Today's arts section of the New York Times contains an article (more of an opinion piece, really) entitled "The Plot Against Sex in America" (how's that for a provocative title?). The article discusses the decision by New York City's public broadcast television station not to run "Kinsey," a movie about zoologist Alfred Kinsey, who famously published on human sexuality in the 1940s and '50s. I'm not going to talk too much about the film, other than to say that candor about sexual practice is better than hypocrisy, even if the sexual practice we're talking about is blatantly immoral. Instead, I would like to focus on another point brought out in the article: The politics of education in general, and sexual education in particular.
Education is a problem. There are all sorts of disputes about it. Sex ed, evolution, using the Bible in the classroom. When I was a senior in high school, which was only two years ago, we read a few passages from the King James Bible in the course of a unit on Elizabethan literature and no one complained, as the King James Version represents the height of English Renaissance literature, rivaled only by Shakespeare. Despite the literary and historical signifcance of various versions of the Bible, even these purely scholastic uses are controversial in some locales.
I posted last month on the subject of education and made reference to evolution, so I'll ignore that one, but the point is, we have a problem, and the root of the problem is this: all education necessarily involves some degree of indoctrination. Period. There is no getting around it. The earlier education begins, the more indoctrination is involved, and the more there's just no avoiding it. So here's modern America, a pluralistic and, at present, deeply divided, society, and the government is dictating what children are indoctrinated with. "Wait a minute," you retort, "can't parents who don't like the system just decide to put their children in private schools, or home-school them?" And they can. But parent's don't have a choice about giving their money to finance the indoctrination of this country's next generation with views they don't necessarily agree with, and not every parent has the time to home-school or the money for a private school, particularly not after paying taxes greatly increased by the government providing "services" like public schooling.
Now to the specific topic of the article: Sex ed. There is a lot of disagreement right now over these courses. I can see the rationale behind both sides: On the one hand, having as much information as possible before making a decision about anything is good. On the other hand, "how-to" information about specific sexual acts is generally agreed to be inappropriate for public high schools (although I'm told that one lunatic-fringe gay advocacy group, I don't remember which one, did propose a curriculum that contained a lot of that sort of thing, but it wasn't adopted anywhere), and I definitely agree with that, mostly because I don't think students should be required to learn that sort of thing. Use of contraception is to some degree a "how-to" - how to have extramarital sex without experiencing the consequences. The article cites some disturbing research that I have seen before, indicating that while individuals who take "abstinence pledges" do, on average, have fewer sexual partners in their lifetime than the general public, they are almost as likely as anyone else to have sex before marriage and, what's more, they are so much less likely to use contraception that despite having fewer partners, waiting longer to have sex, etc. they have the same rate of STD contraction and pregnancy outside of marriage. Disturbing is an understatement. The article also claims that abstinence-only education is based on "fictions of junk science," apparently in reference to these statistics. This is ridiculous. No program works if it's not followed. Abstinence is the best way to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies - but only if you actually do it. That's sound science. But I don't know if logic or "sound science" has ever had a real place in politics. That would require political leaders or, in this case, a country's citizens, to act rationally. So much for that idea.
So what to do. No matter what is done under the current system, someone will be upset, because we live in a pluralistic culture and we have the federal government dictating exactly what is taught in the schools that everyone is required to pay for, whether they use them or not. There's only one solution: Get the government OUT! The government must NOT make decisions about what children are to be indoctrinated with. This is a violation of parents' rights. Obviously, a parent does not have the right to brainwash a child and deny him contact with the outside world, where he might hear opposing ideas, all the way up until he's 18, but parents do have a right to determine what their children will be taught in school, and not to pay for schools teaching as truth ideas they disagree with.Posted by Kenny at December 9, 2004 5:15 PM
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