is taken but it appears to be edited from a longer produced video. Anyone know from what this is taken? It seems to be a bit sparse to be included on the site without context... PFOX revamps website

Well, that makes it pretty clear that it wasn't from Throckmorton's movie, eh?

Also, Box Turtle Bulletin picked up on our post about it.
Dr. Spitzer has previously condemned misappropriations of his study by anti-gay lobbyists and activists in their efforts to limit civil liberties for gays and lesbians. It’s impossible to imagine that Dr. Spitzer would lend his endorsement to an organization like PFOX, which is among the more notorious for its unethical practices.

Who knows, maybe the old boy's flipped his lid and decided to leave academia behind to advocate for the rights of "ex-gays."

BTB can't imagine it, and neither can I. Stay tuned.

New RPC Lesson: "Low Risk of Transmitting Germs"

Yesterday the Washington Post published a follow-up article about the "gum game." The news is, this has been going on for a long time.
The "gum game," an exercise in which students were encouraged to share gum to illustrate the effects of peer pressure, was played in Montgomery County schools for nine years without incident before a parent's complaint halted it last month, according to directors of the Rockville clinic that created the lesson.

Leaders of the Rockville Pregnancy Center yesterday stressed the important work they were doing in Montgomery schools, teaching 90-minute lessons on abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases to high school students in health class through a program called Worth the Wait.

"We saw 6,500 kids last year. Who's going to talk to them now?" asked Gail Tierney, the group's executive director.

The clinic, a faith-based organization that offers counseling and support to pregnant women as an alternative to abortion, was expelled from the schools in January after a parent alerted school officials that a speaker had asked students to take turns chewing a piece of gum. Sharing gum poses a low risk of transmitting germs, on par with drinking from the same cup, health officials said. Md. 'Gum Game' Used for 9 Years: Barred Group Says Sex-Ed Lesson Was Popular in Schools

OK, this is lovely. Lovely.

The point of this exercise is that sex spreads germs. They demonstrate that in class by having students ... spread germs. (Sorry to you medical professionals who prefer terms like "bacteria" and "viruses," I'm lumping them all together.) This should work because -- everybody knows that you don't share your gum, because of the germs.

In some schools, kids refused to chew it. The Post has said that in Damascus fifteen students did chew it, and we heard about another upcounty school where thirty-six students -- the whole class -- did chew the gum.

Now the Rockville Pregnancy Center wants to minimize the risk of sharing gum. They still want the students to think that sex spreads germs, but that sharing gum doesn't. Very much.

They would like to cover their own ... behinds ... by cancelling the intended message of their in-class demonstration: aw, c'mon, it "poses a low risk of transmitting germs." Everybody does it. Just once will be all right.

It is exactly the kind of rationalization that teenage kids might make on the spur of the moment in the back seat of daddy's car after a couple of beers at a party.

Thanks a lot, Rockville Pregnancy Center.
Tierney said she was unaware until last weekend that the clinic had been barred from the school system, a decision conveyed to the county school board in a Jan. 12 memo from Deputy Superintendent Frieda K. Lacey.

"They threw the baby out with the bathwater," Tierney said in an interview yesterday.

(Is that a perfect thing for an anti-abortion fanatic to say, or what?)
School-system officials said their decision is final.

The issue, schools spokesman Brian Edwards said, was not the group's religious underpinnings -- the classroom lessons had no religious content -- but rather the wisdom of asking a group of adolescents to share gum.

"What this exercise showed is a terrible lack of judgment," Edwards said. "It is disgusting on its face. There's no question about it."

Unfortunately, some people need an MCPS official to explain that to them.
The episode has prompted a review of all groups allowed to speak in health classes, which touch on the highly politicized topics of abstinence, premarital sex and birth control. A coalition of citizen groups that favor an abstinence-only approach to sex education denounced the school board for approving new health lessons last month that introduce the topics of sexual orientation and homosexuality in grades 8 and 10.

Edwards said the decision to invite outside speakers normally falls to school officials. The Rockville group was approved on a countywide basis, which is rare, he said. He said there is no "master list" of groups approved countywide.
Faith-based organizations aren't automatically barred from public schools, Edwards said. The decision hinges on the content of the lessons.

"There was no indication to us that [this] group's religious views entered into what they were teaching," Edwards said. "The issue here is what was being instructed. Not who."

You know, some people might be surprised to know that religious groups come into the classroom on a regular basis, without any special oversight. We hear from groups like the CRC that their religion is threatened by a secular health program, but in fact, their side gets carte blanche to come right into the classroom, shut the door, and say whatever they want.

We're not complaining, I don't think it hurts anything most of the time, but you should notice that this does happen in our public schools.

Funny paragraph here:
The curriculum officials responsible for approving the group to speak in classrooms -- first in 1998 and, most recently, last fall -- have both retired, Edwards said. The latest approval was granted by e-mail by an administrator who reviewed an eight-page outline of the lesson. The only reference to gum in the outline is the notation "Gum game. Discuss results."

I wouldn't have known what that was, would you?

Reporter Daniel DeVise has found an interesting conflict within the Rockville Pregnancy Center's organization. The person who brought the "gum game" into class actually thought it was gross herself, and wouldn't do it at first.
Seh-Hee Koh, director of Worth the Wait, broke down in tears yesterday as she related her passion for teaching teens about abstinence. Her message, Koh said, was to help students feel "empowered to make the choices in their lives. Not their boyfriends; not their girlfriends."

Koh assumed the job last year and had visited only 11 Montgomery schools when her agency's invitation was revoked. Koh said she has continued to visit private after-school programs in the Washington region. Tierney said the lessons no longer include the gum game.

But I think The Post said they would not be allowed on Montgomery County campuses. That means after school too, right?
Koh said she did not know about the gum exercise when she inherited the lessons and did not use it in the first several schools she visited. She said a health teacher told her that her predecessor had played the gum game and that students had seemed to like it.

Koh said her first reaction was, "Ew, that's gross." But she tried it at Damascus High School in early December, and students liked it. So she tried it again at Churchill, Einstein and Poolesville high schools in a series of visits through Jan. 9.

"I'd just stand back," Koh said, describing the game. "I'd say: 'It's all volunteer. Nobody has to be doing this.' My intention would be that nobody does this."

So their idea is that teenagers will be smart enough to abstain.

And they don't.

Yes, there is a lesson there.
The game occupied a few minutes in the lesson on the consequences of premarital sex and exposure to STDs. Koh shared a stack of positive reviews written by teachers and students.

Edwards disputed her account and said he'd heard no reports of teachers encouraging Koh to play the gum game. He confirmed, however, that teachers were present during all of the lessons.

School board member Patricia O'Neill said she believes the faith-based group "had no business" in the county schools.

But O'Neill said her daughter and nephew, both high school students, had a different opinion. "Their reaction was some of the best parts of the health class are the outside speakers, because the curriculum is so boring," she said.

I'm not too concerned about religious groups coming into the classes. If some evangelicals want to encourage students to practice abstinence, that's fine with me. They don't need to say "Jesus wants you to remain pure for Him," but they can give reasons for kids to wait. I understand Ms. Koh's sadness at being kicked out of the schools.

Here's the story. A group went into the schools, year after year, getting students to pass around a piece of gum and chew it. The point was that you should abstain from chewing the gum. In some county schools only a few kids chewed it, but in some, half to all the students in the class went ahead and chewed the gum.

These are about the same statistics we see for sexual abstinence.

But no problem. The Rockville Pregnancy Center's executive director says it's not that bad. Chewing gum, she means. The chances are, you won't catch anything. Chewing gum, she means.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can I Make This Clear?

The CRC complains that there is nothing in the new curriculum about the risks of homosexual sexual behavior.

They miss the point.

There is nothing in the new curriculum about homosexual sexual behavior at all.

It's not about that. There are some new sections on sexual orientation: who you fall in love with, who you're attracted to, how you feel.

There is a big, long section of the health curriculum about sexually transmitted disease. Students will get that, they will learn about risks and prevention. It's not new, and it has not been modified in the current revisions.

I repeat: this curriculum has nothing at all to do with gay sex.

That is why there's nothing about the risks of gay sex.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Why Would Spitzer Support PFOX?

I'd like to lay something on the table here for discussion. PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays -- have prettied up their web site. Now when you load it, there is a video of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer talking.

Spitzer, you might remember, is the author of the one and only piece of peer-reviewed literature suggesting that gay people might become straight through therapy. His research is widely criticized, but he got it through the review system and into the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003.

On the video he says:
The DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it's a publication of the American Psychiatric Association, and it's kind of the Bible of psychiatry. I came up with a definition in 1973 that made it possible to argue that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. I mean, the gay activists have taken the viewpoint that from a political/strategic point of view they do better if they can convince society at large that once you're homosexual you can never change. Now, I can appreciate that that helps them politically, and I'm sympathetic towards their political goals, but I think it's just not true.

I've been told that this video came from Warren Throckmorton's video, "I Do Exist," but you can see that interview HERE, on YouTube. It's a different jacket, different background. I haven't seen the whole movie, but it doesn't appear that PFOX's video comes from there. Did he tape this just for them?

I admit I am surprised that Spitzer has decided to throw his weight behind PFOX, of all groups. It may be that when all the research is in, some small proportion of gay people are actually shown, beyond Spitzer's more-or-less andecdotal evidence, to have changed their sexual orientation. I don't know, and in itself it's not really such an important question. There are two-headed snakes, but that doesn't say anything about ordinary snakes; there may or may not be people who have become straight, but if there are there aren't very many, and it does not, as PFOX alleges, imply that all or most gay people could change if they wanted.

The question is not whether sexual orientation is immutable, the question is why someone of Spitzer's status as a researcher would become involved with a lowbrow group of religious anti-gay agitators. If there is an academic question regarding the dimensionality and/or fluidity of sexual orientation, it is definitely not best investigated by a partisan, shrill group like PFOX, whose mission in life is to complain that "ex-gays" are discriminated against.

Let me point out the obvious: nobody would bother to discriminate against a person who "used to be gay." People might be skeptical, oh well, price you pay -- it is a little unusual, you might say. Most of us would probably not want our daughters to marry a guy who used to be gay, but that's hardly discrimination. I would prefer that my daughter not marry a guy without a job, either, or a guy with no education.

