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Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Deal with reality

March 21, 2006

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To the editor:

If you never talk with a child about drugs and their consequences, he will never try them. This is a stupid and uninformed statement.

If you never tell a child that playing with matches can cause dangerous fires, he will never touch matches. This is a stupid and uninformed statement.

If you never talk with a child about sex education and consequences of various sexual behaviors, he will never have sex. You can see where I'm going with this.

The State Board of Education has once again highlighted Kansas as a state that places blind faith to ideology above knowledge.

Pretending something doesn't exist doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means that we are unable to deal with reality.

How much further will we take this culture of ignorance and fear? I was told "knowledge is power." I guess now ignorance is.

Jeri Sickels,

Lawrence

Comments

b_asinbeer 8 years, 9 months ago

And did you hear that recently: if we stop talking about evolution, it'll go away, and millions of years of evolution will come to a screeching halt just in the state of Kansas!

Here's a big "Duh!" to our representatives.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

Wait a second. observer never said "Bush." I think that if we went back and looked at many of the chat boards after articles/letters that might have something to do with political ideology, it isn't peole like observer who make the first mention of Bush.

blessed3x 8 years, 9 months ago

"If you never talk with a child about drugs...

If you never tell a child that playing with matches...

If you never talk with a child about sex education..."

Notice Jeri never once said "If the school district...".

My point exactly. I am a responsible parent that wants the opportunity to teach the ways of the world to my children in my own way. I don't believe that is too much to ask. The school's responsibility is reading, writing and arithmetic.

Opt-in/opt-out...whatever. I just want to have the choice of how my child is taught. That seems to be an offensive sentiment to most people these days.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

You have ALWAYS had the right to take care of sex ed on your own at home. However, as a matter of public health-type policy, it is way more important to ensure that all kids have automatic access to important sex ed at school than to wimp out to the will of the very few parents who actually opt their kids out of sex ed.

bankboy119 8 years, 9 months ago

avh,

When did the school district become the parent? Different parents have different values that they want their children to adhere to. People should not have to opt-out of something that the government should not be teaching in the first place. They should opt-in if they want their children being taught by some one else.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

The school is not the parent, but it is the vehicle for 70% of what kids learn. It is not "parenting" when the school informs children that unprotected sexual activity of ANY KIND puts all participants, and any future partners they have, at risk for a host of really nasty diseases. The purpose of public schools is to arm students with information that will help them live in the world, be productive citizens, hold down jobs as adults, and be safe and healthy.

Are you against the DARE program (or any other curriculum that proposes to teach students about the dangers of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco)? Some would call this program "parenting." How about health class lessons on personal nutrition and physical activity? What about home economics? Are you offended by boys being taught how to sew on buttons, or hem pants, or cook omelettes?

All of these classes are aimed at teaching students the most basic, and, frankly, most important things they need to know to be self-sufficient, healthy, and happy.

Sex ed does not teach kids to have sex. It doesn't encourage them to have sex. It just tells them what they need to know about what sex is, what it's for, what the consequences of it are, and how to protect yourself from those consequences. Sex ed also teaches the BEST way to protect yourself--abstinence.

If you think that sex ed is another name for the school becoming the parent, do you think it's also a good idea for the government to axe restrictions on drinking age and drug use?

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

If your answer to my last question is yes, can you honestly tell me that you trust ever kid's parents to teach him/her the rights and wrongs of, say, drinking alcohol, and that the message will sink in sufficiently enough that you won't wonder, as you're driving down a rural highway in the dark on a Saturday night, whether some drunken 16-year-old who just got his license will come careening at you on the wrong side of the road going, hmmm, say, 95 miles an hour in his effin'-350 truck...?

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

Whoops--"every" kid's parents, not "ever" kid's parents.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

Because, you know, teen pregnancy and STDs aren't just a problem for the people who have them. They're also a problem for the taxpayer/health insurance premium payer/government when people who have these health-related issues have to rely on the public health system to get them through. Who pays for that system? We do.

The taxpayer will end up paying for this one way or the other. Isn't it better for everyone if we pay to prevent it, than pay (probably more) to deal with the consequences?

badger 8 years, 9 months ago

avhjmlk makes a good point I hadn't considered before.

A home ec class will teach your kids to make spaghetti or bake a cake. It's up to you to pass on your secret blend of herbs that makes the sauce unique to your family, or your grandmother's hints on making your cakes extra light and fluffy. Your ability to impart your teaching to your kids on the right way to do things isn't impeded by them having the basic knowledge of the technical considerations. And for kids whose parents never learned the first thing about cooking to pass on, those basics can be real lifesavers.

