T Nation

Problems with Homosexuality & Sex Ed

This is the kind of thing that drives conservative parents up the wall, and serves to highly charge the cultural debate surrounding the whole issue. I will say this again: Schools are for teaching facts, not indoctrinating viewpoints (and please spare me a discussion about relative perspectives and how all “facts” are indoctrinating viewpoints – you know very well what I mean).

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_05_01-2005_05_07.shtml#1115401487

[Eugene Volokh, May 6, 2005 at 1:44pm] 4 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
School District Trying to Spread False Information About Homosexuality, Using Illogical Arguments, and Violating the Establishment Clause: Yes, that seems to be so, if the facts described in this opinion are accurate ( http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/Opinions152/Opinions/CRC050505.pdf ). The Montgomery Count Public Schools are apparently trying to adopt a “Revised Curriculum” for sex education classes, aimed at rebutting hostility towards homosexuality. Unfortunately:

A. The curriculum involves the public school unconstitutionally taking a stand on theological questions (as the court correctly held). Consider this excerpt from a “Myths and Facts” handout that was part of the curriculum:

[i]Myth: Homosexuality is a sin.

Facts: The Bible contains six passages which condemn homosexual behavior. The Bible also contains numerous passages condemning heterosexual behavior. Theologians and Biblical scholars continue to differ on many Biblical interpretations. They agree on one thing, however. Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality. Among the many things deemed an abomination are adultery, incest, wearing clothing made from more than one kind of fiber, and earing shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.

Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression. Less than a half a century ago, Baptist churches (among others) in this country defended racial segregation on the basis that it was condoned by the Bible. Early Christians were not hostile to homosexuals. Intolerance became the dominant attitude only after the Twelfth Century. Today, many people no longer tolerate generalizations about homosexuality as pathology or sin. Few would condemn heterosexuality as immoral ? despite the high incidence of rape, incest, child abuse, adultery, family violence, promiscuity, and venereal disease among heterosexuals. Fortunately, many within organized religions are beginning to address the homophobia of the church. The Nation Council of Churches of Christ, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches support full civil rights for gay men and lesbians, as they do for everyone else.[/i]

This material, which the school would apparently be conveying as its own views:

  1. Describes one interpretation of the Bible as “myth.”

  2. Suggests that the most important question in interpreting the Bible is what Jesus said, and that the Bible’s use of “abomination” in different contexts should lead us to think that the items thus labeled are morally equivalent ? not implausible claims about Scriptural interpretation, but nonetheless claims about Scriptural interpretation.

  3. Implicitly ? but I think quite strongly ? suggests a particular reading of the Bible is theologically correct.

  4. Condemns particular religious groups by name, not just as part of a discussion of history, but in an attempt to discredit the present religious teachings of at least some religious groups (quite possibly the same ones).

  5. Specifically praises by name certain denominations ? again, not just in a context which seems to be describing the facts, but one which suggests that their theology is more sound.

The Court has repeatedly held that the Establishment Clause bars public schools from endorsing and disapproving of theological beliefs. Schools are quite free to express the view on whether homosexuality is wrong and on whether hostility to homosexuality is wrong; that some view on a secular topic corresponds to or is opposed to a religion’s view doesn’t keep the school from teaching that view. But schools are not free to express views on how the Bible should be interpreted, what is or is not sin from the Biblical perspective, and which religious groups have good interpretations of the Bible and which have bad ones.

B. The curriculum contains at least one factual error, and quite possibly others (though as to the others the matter is more complex). The curriculum says that “a significant percentage of the population is gay, lesbian or bisexual (Approximately 1 in 10).” Earlier, the curriculum makes clear that it treats whether “a person is a homosexual” as a matter of what constitutes his “long-term sexual orientation,” not whether someone has had at least one same-sex attraction or experience. Under that definition, the best evidence is that the about 2-3% of all U.S. residents are homosexual ( http://volokh.com/2002_04_21_volokh_archive.html#75753666 ); the number might be somewhat different in Canada, but I suspect not vastly. The 10% estimate has long been discredited.