PFOX does not exist to illuminate the facts of a controversy, it exists to advocate an alternative to homosexuality that doesn't exist for most people. PFOX exists to promote a fiction -- a cruel hoax -- that causes a lot of pain by giving unfounded hope to people who need facts and support.

Spitzer has said that he was "disturbed" that his study results were being "misused by those who are against antidiscrimination laws and civil unions for gays and lesbians." But PFOX's Executive Director actively opposes gay marriage. And here he is, appearing on their web site.

Why would somebody like Spitzer support such a group?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Unpopular Positions and Social Pressure: A Lesson for the Whiners

There is an argument that the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum have expressed again and again. This version is from the appeal document they filed with the state school board last week:
...Students are being molested on account of their religious beliefs by being forced with the NO-CHOICE of either leaving the class and sitting in a library doing independent work (see Affidavit of Susan Jamison, Ex.K ) or having to listen to negative stereotyping and epithets (homophobe and prejudiced) being directed at them as members of a group holding a moral view antithetical to the viewpoint espoused by MCPS. The force of this pressure and molestation must be viewed as exceedingly great considering the weight held by teachers in a classroom, the student's strong interest in staying on good terms with the teacher, and the peer pressure which is exhibited toward unpopular and conservative moral views.

The CRC here is acknowledging that their anti-gay view is "unpopular." And further, they are complaining that students who hold an unpopular view are likely to experience "peer pressure."

Well, duh. It doesn't matter what unpopular view you hold, there is pressure to conform to the majority. That's just human nature, and it works against conservatives and liberals just the same way. There is always social pressure for everyone, young or old, lefty or righty, to hold opinions nearer the center of the spectrum. That doesn't mean you should, it just happens to be a fact -- I can cite you tons of research on that one.

To hold an unpopular opinion requires courage. The social pressure will make you question your belief -- it is certainly easier to go along with the crowd than to stand up for something you believe to be true.

The CRC wants to be in a protected position. They want to reverse or minimize the push of public opinion against them in the schools. Most students accept differences in sexual orientation, oh, it might not always be pretty and they may hold private reservations and make some painful jokes, but most kids know it's just the way some people are. So, yes, the anti-gay position advocated by CRC is going to be unpopular.

The way they fight this, they must believe they're right. OK, so if you're right, show some courage. Don't go whining because people don't agree with you. If you think you're right, show some heart, stand up for your beliefs -- if you're right, you'll convince the rest of us.

Instead, they litigate, crying that their poor little kiddies will not be treated nicely in school.

Yeah, most people oppose bigotry -- you want it protected by the state? Naw, most of us don't want that.

Here's the example to follow.

In March, 2003, President Bush was inevitably leading the country into war. Americans who were paying attention knew that the evidence was fake, the arguments were spurious, and that Iraq was not a danger to the US. It really wasn't something we figured out later, people all over the world understood it at the time.

At a concert in London, shortly before the war, Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chicks' lead singer and a Texan, said to the crowd, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President is from Texas."

Oof! The country music industry shut down for them. Concert attendance dropped in half, and the Dixie Chicks went from top of the world to bottom of the barrel. Yes, that was an unpopular position at that time, opposing the war and the President who caused it.

They issued some "I love America" types of statements, but, as far as I know the reason you would oppose the war against Iraq and the President's ineptness would be because you love your country. There was never an apology. In fact, Maines announced a month later that she was proud of her statement. Though they were rejected by the country music industry and audiences, they just kept doing what they did. They went on the "Vote for Change" tour. Their hit song "Not Ready to Make Nice" was anything but an apology:
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Their documentary, Shut Up and Sing, took its title from a book by conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham; it showed the bad-mouthing and disrespect and ugliness that followed on their statement.

Then what happened? They persisted. They never wavered.

This morning's Washington Post:
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11 The Dixie Chicks got the last laugh Sunday night. Rejected by the country establishment, the polarizing group was tickled to find itself in the warm embrace of the broader Recording Academy, which honored the Chicks with five Grammy Awards -- including the three biggest: album of the year, record of the year and song of the year.

The Texas trio also won for best country group vocal and best country album. The latter award was especially surprising, since they were excommunicated from the church of country music in 2003 after singer Natalie Maines popped off about President Bush and the war in Iraq. Upon bouncing to the podium after the result was announced, Maines said what just about everybody inside Staples Center was probably thinking: "That's interesting." She closed her gaping mouth just long enough to grin mischievously, then said, "Well, to quote the great Simpsons, 'HA HA!' "

The Dixie Chicks won big at Sunday night's 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, sweeping album of the year, record of the year and song of the year for "Not Ready to Make Nice," the group's defiant answer to the angry country fans who'd criticized the group for criticizing President Bush...

"Not Ready to Make Nice," the group's defiant answer to the angry country fans who'd criticized the group for criticizing Bush, won song of the year, the industry's top songwriting award. "I am, for the first time in my life, speechless," Maines said. Earlier, the protest singer Joan Baez had introduced the Dixie Chicks as "three brave women who are still not ready to make nice." At the Grammys, Making Very Nice: The Dixie Chicks Take Five, Including Album of the Year

See how that works? If you're right and you know it, you stick with what you believe. The Dixie Chicks didn't send some lawyer whining that people were being mean to them because they held an unpopular position. No, they stayed with it, they wore it proudly.

The CRC could learn something there. But they won't.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Federal Sex Data Revised

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have changed data in a report issued, originally, in September, 2005. This seems like a highly unusual thing to do, but it is hard to see any political motive for it, as the changes are mostly small and don't tend to make any group look significantly better or worse than before.

I have cited the survey, titled Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15–44 Years of Age, United States, 2002, numerous times. It is a fascinating look into what sexual behaviors adult Americans actually practice -- it is incredibly interesting to find out what your neighbors are really doing -- and I quote it pretty often to make the important point that anal sex is predominantly a heterosexual activity.

The survey is kind of hard to find (some web-censor software blocks the CDC site), so I keep a copy of it on our web server: HERE, but the official version is HERE, at the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Today I looked at the CDC version. It now has a yellow box at the top of the first page that says:
Data in Tables 8, 10, 12, and Appendix table 4 have been revised. Numbers cited in text on pages 3, 4, and 13 have been revised.

This report has been sitting here on the Internet for a year and a half, and suddenly, apparently within the last month or so since I last looked at it, they have decided to revise their estimates.

Don't you want to know what has changed?

Here we go.

In Table 8, they increased the number of adult Americans who have had same-sex sex but never had sex with anyone of the opposite sex. Yes, the word "sex" is working too hard here. Sorry.

Noticeably, the raw numbers of men and women who have had sex with the same sex, but never with the opposite sex, has just about doubled in the new data. These are hard data to understand; it apparently reports the number of people who have had a category of same-sex experience, of those who have no opposite-sex experience. The number of strictly homosexual men (never had sex with a female) who have had either oral or anal sex (with another man) has jumped by about ten percent, with 25.7 percent now saying they have had anal sex, compared to 15.5 percent in the original, and 26.7 percent now reporting oral sex, compared to the original 16.2. Women who have had sex only with other women jumped from 6.3 to 12.2 percent.

So I guess that's saying that gay people are more exclusively homosexual than previously reported, though the "None" row of this table is hard to conceptualize.

I don't see anything else on that page changing.

In Table 10, the number of lifetime men's female partners has increased slightly: the median number went from 5.4 to 5.6 partners. Because these are reported as percents, it's again a little tricky to figure out where the change was -- if you change one percent, you have to change them all. It appears that the number of men reporting a large number of female partners has been decreased slightly, and the lower reports, percentagewise, have increased. That is, more guys report having had zero, one, two, or three-through-six partners in the revised data, while proportionally fewer report having had seven-through-fourteen or fifteen-or-more. Changes are reflected in every age group, it looks like.

There were also changes in the percentages of "Never married, not cohabitating" males who have had more than two partners in their lifetime, and percentages are shuffled around among the educational categories, but I can't see what the trend is. While medians didn't change, the percentages reported by those with and without military service changes, as well. (FWIW, it looks like military guys have about twice as many female partners as non-military.)

Hispanic percentages went up in almost every category, though their median didn't change. Fewer white guys have had zero partners, and more have had one. The survey changes represent a 20 percent jump in the number of black males who have had a prudent 3-6 partners, with a nearly 25 percent decrease in the 15-or-more category.

Table 12, which is about men only, has a change in the last section, "Number of opposite-sex partners in lifetime," in particular the percentage of guys who say they've never had sex with a female.

Het Hom Bi Other NA
Original 74.5 9.7 1.5 7.3 7.1
Revised 73.7 10.1 1.5 7.3 7.4

These numbers are the percent of men reporting having had no opposite-sex partners who say they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, other, or didn't answer. The change shows fewer straight men, and more gay men, reporting they have never had sex with a female.

Interesting: most guys who never have had sex with a woman are straight, by more than a 7-to-1 margin. Yes, this survey is fascinating.

In the Appendix, Table IV has changes, it looks like, in every section. It's hard to say what the trend is. It appears to show more male teenagers having some sexual experience with a female partner, and fewer guys in their early twenties. Fewer men now have had no sexual experience with a female, and more Hispanic and black (but not white) men have had fifteen or more female partners than previously reported.

On page 3, the percentage of Hispanic women 15-44 years of age who have had fifteen or more partners increased from 4 to 4.6 percent.

On page 4, the percent of men 15-44 who had used a condom in their most recent sex "event" was 39, now it's leaped to 40 percent (the category is a little more complex than that, you can find it if you look).

On page 13, the original report states that "In table 10, the median number of partners reported by men 15–44 years of age" is 5.6, but the revised report gives that number as 5.4. This is just a summary of Table 10 results cited above.

OK, those are the differences.

In my experience, if a government survey changes its published results, they usually have to send an SES out to face the TV cameras. They don't like to do it, let's say. It means there was something wrong before, and it makes the agency look bad.

In this case, as I said, I can't see any important political statement that is made by the revisions. It looks like they might have realized they had some weights screwed up or something. I imagine they'll blame it on a "computer glitch."

Saturday, February 10, 2007


This morning the Washington Post had a front-page story about staff from the Rockville Pregnancy Center having students chew gum and pass it around in health class.