Blessed3x, you have a rich family tradition of information and moral guidance to add to the understanding of basic life skills. I hardly think most parents who try to provide firm moral grounding for their kids do so in a single semester or even year, and your kids will go into and come out of any life skills class armed with the tools you've been giving them since birth. I think maybe some folks should have more faith, not less, in the things they instill in their kids outside of school. Usually, a kid's not going to go into home ec class liking your cooking and come out thinking it's awful.

Likewise, a kid's not likely to go into a sex ed class agreeing with your morals and come out completely against them - especially not if you've been discussing the class with them and how its teachings apply to your own morals: "See, HIV and HPV are things that you have for life and that can cause AIDS or cancer, which can kill you. That's one of the reasons it's best to wait, because there's no way to guarantee, even with a condom, that you won't get infected. It's best to be safe."

I think a lot more people should realize that they teach their kids the nontechnical basics just by visibly making the life choices they do, and trust them to learn and use those skills.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

Badger, you took the words right out of my mouth.

That's exactly the way a concerned parent should handle anything that's taught in school that might have a moral side to it. Schools teach basic info. Parents teach belief, faith, values, and family secret recipies (wanna pass your secret sauce recipe to the rest of us--my mouth is watering!)... Schools (especially elementary school, where basic socialization is key) can sometimes teach to neutral civilization-type values--i.e. golden rule kinds of stuff--without interfering in the parents' rights/responsibilities to mold their children.

bankboy119 8 years, 9 months ago

"The purpose of public schools is to arm students with information that will help them live in the world, be productive citizens, hold down jobs as adults, and be safe and healthy."

If the public schools actually did this then we as a country would be in a lot better shape than we are now.

The DARE program isn't even taught anymore becuase it is a failed program.

"Sex ed also teaches the BEST way to protect yourself--abstinence."

School do not teach that. I was there. I have younger syblings that have gone through the program. They don't teach that it is the best way.

I don't know where you were going with the eliminating of drinking age and drug restrictions.

wonderhorse 8 years, 9 months ago

""Sex ed also teaches the BEST way to protect yourself--abstinence."

School do not teach that. I was there. I have younger syblings that have gone through the program. They don't teach that it is the best way."

Funny, both of my boys said that the teacher stressed that abstinence was the only 100% sure way to avoid pregnancy and STD's. Maybe they were lying to me, but I doubt it. You might want to have a talk with your younger siblings about paying attention in class. Something important might be going on.

Godot 8 years, 9 months ago

afhjmlk, so what it boils down to is that you are afraid that, if given the choice, most parents would not opt in for sex ed in public schools and your program would be phased out. If your program is so popular, valuable and successful, why be afraid to let parents choose? If parents see the value, they will eagerly opt in, and your program will continue on into perpetuity.

I know, you are of the opinion that most parents are apathetic, neglectful and/or ignorant. I believe you are talking about a minority. If you, as an educator, are aware of a child who has not opted in, one who you feel needs your class, what is to prevent you from talking to the parent and making a recommendation? Wouldn't you do that regarding, say, a need for remedial reading?

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

"The purpose of public schools is to arm students.....safe and healthy." Schools give kids the information. Whether the kids do anything with it beyond that is out of the school's purview. In some people's minds, that's where the parents are supposed to come in. But we all know that there will always be some kids who don't succeed, just like there will always be kids who refuse to believe what their parents tell them, just like there will always be people who break the law. No one is perfect--we're just supposed to do our best.

I think you know exactly where I was going with the drinking/drug issue. People often say that governmental restrictions on the drinking age and drug use are like the government unnecessarily taking on the role of the parent. My point is that the greater benefit (i.e. public health and safety) outweighs a person's total authority over themselves.

In a similar way, though not exactly the same, the public benefit of teaching sex ed in schools, including abstinence and information about STDs and pregnancy, (and, I don't know where you went to school, but I clearly recall being taught in the 8th grade that the only way to 100% guarantee that you won't get pregnant or an STD is to abstain) automatically to all children unless their parent requests in writing that such teaching occur at home only, clearly outweighs the individual rights issue of teaching sex ed only to those kids whose parents care enough to ask that it be taught to their kids extra at school

And, if you'll recall, I said DARE, or other curriculum teaching kids about the dangers of drugs...Wether DARE still exists today doens't change the fact that when a person talks about the DARE program, people know that you're referring to drug education.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

For one, Godot, it's not my class. I'm not a teacher. I'm not a physician. I'm a concerned citizen who thinks it's better for students to be given honest information about what they will face in the real world than to avoid the discussion.