C. More importantly, the curriculum is chock full of unsound reasoning, the very sort of thing we shouldn’t be teaching kids. For starters, labeling moral claims as “Myth” (e.g., “Myth: Children raised by gay men and lesbians will be exposed to an ‘immoral’ environment”) and “Fact” (e.g., “Fact: Morality is concerned with principles of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behavior”) strikes me as erroneous and unhelpful. Even if one believe that certain things are objectively immoral, one should recognize that such a judgment is not the sort of thing that one should label “fact”; if anything, we should be teaching students to better distinguish facts from value judgments, even while recognizing that value judgments may be very important and even objectively right.

Moreover, consider this item: “Myth: If you are ‘straight,’ you can become a homosexual.” “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice.” That “most experts” conclude something doesn’t make it a fact; one would think that the fact that some experts conclude the opposite should be occasion for students to express some doubt and healthy skepticism, but the curriculum tells them that, no, most experts say it, so it’s a fact.

Or how about this? “Myth: Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals do not make good parents.” “Fact: One out of four families has a lesbian, gay or bisexual in the immediate family. Heterosexual parents are consistently not found to be more loving or caring than gay parents.” I’d hope that any teacher who teaches logical reasoning would give a pretty low grade to a paper that says that. The first part of the “Fact” is a non sequitur (even if it’s factually accurate, which I doubt); whether or not a family has a lesbian, gay or bisexual “in the immediate family” tells us nothing about whether lesbians, gays, and bisexuals make good parents. The second part is at least logically related to the attempt to rebut the “Myth” ? but how? Even if it true, it merely shows that heterosexual parents are not more loving or caring than gay parents (which is a somewhat imprecise way, I take it, of saying “lesbian, gay male, or bisexual parents”); but there are lots of other ways in which people can be not very good parents than by being un-loving or un-caring.

There’s more of the same, but let’s leave it at that for now.

I should say, as I’ve generally said before, that (1) I don’t think homosexuality is morally wrong, (2) I would want to teach my children to be tolerant of homosexuality, (3) schools inevitable teach some non-universally-accepted moral values, (4) schools should teach children to be tolerant of homosexuality at least to the extent that students don’t beat up or taunt others based on their homosexuality or perceived homosexuality, and (5) there’s a perfectly plausible argument for schools teaching children tolerance of homosexuality more broadly. (I’m more tentative as to item 5 simply because while I think that values teaching is inevitable, which highly controversial values should be taught in a public school is a complex question.)

But such teaching should at least comply with the Constitution, avoid falsehoods, and avoid fallacies. Good motives don’t justify bad teaching.

BB

They should stick to the facts. I don’t care of they teach them what homosexuality is. They just don’t need to editoralize it.

I have often thought the reason many US kids are behind is because they are taught crap like this which takes away time for math, science and reading.

I agree with you for the most part. I am also interested in how you feel about the debate of teaching the concept of Creationism in school. There seems to be some debate on this lately.

One point also needs to be made clear that I don’t think it is the school’s duty to point out anyone’s sexuality. That alone can be confusing to some kid who is going through puberty or may have other social issues. I think, for the most part, schools should distance themselves from the issue aside from making very broad generalizations as far as tolerance.

On a personal note, I am sick and tired of schools teaching my children that homosexuality is ok and must be accepted, while blatanly pushing that any heterosexual behavior is wrong and must be suppressed.
Accept gay people- fine, but HOLDING HANDS WITH A GIRL?!? ARE YOU NUTS?!?

Now before anyone says I’m a gay-bashing bigot, understand that my beef is mostly with the inbalance between heterosexual and homosexual tolorance in regards to the public school system.

If you are gay, that’s not for me to judge and it’s your choice. If it’s wrong, then you’ll find that out in the end. Untill then, enjoy your life on Earth! We’ll get along great as long as you don’t actively PUSH it on me ( I have a few friends who are homosexual).
I don’t agree with it being right and have my beliefs, but hose are mine and you are entitled to your own beliefs.
I do, however, have the right to tell the school not to push it on my children… or I should, anyway.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I agree with you for the most part. I am also interested in how you feel about the debate of teaching the concept of Creationism in school. There seems to be some debate on this lately.[/quote]

Without getting too far off topic, I think they should present all the scientific information they have on the origins of the universe, say that no one knows for sure what force was/is driving the development of life, and leave it at that.

That’s in school up to high school – in college it should be open for discussion and/or debate.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
One point also needs to be made clear that I don’t think it is the school’s duty to point out anyone’s sexuality. That alone can be confusing to some kid who is going through puberty or may have other social issues. I think, for the most part, schools should distance themselves from the issue aside from making very broad generalizations as far as tolerance.[/quote]

I agree. I don’t like this for two reasons: 1) I don’t want schools taking over moral instruction responsibilities from parents; and 2) I don’t want schools putting resources toward political indoctrination when the kids can’t read or do simple math.