I had not realized how much the Rockville Pregnancy Center overlaps with the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, the anti-MCPS group who are fighting the new sex-ed curriculum.

The "About Us" page lists their directors and advisors:
Board of Directors

Marie G. Wheat- President
Walter Harders- Vice President
Ed Anderson- Secretary
Ben Patton- Treasurer
Sandy Hoe- Esq.
Johnson Fan- M.D.

Yes, that would be the Ben Patton, one of the founding members the CRC, one who has addressed the school board many times as their representative.
Advisory Board

Pastor John Bayles, Halpine Church
Jeanne Blocher, Body and Soul Aerobics Founder
Paul Burden, Member
Pastor Nancy Engen, Alpha and Omega Prison Ministries
John Garza, Garza, Regan and Associates, Esq.
Tom Moyer, WAVA Radio
Dr. Robert Norris, Fourth Presbyterian Church
Steven Plaisted, Esq.
Pastors Charles and Dotty Schmitt, Immanuel's Church
Stephen Sparks, Sparks Personnel

Yes, that would be the CRC's lawyer and spokesman, John Garza.

Well, now we have an idea what sex education would be like if they had their way.

Just thought you might find that interesting.

Equis, Dos-Equis Agree

The CRC's complaint to the state school board had a couple of central issues. One was, they objected to the inclusion of a statement that sexual orientation is innate. To argue that, they changed the subject and talked about genetics, I guess assuming that "genetics" and "innateness" are the same thing. Aren't they assuming that evolutionary theory, which posits that genes are responsible for the characteristics of a species, is correct? I somehow would not have expected them to be big defenders of Darwin.

Hey, what's a little self-contradiction among true believers?

The other main complaint, if you dig through the text, is that the new curriculum doesn't say anything about "ex-gays." They talk about "ex-gays" or "former homosexuals" as if there were another point on the continuum of sexual orientation: heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual ... "ex-gay." They insist this makes sense. It's not that a person who used to be gay and now isn't would be called ... heterosexual. They get their own point on the scale, wherever that would go.

This is a made-up debate, a cruel hoax, as they say. It creates an excuse to discuss whether gay people can pray the gay away. They can't, but groups like the CRC cruelly want to keep the false hope alive for those poor guys who find themselves out of synch with their religion's dogma.

The fact is, there are a lot more ex-ex-gays, "dos equis" as someone in our comments section called them, than ex-gays.

This brings us to the miraculous recovery of the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, who after being outed by a gay hooker, went into some kind of treatment place in Arizona and came out after three weeks "completely heterosexual."

Here we will quote the Associated Baptist Press:
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Claims by one of Ted Haggard's spiritual overseers that he is now "100 percent heterosexual" should be taken with a significant grain of salt, according to experts with differing opinions on the value of "ex-gay" or sexual-reorientation therapy.

Haggard stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals -- and was forced to resign as pastor of the Colorado Springs, Colo., megachurch he founded 22 years before -- in November. The moves came following allegations from a Denver male prostitute that Haggard had paid him for sex and crystal methamphetamine over a three-year period.

Haggard initially denied the claims but later admitted "sexual immorality" to his congregation. He then went into a period of counseling with a board of overseers appointed by his congregation, New Life Church. Experts on both sides of 'ex-gay' debate skeptical about Haggard cure claim

A significant grain of salt. Yes, that is very restrained language in this religious publication, and we appreciate their prudence. We, on the other hand, are not so constrained. We would be more likely here to say that Haggard's change of heart is a "crock," or something like that.
In an e-mail circulated to members of New Life on Feb. 4, Haggard broke his three-month silence on the subject. "We all wanted to know why I developed such incongruity in my life," he wrote. "Thankfully, with the tools we gained there, along with the powerful way God has been illuminating his Word and the Holy Spirit has been convicting me and healing me, we now have growing understanding which is giving me some hope for the future."

Haggard has reportedly reached a settlement with church leaders that forbids him from speaking publicly about the matter. But two experts -- one supportive, one not -- of therapy designed to change the sexual orientation of gays said Ralph's claim about Haggard may strain credulity.

Mmm, yes, that's handy, he's promised not to talk about it.

Look, I want to know something. Did Haggard ever actually say he was gay? Is he saying that he switched from gay to straight in three weeks of counseling, or is his story that he wasn't gay at all, he just ... went downtown every once in a while for recreational, you know, sex and drugs with a gay hooker? Like ... who doesn't?
"To be honest, I'm not aware of the specifics of what Mr. Haggard went through. But in my own personal experience that's not the case -- and in the experience of everyone I've talked to," said Randy Thomas, vice president of the Florida-based group Exodus International. Exodus' website says the organization believes that "reorientation of same-sex attraction is possible" through therapy "based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

But Thomas, who says he formerly struggled with a gay orientation, said successfully re-orienting one's sexuality typically takes much longer.

Yes, we have heard that, too. Much longer. Like, longer than a lifetime.
Likewise, Utah psychologist Lee Beckstead said one's perception of his or her own sexuality may not square with one's actual physical attractions.

"The problem with this whole phenomenon is, it’s a complex thing -- the way people describe themselves and describe their sexuality, if you take it at face value, there's lots of ways to be misled," he said.

Beckstead, like the majority of mental-health professionals, believes much of "ex-gay" therapy is psychologically harmful for people with homosexual orientations. However, he has done extensive research into the effects of sexual-reorientation therapy on people who have strong religious motivations for avoiding homosexual contact. Beckstead has argued among his peers for a more nuanced understanding of the psyches of such people before dismissing all aspects of "ex-gay" therapy.

People with religiously based antipathy toward homosexuality "need to see themselves as heterosexual, and their communities need to see them as heterosexual," he said. "And so that kind of pressure kind of distorts the facts and distorts the information they present to other people."

Beckstead also noted the distinctions between different kinds of understandings of sexuality. "If someone says they're heterosexual, does that mean their sexual identity, their sexual orientation or their sexual behavior?" he asked.

OK, we're cool with that, nuance. Complexity. Agreed. He's nicer about it than we'd be, but that's OK. To this guy, it's not a cruel hoax, it just oversimplifies a little bit.

Hmmm, here's one I hadn't thought of:
"Sexuality doesn't go away -- people have learned how to suppress it or repress it or distract themselves from it or repackage it," he said. But the sexual drive and attractions -- it's almost like putting a beach ball underwater. It's always going to pop back up."

And that would be because sexual orientation is innate.

Thanks to ExGay Watch for catching this one. I just might not have read this week's Associated Baptist Press if they hadn't linked to it. ExGay Watch went the extra mile and looked into this Beckworth fellow. As they note:
Although the Associated Baptist Press presents Lee Beckstead as having a “differing opinion” on sexual-reorientation therapy, it should be understood that Beckstead is a defender of some change therapy (under certain circumstances) and is a referred and presents himself as a source for from the LDS Church (the Mormons).
Much of Beckstead’s thinking appears to me to be similar to the values-based counseling currently being discussed by Dr. Warren Throckmorton. We may discuss Beckstead further in that context.

I suggest you read the comments to that post, as well. As usual, ExGay Watch has a serious, honest discussion of this therapist and his work within the Mormon community. Very interesting. Nuance. Complexity, yes.

Learning About Germs By Spreading Real Germs

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about a ... demonstration ... in a Montgomery County sex-ed class that backfired. An outside speaker in the classroom had students pass around a piece of gum in class and take turns chewing it. This was supposed to teach them something about how dirty sex is.

This morning, the story is front-page in the Washington Post:
It was a novel class exercise: Ask a room full of Montgomery County high school students to take turns chewing the same piece of gum.

To demonstrate how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, a visiting speaker invited students to share gum in health classes at four county high schools in December and last month. School officials said a total of about 100 students participated in the lessons, although some declined to chew the gum.

Education and health officials say the gum exercise was unsanitary and should not have happened. The speaker and the clinic, a pregnancy counseling center with a religious orientation, are no longer welcome in Montgomery schools, school officials said.

"It was fine for me, because my best friend and me did it first," said Julia Bellefleur, 15, a Damascus High School sophomore who participated in the exercise. "But it was kind of gross for everyone else. I was just glad I did it first."

At Damascus, about 15 students shared a stick of gum, students said. Students Get Lesson to Chew On: Gum Sharing Disgusts Montgomery Parents, Officials

We have a running joke in my family that has many forms. The most basic version is to mention to tell someone that there is an edible statue of some food, made entirely of food. It's a kind of difficult joke, but my daughter especially gets it in any form. The joke is about things that are supposed to be symbols for other things, but turn out to be things themselves. It's best if they turn out to be the same thing they are supposed to stand for. Like, imagine pretending to insult people. You would say rude things to them, but you'd only be pretending. And guess what -- you'll still get slapped. Because pretending to be rude is exactly the same as actually being rude. There are a gazillion variations on this stupid joke.

We have several like that. I'm just telling you, you wouldn't want to be a member of my family.

So here we have the clever people from this "pregnancy counseling center with a religious orientation" (and why is The Post being so coy about that part of it?) conducting an exercise in class, on the danger of spreading germs, where they are




Let's say it ain't the smartest thing I ever heard of.
Administrators and school board members learned of the demonstration early last month, after a parent complained to the principal of Poolesville High School, and swiftly revoked the group's permission to speak in schools. One or more speakers from Rockville Pregnancy Center had visited Damascus, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill high schools and possibly others. Clinic speakers had been approved to visit schools since 1998; students said the speaker told them she had taught the same lessons many times.

School officials said no complaints had previously reached a principal or school board members.

"This basically is an unacceptable and unsanitary practice. It should never occur," said Judith Covich, director of school health services at the county health department. "The risk is about the same as sharing a glass, sharing the same straw." The practice carried a low risk of spreading the cold or flu, she said.

Uh, actually, the risk is the same as having sex serially with everyone in your class. The demonstration is identical with the phenomenon it is supposed to demonstrate.

Get it?

(It is pretty funny that the school district is playing down the health risks. Imagine if they issued a statement saying that "the practice [of having sex with everyone in your high school class] carried a low risk of spreading" [STDs].) (Because, is the risk really that different? Isn't that the whole point of this exercise?)
Officials of the Rockville nonprofit group could not be reached yesterday for comment. On its Web site,, Rockville Pregnancy Center describes itself as a nonprofit, licensed medical clinic and pregnancy counseling organization. One part of the site quotes extensively from the Bible and offers a test "to see if you're going to Heaven."