What I'm afraid of is that, when parents, even a minority of parents, fail to enroll their students in sex ed (because that's basically what they'll have to do), we will again see an increase in teen pregnancy and teen STD infection. And remember, the apple doensn't usually fall far from the tree. Some people who have babies as teens learn lessons from that experience and are quick to educate their children about the dangers of underage, unprotected sex. Others don't, and their kids see their parents' actions, unless informed strongly otherwise, as ok, acceptable, and appropriate.

avhjmlk 8 years, 9 months ago

Oh, and, God forbid, teen abortion. None of us wants that, R, D, or otherwise.

xenophonschild 8 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps parents should view sex education in public schools as an adjunct, a corollary, to their efforts to instill proper sexual mores and practices in their children. Many parents are stretched too thin with working and raising children to assimilate the complex details of sex education that can be, and are, offered to children in classes, important nuances like STD's, reproduction facts, psychological health inre sex, and birth control.

I went to a private Catholic high school in the 60s, and, while the Jesuits were willing to teach us to defy God and the Catholic Church, they were utterly helpless to guide us to a better understanding of human sexuality (no smutty thoughts here, please). I wish we had access to what public school children have, or should have, today.

And George W. Bush is a twit, certified. The evangelicals really did a number on us when they foisted his sorry ass on the country.

wonderhorse 8 years, 9 months ago

What the he** does Bush have to do with our idiot state education board?

xenophonschild 8 years, 9 months ago

wonderhorse: two words - Christian right. There are millions of the idiots running loose in the country, and they won't let us shoot them. They believe that an illegitimate Galilean peasant who managed to get himself executed two thousand years ago is the Lord God of the universe, and that a religion created by a mysogonist/pedophile in the wake of the Galilean's death is the One True Faith. George Bush panders to these idiots, and they comprise the majority, to date, on our state board of education. So there you are.

badger 8 years, 9 months ago

Bankboy, I'll second wonderhorse's "Your experience is not universal."

Abstinence was stressed in every sex ed class I ever took. In only one out of the four I took (I moved several times between 12-18) did they not say it was the only 100% way to prevent transmission.

In that class, the teacher said that abstinence from all sexual contact was 100% for most STDs, and that there were a couple you could catch without any sexual contact at all. She was treating crabs and yeast infections as STDs. It's perfectly possible to catch crabs from staying in a hotel (see recent issue with bedbugs in NYC) or sitting in the doctor's office waiting room, and yeast infections sometimes, well, just happen. Her line was that unprotected sex was universally bad for your health, protected sex was somewhat risky but a better choice, abstinence was 'a good start', and abstinence + good personal hygiene + being observant about your body + regular checkups + not using IV drugs + not getting a blood transfusion was the closest you could get to 100%. She was also the one who told us that AIDS wasn't a just a 'gay' disease and anyone could get it so everyone had to be aware of how it's transmitted.

I think that not all sex ed programs are created equally.

I also agree absolutely with avhmljk that concern over adequate education regarding pregnancy and disease prevention is a matter of fiscal responsibility as well, because we pay for the programs and we pay for the healthcare (welfare or not, if fifteen thousand kids need treatment for chlamydia this month my healthcare premiums will probably go up), and we pay for the care and raising of many of the children. I'm saying that it makes sense to pay for education that can help prevent those other costs.

There don't have to be specific morality-based lessons to teaching sexual awareness and health as life skills. One class had information on some things you could do to avoid rape or exploitation. That's a life skill. The closest I ever heard to a moral message was the fairly consistent overall, "It's your body, and if someone wants you to do something you think is wrong or dangerous, you have the right and responsibility to say no." Over and over, the teachers would say that you should stick to what you believe is right, and a couple of them told us that if we had specific moral or personal questions we couldn't figure out on our own, we should talk to a parent, or a doctor, or a minister, or a therapist, someone we trusted.

That's more my experience with sex ed, honestly, which is why I don't understand some of the objections I hear about how schools are trying to take parenting away from parents. I think it's perfectly possible to have sex ed classes that complement parenting instead of replacing it.

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