They can punish overt negative behavior (name calling, etc.) without rolling out the indoctrination stuff. Maybe then they would focus on teaching academics.

[quote]hedo wrote:
BB

They should stick to the facts. I don’t care of they teach them what homosexuality is. They just don’t need to editoralize it.

I have often thought the reason many US kids are behind is because they are taught crap like this which takes away time for math, science and reading.

[/quote]

Precisely!

ProfX

I don’t know if you meant me or BB but I’ll go first.

My personal belief is that there is a creator and he had some involvement in the intelligent design of the universe.

However, it can’t be proven scientifically that this occured. Until it can, then it is belief system and should not be taught as fact in the schools.

Guess I am a public evolutionist with a private creationism belief.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I agree with you for the most part. I am also interested in how you feel about the debate of teaching the concept of Creationism in school. There seems to be some debate on this lately.
[/quote]

I live near Dover PA, which is attempting to add creationism to a biology class (they call it intelligent design). These people are the laughingstock of the entire state (make that the country.

My 2 cents is that you can talk/teach about creationism in a philosophy type class, but that only a fool would add it to a SCIENCE class.

[quote]mica617 wrote:
On a personal note, I am sick and tired of schools teaching my children that homosexuality is ok and must be accepted, while blatanly pushing that any heterosexual behavior is wrong and must be suppressed.
Accept gay people- fine, but HOLDING HANDS WITH A GIRL?!? ARE YOU NUTS?!?

Now before anyone says I’m a gay-bashing bigot, understand that my beef is mostly with the inbalance between heterosexual and homosexual tolorance in regards to the public school system.

If you are gay, that’s not for me to judge and it’s your choice. If it’s wrong, then you’ll find that out in the end. Untill then, enjoy your life on Earth! We’ll get along great as long as you don’t actively PUSH it on me ( I have a few friends who are homosexual).
I don’t agree with it being right and have my beliefs, but hose are mine and you are entitled to your own beliefs.
I do, however, have the right to tell the school not to push it on my children… or I should, anyway.[/quote]

Amen! I have two kids and I feel the same way.

[quote]hedo wrote:
I have often thought the reason many US kids are behind is because they are taught crap like this which takes away time for math, science and reading.

[/quote]

I agree with this. I am a Freshman and all of my classes (even math) we have all sorts of “life lessons” stuff down our throats. It isn’t just accepting everyone kind of stuff either. Every year we have to watch a powerpoint slide with real STD’s people. Also we learn about nutrition and diet from overweight counsulars. It is nice to get a break from class, but some of these things are more boring than class.

[quote]mica617 wrote:
On a personal note, I am sick and tired of schools teaching my children that homosexuality is ok and must be accepted, while blatanly pushing that any heterosexual behavior is wrong and must be suppressed.
Accept gay people- fine, but HOLDING HANDS WITH A GIRL?!? ARE YOU NUTS?!?

Now before anyone says I’m a gay-bashing bigot, understand that my beef is mostly with the inbalance between heterosexual and homosexual tolorance in regards to the public school system.

If you are gay, that’s not for me to judge and it’s your choice. If it’s wrong, then you’ll find that out in the end. Untill then, enjoy your life on Earth! We’ll get along great as long as you don’t actively PUSH it on me ( I have a few friends who are homosexual).
[/quote]

The reason you’d see more of a push for homosexual tolerance than you would for heterosexual tolerance is really a no brainer. There is more INtolerance toward homosexuals than there is toward heterosexuals. I don’t know about you, but i’ve never been teased for being straight.

[quote]mica617 wrote:
I don’t agree with it being right and have my beliefs, but hose are mine and you are entitled to your own beliefs.
I do, however, have the right to tell the school not to push it on my children… or I should, anyway.[/quote]

What I’d like to know is how the school system is “pushing” homosexuality on your children. My school does nothing that could even be considered pushy as far as accepting others is concerned.