School officials sent letters last month to all students exposed to the lesson and encouraged parents to call the health department with any concerns.

Sylvia Bellefleur, mother of Julia, said her main reaction upon reading the letter was disbelief that her daughter and her classmates went along.

"I was surprised that she would do it," the elder Bellefleur said. "Nobody could pay me enough to do it."

Yeah, it's amazing sometimes to discover how dumb our kids really are.

That's why we have sex-ed in the first place, sorry to say.

Seems like, for some reason, when we tell kids not to do something, they do it anyway.

But you wonder how they got them to chew the gum.
In a Jan. 12 memo to school board members, Deputy Superintendent Frieda K. Lacey said she would order "an immediate review of all outside speakers" for lessons on human sexuality and disease prevention, two of the most contentious topics taught in the county schools. She termed the gum exercise "repulsive" and said the employees who approved the group to speak in schools this academic year are "no longer employed" by the school system. "Every effort will be taken to prevent this from happening again," Lacey wrote.

Students said the speaker put them at ease about the "gum game," as it is now known among school administrators: It seemed relevant enough to the lessons, and the presenter said many students had done it. Classroom teachers were present during most or all of the lessons. Brian Edwards, schools spokesman, said he could not say whether those teachers were disciplined; such procedures are confidential.

We first heard about this from a good teacher, a no-nonsense health teacher. How in the world does something like this happen?

It isn't just a screw-up, something where we can say, oh, look at the evangelical fake-pregnancy-counseling center doing stupid stuff in the classroom. It's more than that.

Yeah, the Christian pregnancy center is a fake, it's a front for an anti-abortion group, they don't really give "advice," it's not a place you'd seriously go if you were pregnant and needed to know what to do. But that's not the point.

First, a lesson from this is that kids'll do anything. Every one of them in all of those classes knew this was a gross thing to do, that they could catch something chewing that gum. But it sounds like a bunch of them did it anyway.

... would you jump off a cliff if somebody ...

Well, yes, dad, I would, it turns out.

But there's another level of lesson here. Not only are kids reckless, but grown-ups are, too. We see that there are grown-ups who will endanger children in order to promote their own grown-up ideological views. These folks from the Rockville Pregnancy Center had been doing this for years, spreading germs through high-school classrooms. Of course they knew what could happen, but it didn't matter to them. Because they are fighting nobly to oppose the baby-killers. A few kids get sick, big deal, if maybe somewhere one of God's babies is saved.

And there's another level of lesson. The teachers. How could you stand there and watch this happen? In "health" class, no less. The only thing I can figure is that it happened year after year, and nobody complained, so they just threw their good sense out the window. You wonder how people can allow this sort of thing to happen? Look around you. That's all I'm saying: look around you. When do you make a stand to stop something you know is bad?

Yet another level. The school district says they never heard about this until now. Um, is that weird? These people are coming in from the religious anti-abortion clinic, talking to classes, year after year after year, and the school district doesn't know what they're saying? Yeah, we do trust these people to keep our children safe when they're at school.

The last level of lesson. Parents. How many of our kids came home and said, Dad, Mom, you wouldn't believe the gross thing we had to do in school today? This goes two ways: 1.they said something and we ignored it, or 2.they didn't say anything.

Which one is worse?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Field Testing Scheduled

Yesterday, MCPS announced the schedule for pilot testing and implementing the new sex-ed curriculum. It's in a table, which I can't reproduce on the blog (Blogger doesn't support that kind of HTML), so hopefully you can follow this format:

No later than February 5, 2007
Principals of selected schools are notified, and receive a standard letter provided by the Office of Curriculum and Instruction Programs (OCIP) to distribute to their communities

At least three weeks prior to the first day of scheduled instruction
Principals of selected school distribute the letter provided by OCIP to parents in their communities

February 14, 2007
Training and information meeting held by central office staff for field test administrators, resource teachers for health education, couneslors, andhealth teachers.

At least two full weeks prior to the first day of scheduled instruction
Field-test schools will complete the following
  • Hold an information session for parents of students in the affected classes to review all class materials used in the lessons
  • Meet with all school staff to inform them of field-test procedures

No later than March 30, 2007, but no earlier than three full weeks after parent notification and no earlier than two full weeks after parent meeting
Health teachers conduct the field test of revised health curriculum lessons

No later than one week after last day of instruction
Selected field-test administrators, resource teachers for health education, counselors, health teachers, complete questionnaires and return them to OCIP.

Selected field-test students and parents complete questionnaires and return them to health teachers, who will submit them to OCIP.

No later than two weeks after last day of instruction
Selected field-test administrators, health teachers, students, and parents participate in focus group discussions conducted by central office staff.

OK, this is looking pretty good. They've picked the schools, they've got the test scheduled and organized, cool. We look forward to seeing the results of the field test.

A Platoon of Lesbians

I love this. I'm taking it from FrontLines blog, run by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

I'll just quote them:
Yesterday, during hearings on the State Department's 2008 budget request, [Congressman Gary] Ackerman noted that Secretary Rice repeatedly emphasized the importance of recruiting qualified language experts to work in the agency. Remembering that the armed forces have fired more than 300 language experts (including at least 55 fluent in Arabic), Ackerman wondered, "Can we marry up those two — or maybe that's the wrong word — can we have some kind of union of those two issues?"

"I'm not aware of the availability of people, but I certainly will look [at] what we are doing right now," Rice responded.

"But maybe you might find some of those competent people among those who are recently unemployed," Ackerman replied.

But it was the Congressman's clear disguist for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military ban that led to those dismissals, that has everyone in Washington buzzing:

"Well, it seems that the military has gone around and fired a whole bunch of people who speak foreign languages — Farsi and Arabic, etc.," Ackerman said. "For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are against terrorists, but they're very brave with the terrorists. ... If the terrorists ever got a hold of this information, they'd get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad."

I can just see that, can't you?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

PTA -- Be Careful

We see that the CRC is putting out the word to PTAs. They are saying:
Let us know if you are an active participant of your PTA.

We will be happy to come talk to them at your school about the new curriculum.

In my experience, the PTSA at a school represents the parents, teachers, and students of the school community. It exists to enhance the educational environment, not to undermine it.

If you are a PTA officer, you will be doing your community a terrible disservice by inviting the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum to present their biased view of the new curriculum. They do not represent the community, and they have not been truthful with the people of our county. They have cost us thousands of dollars in wasted legal fees, and their viewpoint is not in synch with that held by the public in Montgomery County. If you doubt that, just look at the recent election totals.

If you want information about the curriculum, you can contact MCPS directly, through their Department of Communications. I'll bet you could get a couple of members of the citizens advisory committee to come to your school to explain what the curriculum does and does not include. I doubt that District staff are available, but they may have someone.

In fact, the Montgomery County Council of PTAs has a representative on the citizens advisory committee. It's possible you could work with her to find speakers and information for your school community.

Please, work with the system; the PTA should be supporting the school district's hard work.

CRC Appeal is Wrong: Opt-out Does Not Preclude Graduation

Yesterday's CRC appeal to the state had a section complaining to the state school board that:
... Students are forced to sit silently ... or to opt out of class (which under state law is required to be an elective, not mandatory class, thus such an opt out is not realistic and precludes graduation) (See Exhibit V Washington Examiner Article, Dena Levitz)...

You remember, we already told you that The Examiner had that all wrong, when it reported that students who didn't take the course would not be able to graduate. The idea was absurd, and the school district immediately obtained a response from the paper.

A statement in the print edition (not online) of The Examiner said:


Montgomery County Public Schools is in the midst of coming up with alternative lessons for 10th graders enrolled in the required health class who do not have their parents' permission for the three week unit including controversial sexual orientation subject matter. An article in the Jan. 16 Examiner implied that there will be no way for students to get out of that unit.

Now, I'll agree that isn't much of a "retraction," but I think that's as close as you get with these guys. It all turns on that word "implied." It seems to me they could have said "may have mistakenly created the impression," or "may have been misread as saying," or some other equally vague thing.

That was really the point of the article (the headline was Students required to take controversial sex-ed class), and it was dead wrong. But now they have clarified, MCPS is developing alternatives, and it was only "implied" that you need the classes to graduate.

Whatever, we know the CRC reads our blog, we know they knew better when they put that incorrect statement into their complaint. There's no way the school district can offer an option on a course and then not let a student graduate if they opt out.

How are state officials supposed to figure out what's a lie and what's true?

What the State Needs to Know

The CRC dumped a rambling 55 pages plus attachments on the State Superintendent of Schools yesterday, asking her to overrule the Montgomery Count Public Schools' proposed curriculum for eighth and tenth grade sex-education classes within five days.

Those documents are a Gordian knot. Remember, in Greek legend, whoever could untie the knot would become king of Asia. Alexander the Great came along, gave it a try, and when he saw how complicated it was he just took his sword and cut the rope. The "Alexandrian solution" is a lesson here: the documentation is a distraction, you can't possible read all that and figure out what parts are lies and what is true. It's badly written, disorganized, poorly researched, and it's intended to persuade by emotional appeal rather than reason.

Instead, the state should look at it this way.
  • The curriculum was created by a team of impartial pediatricians
  • It has been reviewed with a fine-tooth comb by attorneys inside MCPS as well as outside lawyers
  • It has been carefully evaluated by a committee of county citizens, including CRC and PFOX representatives
  • It was recommended by the MCPS Superintendent of Schools to the Board of Education
  • The Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt it

That's all you need to know. Montgomery County knows what it's doing, we don't need the state to set us straight.

A Little Birdy Says

Not official yet, this could be wrong, but it comes from a good source.

The pilot schools for health curriculum are:
  • Argyle MS
  • Julius West MS
  • Westland MS

  • Sherwood HS
  • Watkins Mill HS
  • BCC HS

Some upcounty, some down...

More as we find out more.

Update: The Washington Post confirms these choices. That story also contains this nugget:
State education officials are reviewing whether the Maryland school board has jurisdiction to hear the appeal, said a department of education spokesman William Reinhard.

Schools Picked to Pilot Sex-Ed Lessons

Good Idea

NARTH -- the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality -- put up a terse announcement on their web site:
February 5, 2007 - NARTH has decided to shut down the blog, effective today. The decision came after several discussions over the blog content and the nature of the discussions on it. We wish to thank all those who participated in the blog in a civil and constructive way. - NARTH Blog Committee NARTH Blog Closes Down

You remember when a NARTH shrink, Joseph Barger, wrote on the site's blog that it was a good thing to tease gay and transgender kids at school, because it will put pressure on them to conform to normative social expectations.

Or ... remember when Gerald Schoenwolf posted that big essay on "Gay rights and political correctness," where he argued that blacks who were captured in Africa and kept in slavery in America "were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa." No, people were not impressed by that. In fact, that one ended up with Joseph Nicolosi stepping down as president of NARTH. As Wayne Besen said at the time, "The group was quickly becoming the Mel Gibson of the ‘ex-gay’ world."

It's weird how this happens. Remember the (now Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum) bulletin board? Woo-hoo, that was a rollicking good time. Each comment had a little title, like "Pure Evil," or (my favorite) "Throw the Bumbs Out," and people talked about how foul and nasty homosexuality was, and everything they could think of, from "beastiality" to flavored condoms (which were not in the curriculum, though CRC told people they were).

I can't help myself. Here's a good one from the old Recall site. You can just see this person's face as they wrote this, pounding on the keys:
[Date=11-11-2004] Name:ELLEN CLEARY EMCLEAR@AOL.COM, [Msgid=736620]

(Didn't I hear somebody refer to "The Angry Left" recently? Does anybody think our side ever approaches this tenor? I mean: ever?)

The Recall Group quickly realized they had to block their bulletin board from public view, especially after their leader, Michelle Turner, had to go apologize to the MCPS school board for threats that had been made against them.

When the CRC started their own blog, they knew immediately that it would not be a good idea to have comments. But really, it was not a good idea for them to blog at all -- we had too much fun repeating their stuff over here. Their blog died from lack of attention sometime in the summer of 2005.

Blogs are a unique literary form. You publish as soon as you write, with no editor, no re-writing, no feedback until it's out there. And then, sometimes you might miss a fact or spell something wrong, your logic might not have been as sound as it could have been, you might hurt somebody's feelings ... there're a lot of things you can do wrong in this forum. NARTH finally figured out they couldn't handle it. The CRC gave up. Even their forum almost never has anybody at all reading it -- it lists current users at the bottom of the screen, and any of the rare times I look at it, it's just me.

I think it comes down to this: their way of thinking doesn't stand up in the light of day.

There is a perfectly valid viewpoint that I would call "conservative," that values tradition and loyalty and authority and faith, and favors behavior closer to the norm, or behavior that follows social and cultural standards. It contrasts with a view that I suppose is "liberal," since that's how the dichotomy is framed, where social norms are a guideline but not a mandate and people accept and welcome interpersonal differences. There is plenty of room to negotiate public policies between those two poles.

But this third way, the CRC way, insists that its views are the only valid ones, and rejects both thoughtful conservatism and liberalism.

And it is our civic duty to make fun of it.

Well, at least NARTH learned something. It was a good idea to shut down the blog.

(Hat tip to Throckmorton for noting this.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Attempted Drive-By, Number Two

The CRC's appeal document is HERE. I flipped through it, it's mostly the same old stuff. Let me mention a couple of things.

The intent of this document is to exploit a law that says the State Superintendent of Schools has five days from today (the day the complaint was filed) to "order a stay ... of any action taken by any local board..." The CRC, PFOX, and some other group called "Family Leader Network" want the state to overrule the Montgomery County school district's decision to implement the new sex-ed curriculum.

To that end, they have assembled 55 pages of lies, misdirections, misconstruals, and rightwing cliches, plus there appear to be dozens of attachments (not included in the pdf).

This is a variation on the trick they used in the previous lawsuit. They have submitted so much stuff that it will take the state officials five days just to wade through it all. Meanwhile, there is no time for the local school district to respond to this junk -- it would take a week to list out the errors in this document. They're hoping they can shock the state board and superintendent with all this stuff about anal sex and ex-gays and ... I mean, this is bizarre.

Plus, they've got petitions online again, and they're flooding the Internet with emails soliciting people to work at the computer and help them out.

Because, look, if this doesn't work, they're done.

It's interesting that they have attached an affadavit from Richard Cohen, former president of PFOX, now pretty much persona non grata, even in the "ex-gay" community. Kicked out of the American Counseling Association for life, drummed out of PFOX... But he's just what the CRC needs.

And I see there's another by Susan Jamison. I was so surprised last year to discover that her organization was backed by America's Nazi Party; I wasn't looking for it, but there it was. And now, she's filing papers in support of the anti-MCPS suers.

And there is something in here about us. They say "Teach the Facts compared PFOX's representation of the ex-gay community to the Klan and child molesters, despite PFOX's mission of tolerance for both ex-gays and gays." I don't usually talk this way on the blog, but ... this pissed me off.

I have said before that the argument that you should "teach both sides of a controversy" is absurd, because -- here's a typical quote:
This stuff that they're saying, about a school not promoting one viewpoint over the other, is very dangerous. That would mean you can't mention the NAACP without bringing in the Klan -- I mean, c'mon, anybody can see the insanity of this... can't they?

I have used that example before, and I think it's legitimate. It is way out of line to depict this as comparing PFOX in any way with the Klan, especially in a way that makes the concept of "tolerance" relevant. The fact is, the "ex-gay" movement is a cruel hoax that preys on people's hopes and uncertainties, and it does not belong in a classroom along side real medicine and science. I don't need the Klan to make that point.

The "child molester" part appears to be a complete fabrication. The word "molester" or its variant "molestor" has never been used on this blog, except perhaps by someone in the comments. At least Google can't find it. What do you call it when somebody lies in court documents? This statement references a footnote that says, "See excerpts from Teach the Facts blog and Plaintiffs' letter, written by Dr. Ruth Jacobs, M.D., advising MCPS of harassment of CAC members at Exhibit O," but I don't know what Exhibit O is, of course. I would be fascinated to see what they included to support these statements.

I consider this assertion to be a very serious kind of offense, a public accusation with no substance.

By the way, can you believe it? They also said in this document that "... they [that's me] labeled the ex-gay community a 'cruel hoax.'" Why ... I never. Oh, er, I did? OK, I did.

Well, it is. I'm not obligated by law to believe every piece of bull-oney somebody tries to convince me of. I don't apologize. I've looked into it, I've conferred with the experts, I've read the research, and I've concluded, like just about everybody else, that it's a cruel hoax. They get gay people to think they can become straight, and they can't.

(Somebody emailed me: "how'd you know so soon?" Like Scooter, I learn about things from reporters...)

Breaking News

I have been told that the CRC just filed an appeal with the state school board, trying to block the new sex-ed curriculum.

The people who actually live in this county are happy with the curriculum, elected people who support it by a landslide. The school board adopted it unanimously.

Looks like the suers are going to try to get the state to tell the county what kind of curriculum they should teach.

I'll let you know what's up as I find out.

Beautiful Jujitsu

A recent court ruling in the state of Washington allows the state to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The judge's reasoning was that there is "a legitimate state interest" in ensuring that couples can bear and raise children together. And of course, "some couples" can't do that. Therefore, it's OK for the state to forbid their marrying.

But look -- some cheaters use marriage as an excuse to get into somebody's pants. Some couple marry, have sex, and never produce children. And the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance isn't going to stand for it.

They have three initiatives for following up on the court decision:
The first would make procreation a requirement for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or legal separation when there are children. The third would make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony.

Well, how can the Family Blah Blah groups oppose that?

First, if you don't have kids, you don't get to use the marriage license as a ticket to licentiousness. The proposed change would give people three years after their wedding to have a child. That's plenty of time to show they believe in the traditional family and will fulfill their expected roles as parents. Otherwise, what do you think they're doing, year after year? Like bunnies. Like minks, yeah. But without, y'know, actually starting a family. And the state should give them special privileges for that?

Second, the twist of the knife. If you believe in the family, then you know it is most important to keep the family together, especially when there are children. Prison time is appropriate for attempted divorce with children, don't you think?

Third, why should people who are in hurry to start a family have to wait for big government to finish its paperwork? If you have a child, your baby daddy and you are now husband and wife. Till death do you part.

The Wa-DOMA web site has a marked-up bill, showing just what it would take to fix the law to make Washington a truly family-friendly state:
If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:
  • add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
  • require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
  • require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized;”
  • establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
  • make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.

Who could be against that?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Trends in Maryland HIV/AIDS Rates

All comments that are made on this site come to me in email. I don't read every one, but I glance at them.

This afternoon a guy who used to be on the citizens advisory committee, Andrew, commented on a post that's about two months old, where nobody is likely to notice, I figure. He mentioned an interesting fact. He said that he remembered from his time on the committee that in Maryland most people who get AIDS get it from drug use, not sex.

I had never heard that before, and didn't know where to find out if it's correct or not.

Google is your friend. It turns out there is a state government agency called the Maryland AIDS Administration, and among other things they keep statistics on AIDS in Maryland. Here's what they said about HIV and AIDS Exposure Trends:
Men who have sex with men (MSM) was the most common mode of HIV transmission for AIDS cases until 1990. In 1991 injection drug use (IDU) became the most commonly reported exposure among newly diagnosed AIDS cases. Heterosexual contact with a partner who has or is at risk for HIV (HetSexPR) has represented an increasing proportion of reported exposure among all new AIDS cases and surpassed the percentage of MSMs in 1997. Exposure information for reported HIV cases in Maryland is incomplete at present, however, follow-up investigations are currently being conducted and this information will be more complete in the future. Injection drug use has been the predominant mode of HIV transmission for HIV cases. However, over time a greater proportion of newly reported HIV cases have identified transmission risk as heterosexual contact with a partner who has or is at risk for HIV (HetSexPR). Maryland HIV and AIDS Case Exposure Category Trends

And here's the graph that goes with it (HIV tracking starts in 1994):

We know that in the world generally, homosexual contact accounts for a small proportion of AIDS cases. In the Western world, e.g., Europe and the US, because of how it was introduced and the epidemiological properties of sexually transmitted diseases, men having sex with men (MSM) have historically made up an unusually large proportion of cases.