[quote]wek wrote:

What I’d like to know is how the school system is “pushing” homosexuality on your children. My school does nothing that could even be considered pushy as far as accepting others is concerned.
[/quote]

Did you see what they were doing with the above referenced program in Maryland? That’s pretty damn pushy – and a waste of valuable instruction time.

i don’t understand the problem here. what are parents worried about ? i’m not being sacastic or laying some bait , i really don’t see it.

what’s the worst that’s going to happen ? there are no schools trying to convert kids to be homo just dropping in into some classes because it is the current example of tolerance. big deal.

some others have already stated it and i see it the same way. the worst thing that could happen is that we’re wasting time talking about it and studying it. time that should be spent on more valuable studies.

schools are never going to be fair and consistent in their curriculums. there are always going to be fat people teaching nutrition and health classes just like there will always be crap foisted on us in everyday life and work you know ? good grief dunkin donuts comes out with a new coolatta every eight weeks.

if you think about it dealing with that sort of crap and being able to sort out what you believe in and what you don’t is a valuable skill. and when i think about it all of the the life lessons i’ve learned were from dealing with real life experienceas not from course work. and all of the best conversations i 've had with my dad was about solving or sorting through some kind of crap. so…be thankful for it . it’s an opportunity to bond with your kid. and a relatively harmless one at that. the potential benefits tremendous , the possible damage …? nil as i see it.

this all seems like a waste of time - The United States public schools are far enough behind in the maths and sciences when compared to other countries.

Bottom line, quit trying so hard to be PC with kids who won’t pay attention and don’t care anyways, this is time that could be spent learning Calculus or Physics, don’t forget the arts like music, literature, and graphical art either… Learning about sexuality for me was done in the backseat of a car, and I seem to have turned out just fine.

No basis in fact. Bad.

Interpretation of bible. Bad.

I don’t really see what’s wrong with this portion. If backed up by credible sources this is just recorded history.

Opinion passed off as fact. Bad.

I personally have a problem with the schools teaching any type of sex education. That is my job as a parent and mine alone. I have talked with my oldest child about sex and will talk with my youngest when he is old enough, and I have taught both my kids from the time they were born to be tolerant of others. I want the school to teach them academics, period. When I read about high percentages of kids having to start their college careers off with remedial classes to “catch up”, it blows my mind. I personally think too many parents are lazy when it comes to their children and prefer the schools to do their job. But that’s what happens when people treat having children as an accomplishment and not a commitment.

[quote]CDM wrote:
I personally have a problem with the schools teaching any type of sex education. That is my job as a parent and mine alone. I have talked with my oldest child about sex and will talk with my youngest when he is old enough, and I have taught both my kids from the time they were born to be tolerant of others. I want the school to teach them academics, period. When I read about high percentages of kids having to start their college careers off with remedial classes to “catch up”, it blows my mind. I personally think too many parents are lazy when it comes to their children and prefer the schools to do their job. But that’s what happens when people treat having children as an accomplishment and not a commitment.[/quote]

I agree with you. But, what happens to those children who do not have involved/interested/committed parents? Who teaches them about some of these basic hygene/sex related issues???

[quote]jnd wrote:
I agree with you. But, what happens to those children who do not have involved/interested/committed parents? Who teaches them about some of these basic hygene/sex related issues???[/quote]

This is beginning to sound like that debate about teachers we had earlier. If teachers are expected to RAISE your kids, then they need to be financially compensated as such instead of the pay they get now. Stricter guidelines and higher requirements for hiring teachers would also be needed as well as more advanced education. Since that won’t happen, it is either the parent’s job or, if society actually cares so much, society’s job to help when the parents can’t. That would mean a necessity for community service programs designed this way to take up the slack. It is one thing to talk about it and quite another to do it.

I agree with you. But, what happens to those children who do not have involved/interested/committed parents? Who teaches them about some of these basic hygene/sex related issues???

JND,
Outstanding point, you are absolutely right about that. I hadn’t looked at it from that angle. So, from that perspective, then I would agree with you, if the parents won’t do it then the schools would be better than TV, the internet, etc.

[quote]jnd wrote:

I agree with you. But, what happens to those children who do not have involved/interested/committed parents? Who teaches them about some of these basic hygene/sex related issues???[/quote]

That’s the big issue. There are a lot of worthless parents out there, and there are a lot of important issues that kids need to learn about.

And lot of you guys have said all this is a waste of school time, and that time should be spent on math and science. Well, from my experience, kids suck at math and science because they hate it or just don’t care. Putting more time into it won’t make a difference.