In the state of Maryland HIV hit MSM first, it appears, like everywhere else in the country. But the proportion of cases in that category tapered off, as heterosexual transmission became more prevalent.

Though these graphs both represent newly diagnosed cases, the HIV graph is going to show cases that were contracted more recently. And while we see that IV drug users are slowly learning not to share needles, MSM statistics are meandering upward at a probably-nonsignificant rate, but heterosexual transmission is picking up at an alarming pace, in both HIV and AIDS diagnoses.

I know the CRC and the American Family Association want to remind us constantly about how dirty and disgusting gay people are, but if they were concerned about AIDS in our home state of Maryland, they would be focusing on straight people.

Big Gay Preacher Not Gay

This just in: Reverend Ted Haggard is not, I repeat, not gay.

From the Denver Post:
The Rev. Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling convinced he is "completely heterosexual" and told an oversight board that his sexual contact with men was limited to his accuser.

That is according to one of the disgraced pastor's overseers, who on Monday revealed new details about where Haggard has been and where he is headed.

The Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur also said the four-man oversight board strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work instead of Christian ministry if Haggard and his wife follow through on plans to earn master's degrees in psychology. Haggard says he's not gay

Yeah, Ted, you're not gay. But, uh, don't stand so close to me, OK? And stop looking at me like that.

It really doesn't sound like his colleagues are quite buying it.

Further down in this story, we read:
Ralph said three weeks of counseling at an undisclosed Arizona treatment center helped Haggard immensely and left Haggard sure of one thing.

"He is completely heterosexual," Ralph said. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting- out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

Why Haggard chose to act out in that manner is something Haggard and his advisers are trying to discern, Ralph said.

In investigating Haggard's assertion that his extramarital sexual contact was limited to former male escort Mike Jones, the board talked to people close to Haggard and found no evidence contradicting him, Ralph said.

So, here's what I'm looking for: is this guy an "ex-gay?"

It sounds like they're saying he never was gay, he just "acted out" sometimes. So that would mean nope, you can't be "ex-gay" unless you've been gay first.

I thought we had one there for a minute.

A guy who strongly desires to have sex with another man may define his behavior in such a way that it's just a capricious pleasure he indulges in, like those people you know who stick their head out the door and take a puff off a cigarette every hour or so, but swear they "don't smoke." And look, you know as well as I do: they smoke.

Ask Your Doctor

We saw recently that the Founder and Chairman of the American Family Association, Donald E. Wildmon himself, has been sending around a newsletter trying to get people to submit affadavits undermining the Montgomery County Public Schools' recent decision to pilot test and implement a new sex-ed curriculum. At the heart of the message was this statement:
CRC's representative on the CAC, who is also an infectious disease physician, repeatedly insisted that the curriculum include the health risks of homosexual sex as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S Surgeon General. Her requests which were backed by a petition signed by 270 local physicians were NOT included.

The CRC has made the signatures of those physicians public, at least a lot of them.

These are doctors at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, who signed a petition asking, according to the American Family Association, for the curriculum to include some statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the risks of "homosexual sex," and a quote by a Surgeon General. The Surgeon General's quote, which, by the way, doesn't mention homosexuality, is one made by C. Everett Koop, published in 1991 when he was no longer Surgeon General.

We know the CRC. There are two main reasons they would like to include these statements. The first is just the usual, it makes gay people look bad. They associate anal sex (which is really what these statements are about) with gay men, even though anal intercourse is overwhelmingly practiced by straight couples (about 40 percent of American adults have had anal intercourse with an opposite-sex partner). They want to include statements about anal sex in the curriculum, hoping to associate that behavior with male homosexuality in students' minds. At this point, the curriculum does not teach anything about male or female homosexual sex practices. It is about sexual orientation, about emotions and attraction and romantic feelings, besides discussing issues regarding bullying and harassment, etc.

The second reason is somewhat more benign, but misguided. The theory, as I understand it, is that if students are warned about the "risks of homosexuality," they will choose not to be gay. Then they won't get AIDS and die. You laugh, but they have actually made this argument in legal documents, and continue to make it. They have said, in plain language, that the school board will be responsible when former MCPS students start dropping like flies.

So, we wonder, who are these Shady Grove doctors who support the inclusion of this statement by Ronald Reagan's former Surgeon General? Who are these doctors that want to teach Montgomery County students about anal intercourse? What motivates them? What do they have against gay people, and how do they deal with those issues in their practice?

Here are the names that the CRC has made public, as well as we could make them out. The CRC didn't distribute the first 75 or (if they're telling the truth about the number of signatures) the last 64 or so; there are some repeats, and some were just plain illegible. Remember, these are doctors, this is their handwriting. They signed and then printed their names, and even then, it is likely that some of these below are misspelled.

If you see your doctor's name here, do us a favor, OK? Ask them why they signed this petition supporting the anti-gay, anti-Montgomery-County Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. Ask them why they're helping the radical group sue the county.

Just for fun, ask them if they have any idea which Surgeon General made that statement about anal sex being too dangerous to practice, or in what decade. Just spring that one on them -- I am curious to know if these guys even know what they signed, or if they'll just sign any statement that seems to oppose "homosexual sex."

Now that Montgomery County has adopted a new comprehensive and inclusive sex-education curriculum for 8th and 10th grade, ask these doctors why they are helping the CRC, and now the American Family Association, sue the county to block it.

Then tell us what they say.

Here are the names that the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum gave out:
72-75. Illegible
76. Truong Gao
77. Illegible
78. Natasha Haag, MD
79. Eric J. Park
80. Kritis Dasgupta, MD
81. George Conrad, MD
82. Frank Seinshein, MD
83. Stephen Epstein, MD
84. Illegible
85. Miruid Khianey, MD
86. Ernest D. Hanowell
87. Lisa Zheng, MD
88. Joel H. Barton, MD
89. Richard O. Odero or Odeso ??
90. Catherine M. Chura
91. John G. Lodmell
92. Heather Schwartzbauer
93. Rahul Gicotra
94. Hubert Leveque
95. John McNeil
96. Illegible
97. Alok Mathur
98. David Charles, MD
99. Kewal K. Sherma, MD
100. Shubir Sofat, MD
101. R. Marshall Ackerman, MD
102. A. Mendhiratta, MD
103. C. Long, MD
104 – 106 Illegible
107. E. Smith, MD
108. Irving Mizus, MD
109. L. Boynes Sindass, MD
110. George Yeh, MD
111. David Miller, MD
112. David Plotkin, MD
113. Kazam, MD
114. Benjamin Edinger
115. Greg Kankanion, MD
116. Illegible
117. Kaldun Nossuli, MD
118. Niz Maruf, MD
119. Illegible
120. Alan Chanales, MD
121. John Melnick, MD
122. Pankaj Lal, MD
123. Isabelle Hertig, MD
124. Illegible
125. John J. Shigo, MD
126 – 127. Illegible
128. Maheteme Beyeh, MD
129. Illegible
130. Charles Tuegel, MD
131. Godswill O. Okoji or Okosi, MD
132. Denis O’Brien, MD
133. Arnold G. Levy, MD
134. Illegible
135. Peter B. Sherer, MD
136. Illegible
Dennis Winters, MD (DUPLICATE of 144 below)
Daniel Laar, MD (DUPLICATE of 145 below)
Mary Rubin, MD (DUPLICATE of 147 below)
G. A. Wright (DUPLICATE of 148 below)
137. Andrew Bender
138 – 139 Illegible
140. Thomas T. Odan or Odar, MD
141. Holly Korsvik-Wysocki, MD
142. Barry J. Levin, MD
143. Yao-Yao Zhu, MD
144. Dennis Winters, MD
145. Daniel Laar, MD
146. Illegible
147. Mary Rubin, MD
148. G. A. Wright, MD
149. Stephen Vaccarezza, MD
150 - 151. Illegible
152. Barry Aron, MD
153. Lawrence Murkowitz, MD
154 – 157 Illegible
158. R. Larkin, MD
159. Illegible
160. Bennett Morrison, MD
161. Michael Baldousky, MD
162. Jonathan Klontz, MD
163. Illegible
164. Robert Fox, MD
165. Clyde Pray, MD
166. Illegible
167. Brett Gamma, MD
168. Jeff Briggs, MD
169. Jeff Cutler, MD
170. Scott Shawen, MD
171. Albert V. Porambo, MD
172. S. K. Mathur, MD
173. Kevin G. Schwartz, MD
174. J. G. Reilly, MD, PhD, FACP
175. Illegible
176. Heather Lorenzo, MD
177. Matt Poffenrok, MD
178. Nimesh S. Shoh, MD
179. Brian Carpenter, MD
180. Illegible
181. John Wallmark, MD
182. Wayne Bernstein, MD
183. Paul Zuckerman, MD
184. Byoung K. Lee, MD
185. Matthew C. McAndrew, MD
186. Michael K. Das, MD
187. Joseph Kaplan, MD
188. Matthew J. Connolly
189. Mukemil Abdella
190. Joshua Katz, MD, FACS, FAFCRS
191 - 192. Illegible
193. Arijit Dosgupta, MD
194. Illegible
195. Jocelyn Kouatchou, MD
196. Manish Agrawal
197. Illegible
198. Monique Goma, MD
199. Shyam Parkuie, MD
200. Illegible
201. Kathy Mesbahi, MD
202. Michael Goodman
203. Herbert Juarbe
204. Barry Greene, MD
205. Brandon Falk, MD
206. Fisehatswin Mehari, MD

Monday, February 05, 2007

New Video on the Spitzer Study

The "Spitzer study" is the one and only peer-reviewed piece of research that can be interpreted to suggest that therapy can change a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight. Spitzer set out to find people who said they had changed, narrowed down his list, and asked a smaller number of them some questions over the phone, concluding that some of them had actually changed.

As far as I know, this is a completely unique form of social science research. The two classic research forms are the survey and the experiment, and variations on those. In the survey, you select a sample of respondents to represent the population that you want to make inferences about. Through careful sampling and weighting, and careful attention to details of the measurement situation, it is possible to make accurate estimates of a population value through inference from your sample.

The Spitzer study is not a survey. It did not attempt to estimate the number of people who can change, it only went through a large number of people to see if any of them were convincing.

In an experiment, subjects are randomly assigned to receive one treatment or another. Because differences between groups are random, and because random variation is well understood as a probabilistic phenomenon, it is possible to analytically assess whether the experimental manipulation caused a change in a measured outcome.

The Spitzer study is not an experiment. He didn't manipulate anything, there was no independent variable, and no attempt to discover causation.

Spitzer appears to have come up with this method himself. His reasoning seems to have been that, if sexual orientation can change through therapy, then he should be able to find someone who this has happened to. And after interviewing thousands of people, he found a few who convinced him that they had actually changed. This is a nice reasonable way to satisfy your curiosity about something, but I'm not really sure how it got past a journal's reviewers.

Dan Gonzales at ExGay Watch has produced a new video discussing the Spitzer study. You can see it at Google Video. It's about twelve minutes long, which is too long to go on YouTube in one piece. The video walks you through the study, discussing how it was done and what it really means.

There are two terms that are mentioned in the video, which I'd like to underline. These are internal validity and external validity.

Social scientists work with many kinds of issues in scientific validity, and these two are considered very important.

Internal validity asks the question, were the effects observed in an experiment actually caused by the manipulation? Because Spitzer's study is not an experiment, the question of internal validity for this study would be: is the researcher measuring what he thinks he is measuring? It is a clear and important question in this study: was the "change in sexual orientation" that Spitzer reported really a change in sexual orientation, or was there some other reason the respondent would try to convince the researcher that they had changed? Let's just say that self-report is very unreliable, and there are lots of reasons his respondents might be motivated to exaggerate their "change."

External validity has to do with the generalizability of a finding. This is where both surveys and experiments have well-studied statistical properties that let you place, for instance, margins of error around population estimates, or confidence intervals, or do significance testing. Spitzer's study doesn't allow any of that. He simply went out to try to find if there was anybody who could convince him that they had changed their sexual orientation.

This video is nicely produced. It is a non-technical discussion of the study and some of its issues, just to get the topic on the table. Go ahead, pour yourself a cup of coffee and click on the link.

Whitman's PFOX Flyer

We got an email over the weekend from a student at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. He had seen a copy of the PFOX flyer that teachers were forced to hand out at Quince Orchard High School, and he said the flyer they were forced to hand out at Whitman was different. He sent us a copy of it:

This is creepy. PFOX says sweet things about "unconditional love" and eliminating prejudice and discrimination, which is a good way to lure teenagers into contacting them. They are especially interested in attracting gay teenage boys.

They say "PFOX supports tolerance for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation."

That should be easy enough to check out, shouldn't it?

Peter Sprigg is the PFOX representative on the MCPS citizens advisory committee. So what does he say?

HERE is an article from Christian Century magazine, quoting PFOX's rep Sprigg:
Sprigg noted that heterosexual marriage offers society natural benefits that same-sex unions naturally do not, such as children. He also said society has a legitimate public-health interest in opposing homosexuality.

Tell me, how do you "support tolerance for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation" while at the same time "opposing homosexuality?"

Or, how about this? When President Bush appointed a gay man to be the United States’ Global AIDS Coordinator, and Condoleezza Rice referred to the man's partner's mother as his "mother-in-law," Sprigg said: "The deferential treatment that was given not only to him but his partner and his partner's family by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very distressing."

Oh, they treated the guy like a human being, and spoke as if his family were a real family -- how terrible.

Hey, here's one of my favorites. This was a couple of years ago when PFOX's Peter Sprigg and others decided that a web site with a "tolerance pledge" was really a front for SpongeBob SquarePants and other gay-advocate cartoon characters.
“If you look at the Web site, it becomes pretty clear that a part of the agenda is to change the definition of family to include virtually anyone who chooses to be called a family, including homosexual couples and homosexual couples raising children,” said Peter Sprigg ... “Much of what they have is coded language that is regularly used by the pro-homosexual movement such as ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity.’

“Ultimately we feel that this is being used as propaganda to indoctrinate very small children to accept a different definition of family.”

So it turns out the guy's actually opposed to tolerance itself. But ... I thought PFOX said they support tolerance.

Look, I could go on all day -- PFOX does not support "tolerance for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation." That's ridiculous. The whole reason they exist is to try to keep young gays afraid to come out, and to convince those who have come out to go back into the closet. Their message is a lie, and their deceitful methods are deplorable.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Abrams Is Off the Hook

I love this headline in The Gazette: "Charges to be dropped in Republican assault."

Here's the story:
Prosecutors plan to dismiss assault charges today against onetime Montgomery County Council candidate Adol T. Owen-Williams and school board member Stephen N. Abrams.

The men had sworn out criminal complaints against each other after they were at each other’s throats following a Nov. 13 Republican Party meeting in Rockville, according to the charges.

The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office said Thursday the charges would be dropped today in Montgomery County District Court. Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler (D) had asked Frederick to appoint a special prosecutor to try the case to avoid any conflict of interest. Charges to be dropped in Republican assault

The article rehashes the events, I think we have covered it already, for instance HERE. A little bit new here:
On Thursday, Owen-Williams said it was in the ‘‘interest of justice” for prosecutors to dismiss the charges.

‘‘Clearly the charges he filed against me were retaliatory,” Owen-Williams said. Since it was unlikely Abrams would have received any sentence other than probation if convicted, it was not worth proceeding with the case, Owen-Williams said.

‘‘Life is full of harsh realities, and one of those harsh realities is I’m probably not going to receive the money I’m owed,” he said.

Abrams said Thursday that he had not been formally notified that the case is being dismissed and would not comment until the charges are dropped. ‘‘I’ll be glad to talk then,” he said.

Owen-Williams said he regrets that a personal matter between him and Abrams has ‘‘distracted the party from the hard work it needs to do.”

Reinheimer, who witnessed the altercation, said there is nothing in the group’s bylaws or constitution to keep the two men separated at GOP meetings. Both men continue to serve on the Central Committee.

‘‘It’s up to each of them to maintain proper behavior,” Reinheimer said. ‘‘It was just unfortunate it happened in the first place.”

Yes, it is an unfortunate incident. We need our school board to be deciding policy and making decisions. This story is more like something that would involve some third-graders on the playground, not a member of the board.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dear Unbelievably

There's an email newsletter going around, signed by no less than "Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman," as he says, of the American Family Association, trying to get people to send an affadavit to the Maryland State Board of Education complaining about the new sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County. As usual, it's packed with lies.

There's a letter from Wildmon, with the CRC's John Garza's name on it, forwarded by a Christian movie producer name Lisa Darden. Not sure who actually wrote it, but it looks like most of it originated with Garza.

It starts with "Dear Unbelievably" ... the people who will respond to this will not be bothered by that.
Dear Unbelievably,

Students in Maryland's largest school district, Montgomery County, may soon be learning in "health" class that sexual variations like homosexuality and bisexuality are innate, normal and risk-free unless parents take action fast.

If you or someone you know has children enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools here is your opportunity to stand for truth and fairness. At this point, legal action is the only way to stop the new sex ed curriculum which is scheduled to start this spring in three middle schools and three high schools before it is implemented county wide in the fall. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum is asking all concerned parents to submit an affidavit to the Maryland State Board of Education.

TAKE ACTION -- Help Stop the Curriculum ...

Then it says some more stuff, and you can click on a link to get a pdf file of an affadavit that you're suppose to send to Garza before February 5th, which is Monday. Hey, go ahead, click on it. Print it out. Fill it in. Send it to him here:

John R. Garza
17 W. Jefferson Street
Rockville, MD 20850

You've only got a couple of days.

If you're new to this controversy, let me point out that this letter lies. The curriculum does not say that "sexual variations like homosexuality and bisexuality are innate, normal and risk-free." It does say it's innate, true, because, well, it is. The rest of it though is pure fiction.

Underneath this letter linking to the canned affadavit, there is a section called "Why This Curriculum Must Be Stopped." Like, here's part:
... The new curriculum seeks to teach "tolerance" but in reality promotes the normalcy of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered lifestyles. The lessons also teach information that is not supported by science. Teachers are required to say that sexual variations are innate. This statement is an opinion disguised as a fact. The scientific community has found no "gay gene."

We've been through the "gay gene" thing before. There's no lefthanded gene either, that doesn't mean ... oh, never mind. This isn't how genes work, and anyway there's nothing about any "gay gene" in the curriculum.

And ... how does something "in reality" promote the normalcy of something?

Oh, here's a great argument:
That all five lessons of the curriculum focus on and promote homosexuality and don’t even touch on the value of having a traditional family should tell parents of the enormous influence of sexual advocacy groups placed by the Board on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

First of all, one of the five lessons, the condom lesson, does not mention homosexuality at all or have anything to do with it. So make that "four of the five lessons" that are about homosexuality. Second, look, this might not make sense to the people who subscribe to the Family Blah Blah newsletter, but ... these classes are about sexual orientation. There are whole long sections, class after class going on year after year, about sex and relationships and similar topics, and all of it is about straight people, except for two classes in eighth grade and two classes in tenth. And there are classes about traditional families, just not in the sexual orientation and condom lessons. The traditional family is also not mentioned in Algebra class.

This is so stupid. The sad part is that people who get this don't know any better. They haven't been following what's going on, they won't read the curriculum even though it's available HERE.

Oh, that part about the "sexual advocacy groups placed by the Board on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC)." Pure fiction. There were no "sexual advocacy groups" represented on the committee. That's crazy. There weren't even any gay advocacy groups on the committee, though that would have been sensible, since some of the rest of us didn't know some of the current terminology and issues. This is totally a bad-intentioned lie, intended to cast doubt on the hard-working citizens advisory committee, which held many extra meetings and often stayed an hour or more past their scheduled ending time, mainly discussing bizarre suggestions for changes submitted by the CRC.

Then they say:
In addition to the bias, these "health" classes fail to discuss the increased risk of sexually transmitted disease inherent in homosexual sex.

There's a simple explanation for that. The classes don't talk about "homosexual sex" at all. They're not about that, none of them.

I think it is somewhat ironic that the Family Blah Blah guys are insisting that the schools should teach students about "homosexual sex."

But they're just preparing the reader for the heavy stuff:
CRC's representative on the CAC, who is also an infectious disease physician, repeatedly insisted that the curriculum include the health risks of homosexual sex as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S Surgeon General. Her requests which were backed by a petition signed by 270 local physicians were NOT included.

OK, first: the CDC does not say anywhere that there are "health risks of homosexual sex." They discuss certain practices and diseases in various populations, including men who have sex with men, but for instance, a search for pages at CDC that include the terms "health risks" and "homosexual sex" returns zero hits. If you make that "health risks" and "homosexual" you get 67 hits, but for comparison "health risks" and "heterosexual" gets 124 hits -- nearly twice as many. If you search for "health risks" and "African-American" you find 1,560 pages at the CDC mentioning these two terms. "Health risks" and "women" gets 2,670 hits. I think this line of reasoning goes someplace the Family Blah Blah groups don't want to be. The CDC discusses health risks of all kinds of populations, they don't single out gays, and in fact they don't mention them very much in terms of health risks, compared to other groups.

And that thing about the "U.S Surgeon General," we've been through that one already. The U.S Surgeon General, or I should say the Acting Surgeon General, since we don't have one at the moment, hasn't said anything at all, as far as I know, about "health risks of homosexual sex." After he left the job, nearly twenty years ago, C. Everett Koop said a sentence the CRC liked about anal intercourse -- overwhelmingly a heterosexual activity -- but nothing about homosexual sex, at least that's not part of the quote they wanted to include in the curriculum. You can't tell from this that that's what they're talking about, can you?

The last sentence in the letter is this:
In 2003 a staggering 63 percent of the new HIV cases reported in males came from gay men who make up less than 2 percent of the population. For more information go to CRC's website.

These guys are confused. The sexual orientation sections are about ... sexual orientation. They're not about AIDS, which has its own section. If the Family Blah Blah guys wanted to implement changes to the sexually transmitted disease section, well, first they ought to check and see what's in it now.

We aren't surprised by any of this. I think the news here is that they're going to present these affadavits to the Maryland State Board of Education. I've addressed that board before, and I didn't get the feeling they were real interested in our little tussle here in Montgomery County.

Maybe the CRC thinks they will get a better reception in Annapolis than they get here at home. Montgomery County doesn't agree with them and doesn't want them, but maybe if they play this to a state-wide audience they'll find people from some of the more conservative counties who will support them. I doubt it, but that's apparently what they're going to try, they'll see if they can get people in other counties to impose their standards on us.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Terrible News: Missing Girls Apparently Found, Dead

The bodies of two Montgomery County teenage girls who had disapppeared, as we reported HERE, have apparently been found.
Two white female bodies have been discovered inside the vehicle in which two teenage girls from Montgomery County were riding when they disappeared two weeks ago.

The sheriff in Loudoun County, Va., tipped Montgomery County police about the discovery of the car just after 2 p.m. Friday.

News4's Keith Garvin reported that the car was found in a wooded area in western Loudoun County near the West Virginia border. Police are investigating, and the girls' parents have been notified. Bodies Found In Missing Teens' Car

I was talking to a father in England last year who noted that the English language has words like "widow," for a wife whose husband has died, and "orphan," for a child whose parents have died, but no word for a parent whose child has died. He is a scientist, and has a theory about it: he said, there is no word for that because it's too terrible to think about.

Our hearts go out to the families of these girls.

Sentinel: Teachers Are Unhappy About Flyers

We are hearing from more teachers who are very unhappy (that phrase doesn't do justice) about having to pass out anti-gay PFOX literature in their classrooms. One wrote us yesterday to ask us about the idea of opting out for moral reasons. Well, of course we don't know what the rules are for the teachers, but we put her in touch with someone who can work with her. (Of course, it would be interesting to see teachers engage in peaceful civil disobedience across the district, maybe they could include a few minutes of discussion of Thoreau in class.)

This seems like an especially bad thing to do to teachers -- a teacher's job isn't easy or overcompensated to begin with. I have the feeling most of them teach because they love it, because they care about the kids. And then to add something insulting like this to it, making them hand out literature that is just morally repulsive, something that is bad for students, pointing them to misleading, unhealthful information -- no, they're not happy about this.

Here's a new story from The Sentinel.
Students, teachers oppose PFOX fliers

By Contessa Crisostomo Staff Writer


Teachers, students and parents are upset about recent fliers being distributed in county high schools by an organization representing Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said they have heard from several people who are upset by these fliers.

"We have explained to them what the school system's situation is given the Evangelism lawsuit," said David Fishback of PFLAG.

Fishback was referring to the lawsuit that the Child Evangelism Fellowship filed against Montgomery County Public Schools after the school system denied the Christian group access to distribute fliers to students in their backpacks. The Child Evangelism Fellowship won the case leading the school system to revise their flier policy, which allows any non-profit organization to distribute fliers to schools at certain times during the year as long as there is a disclaimer that says, "These materials are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Board of Education of Montgomery county, the superintendent, or this school."

The schools have to either hand out everybody's materials, or nobody's, according to the courts. The problem is that students' backpacks are considered, legally, to be a kind of "public forum." In class, no such rule applies, as the CRC will quickly find out if they sue on the grounds of viewpoint discrimination in the new curriculum. But the judge says flyers that are sent home follow a different standard.
Hilary Davies, a county public school teacher, said she was upset when she saw the fliers. She said she does not agree with the views of PFOX, who claim that homosexuality is a choice.

"PFOX puts forward the view that it's possible to convert or choose not to be homosexual; that's very harmful to young people," said Davies. "It distressed me to see this go to students altogether."

She said she didn't think many students paid much attention to the fliers because they do not understand the issues surrounding it. A student told her that most students threw them away, she said.

"They're allowed to send fliers because it's a public forum, therefore they're subject to first amendment rights, but the curriculum is not. If PFOX is trying to use this to assert opinion in the curriculum, as a teacher it's underhanded, and I disagree a great deal," said Davies.

I suppose the good news is that kids aren't paying any attention to it, in general. But, you know, there are particular kids, the gay ones specifically, who could be tucking this away, wondering if there's anything to it. And that's what's criminal about the whole deal. Because ... there isn't anything to it, and PFOX shouldn't mislead them.
PFLAG is also distributing their own fliers to "provide accurate info from schools that kids and families need," according to Fishback.

On the other hand, Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX, said they have not received any negative phone calls.

"Sometimes people who are not happy with things may make statement, but it might just be one person," she said. "We had an email from a teacher who I think was misinformed and needs a science lesson."

Heh. There's no science saying that people can pray away the gay, sorry. No matter how badly Ms. Griggs wishes her own son was straight, it's not a choice.
Griggs said PFOX has never had a problem passing out brochures to teachers, counselors and parents who she said requested them. This is the first time they began distributing fliers countywide.

This controversy follows the Board of Education's approval of a new sex-education curriculum, which includes the addition of information about sexual orientation and the revision of a condom demonstration video. Before the board made their decision, members of PFOX urged board members to include information about ex-gays in the curriculum but were denied.

"The purpose of the flier is to get the information out that change is possible, that we want children to get information that allows them and shows individuals the right to selfdetermination," said Griggs.

Wow, that sounds good, doesn't it -- the "right to selfdetermination." Does she think people can selfdetermine their sexual orientation? Sounds like it.

They can't. Oh, they have "the right" to try, but it doesn't work.
Griggs said she disagrees with the school board's decision to include in the curriculum that homosexuality is innate, and she believes the students should at least be presented with the information about ex-gays and look up the rest.

PFOX's flier gives the contact information for the organization and says they can provide "local support groups for parents, helpful information for LGBTQX students and families, ex-gay speakers, teen brochures, youth clubs for all, information on tolerance for the ex-gay community."

In PFLAG's flier contains a list of frequently asked questions and answers for parents with gay children. Fishback said one way to counteract PFOX's statements would be for the board to revisit a list of recommendations to include in the curriculum stating that homosexuality is not a choice or a disease. "[It's] good, solid information from major medical groups," said Fishback.

Davies agreed that information about homosexuality should be in the curriculum.

"One of things that people involved in this issue need to realize is how much education we need on this topic and how little people understand about it," said Davies. "I felt it's much more productive to have more in the curriculum about sexual orientation. Most students are pretty uneducated about this."

I wasn't going to include the whole article, but I couldn't help myself.

Schools can hand out materials four times a year. That means that a kid who goes to high school here for four years will be handed sixteen of these PFOX flyers. In the same four years, he or she will sit through two 45-minute classes that discuss sexual orientation.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blogger Is Bloggering

(I'll see if I can even get this posted ...) Just to let you know, the Blogger service that this site runs on is choking today. You might notice that posts are cut off, comments are missing, pages don't load.

These things happen, it ought to clear up in a while. Keep trying.


I'm sure you heard about the big scare in Boston yesterday. I can't quite picture this yet, but somebody left these boards with lights on them, it looks like LEDs in the shape of a cartoon character, around the city, advertising a new TV show for teenagers.

Well, here's New York's Channel 7's version of it, which is like everybody else's:
(Boston - WABC, January 31, 2007) - Police say a man has been arrested in connection with more than 10 suspicious packages planted near bridges and other spots around Boston, which later turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon.

The security scare closed highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River as bomb squads were sent out to discover that the devices were harmless. NYPD officials tell Eyewitness News that between 15-18 devices were also planted here in New York City.

Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, later said the devices, which depict a character holding up the finger, were part of publicity for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

Nonetheless, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said 29-year-old Peter Berdovsky was arrested on one felony charge of placing a hoax device, and one charge of disorderly conduct. Man arrested in Boston publicity stunt

Look back at that line: ...between 15-18 devices were also planted here in New York City. Farther down in this story you will also read:
"The "packages" in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim's animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

I saw this on all the news channels last night. Anderson Cooper's brow was appropriately furrowed, and all the newscasters looked appropriately concerned about this "event." Everybody approached it the same way, as if it were a catastrophe narrowly averted. How could Turner Broadcasting do this, they asked. How they have such a serious lapse of judgment?

I just have one little question. They left these things in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia -- why is it that only Boston went into a state of hyperventilating panic? It sounds like they essentially shut down the whole city to defuse these cartoon characters.

I am waiting to read some reports from those other cities. Were they simply unprepared for an emergency of this magnitude? Did their systems fail? Did they interpret these potentially life-threatening devices as being something harmless?

People, what's happened to us?