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In a society that’s beginning to use the term “post-truth” to describe situations in which emotion has a stronger influence than truth in shaping public opinion, how do you distinguish truth from marketing ploys? When it’s time to raise your voice about a public policy that will affect your family, knowing the answer to this question is crucial.
Threatening Trends – Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Robin is a mother from California whose 9th grade daughter came home with disturbing reports about what was being covered in her sex ed class at school. Robin had signed consent forms for these classes in previous years for her sons, with the understanding that it would be abstinence-based. It had not been. This time around with her daughter in 2014-15, she inquired deeper. She learned that the course was taught by a representative from Planned Parenthood, and it was far from abstinence-based.
It was what’s known as “Comprehensive Sexuality Education.”
“They gave the kids a questionnaire about sex, Planned Parenthood, personal things,” Robin said, “and they couldn’t take it home.” Noting other objectionable things, and because she discovered discrepancies and information intentionally withheld from parent’s viewing on class content at the school, she was alarmed and didn’t sign the consent form. She pulled her daughter from the class and taught her using the standard state textbook, which she considered completely appropriate.
However, her daughter’s friends, her sons who had taken the class at the same school in previous years, and other parents of children at the school shared tales of what went on in these classrooms.
Activities included a race to put a condom on an object, and tossing around a stuffed vagina and answering a question if you caught it. One worksheet was a “genderbread man,” teaching that gender is fluid. “This tasty little guide is meant to be an appetizer for understanding. It’s OK if you’re hungry for more,” it read.
Some of the things students said were, “I just want to check…we’re supposed to wait to have sex until we’re older right? Because they’re acting like we should be doing it now,” and, “They mentioned abstinence, but made it sound uncool and unrealistic.” One presenter was quoted as saying that when a condom needs to be put on, girls should ask the guy if she can do it because, “we know how much they would like that.”
Another California mother, who asked to remain anonymous, heard a similar report from her 9th grade son. The class presenter had begun, “Raise your hand if you really think most kids in high school aren’t having sex.” She then continued, “When some kids have sex for the first time it will be heterosexual, but for others it will be homosexual, so everyone should be thinking about that.”
The mother pulled her son from the class, and worked to effect a change in the school, but to no avail. “The printed material of what would be covered in the class was mostly acceptable,” she said, “but the comments made by the instructor were absolutely not age-appropriate and were filled with degrading and humiliating content. In an effort to be funny and to “connect” with the kids, the presenter was inappropriate and immature.” District administration was supportive of Planned Parenthood, although not necessarily all aspects of what was happening in the classroom. While they assured parents that kids would never be bullied or teased for opting out, that wasn’t true for this family.
She reported that when she asked to see the curriculum binder the school was required to have available to parents, administration didn’t want to let her see it. She got a quick glance – and a few surreptitious photos of the lesson plans and handouts – before they told her she could have a good look at it in a few days. A week later, the lesson plans in the binder had been changed.
Another mother in the same school district, who also asked that her name not be used, confirmed that the school also gave her the runaround when she asked to view the curriculum being used. As she investigated what was going on, she came to realize that Planned Parenthood was using the classes to market its services. A student in her school reported, “When the instructor would ask us where we can get services for abortions, treatment for STDs, and supplies for sexual activity, each time she had us all chant “Planned Parenthood!”
“They teach the kids to hide it from their parents,” she said. Further research revealed disturbing backgrounds on the instructors who were teaching 9th grade students, including one who worked concurrently in an adult toy shop and another who self-described as a “pleasure activist.”
Another family’s experience in Nevada was different in tone, but the material presented to a 13-year-old was just as concerning. Nicole, a mother in Las Vegas, described how her son told her at the end of 8th grade that he had a learned “a lot of bad things” in his health class. He was required to know and write the definitions of different types of sex – oral, anal, etc. – and for different types of sexuality. They even taught different sexual positions.
Nicole’s son reported that in his case, his teacher had seemed very uncomfortable with what she was teaching, as though she was doing it because she had to, and just gave them the worksheets and told them to fill them in. No consent form had ever come home, and Nicole and her husband felt blindsided. Nicole’s husband is a school teacher, and “he was livid,” she said.
Comparable stories have come from other states, including Hawaii, where parents and students reported many similar stories, including one in which 7th graders were subjected to graphic discussions of various sexual activities.
Nowhere to Run and Hide – Time to Take a Stand
In the current moral and social climate, these stories may seem par for the course for states such as California, Hawaii and Nevada, which are considered politically liberal. But advocates for CSE are hard at work to spread their contagion as far as possible.
One of their current targets is Utah, and misinformation is the name of the game.
Enter House Bill 215 (HB 215), “Reproductive Health Education and Services Amendments.” This is the second attempt to implement CSE in Utah. Even though Utah boasts some of the best statistics in the nation for incidence of teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections (STI’s), advocates of the CSE approach feel the state’s abstinence-based programs are lacking and young people would benefit from more explicit instruction, along with easier access to contraception.
In 2015, Utah ranked 37th in the nation for HIV infection, 38th for syphilis, 44th for gonorrhea and 48th for chlamydia. The state boasts the 4th lowest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and the 13th lowest teen birth rate. Seventy-five percent of the births are to older teens, ages 18-19. The state’s abstinence-based programs are working from a statistical standpoint, and they protect young people from the degrading influence of programs such as those in California.
Advocates for CSE have been hard at work to build support for the bill, employing misinformation all along the way. A survey conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, and publicized widely by major Utah news outlets, found that two-thirds of Utah parents support comprehensive sex education.
But the survey offered a simple choice between comprehensive sex ed and abstinence-only. No definition of CSE was offered, and Utah’s current offering, abstinence-based sex ed, wasn’t even given as an option. Tellingly, Planned Parenthood was on hand to tout the results. Given the organization’s record in California, this should raise some alarm bells.
Although advocates use nice labels, such as “the healthy relationships bill” and “age-appropriate,” these terms mean different things to different people. Proponents of CSE use that to their advantage. If they stated, “It’s appropriate to encourage 14-year-olds to consider if they’re ready for sex,” their intent would be more clear and their approach hard to sell.
Truth vs. Marketing
How do we know that Utah’s bill would open the door for programs like the ones in California and Hawaii? After all, the bill includes multiple references to the role of parents and even requires that parents give their consent before a student may take a sex ed class. It’s sold as a way to help parents with a task that is often intimidating.
But a look at what else is in the bill provides the indications that it’s intent is to implement CSE in Utah. Where Utah law currently protects students, the bill proposes removing those protections. Current law provides for sex education in grades 8 through 12. The bill would change the starting point to 4th grade.
Read some of the sections of law that would be removed, along with the protection these sections provide for children. All removed parts of the law are in italics:
“[I]nstruction shall stress the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.
“At no time may instruction be provided, including responses to spontaneous questions raised by students, regarding any means or methods that facilitate or encourage the violation of any state or federal criminal law by a minor or an adult.”
Another section is even more indicative of typical CSE programs, removing the following italicized language which directs school boards in their selection of sex ed materials:
“The materials adopted by a local school board… shall be based upon recommendations…that comply with state law…emphasizing abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage, and prohibiting instruction in
-the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;
-the advocacy of homosexuality;
-the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices;
-or the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage…”
“In keeping with the requirements of [the law], and because school employees and volunteers serve as examples to their students, school employees or volunteers acting in their official capacities may not support or encourage criminal conduct by students, teachers, or volunteers. To ensure the effective performance of school personnel, [these] limitations…also apply to school employees or volunteers acting outside of their official capacities [in some specific cited instances.]
Neither the State Board of Education nor local school districts may allow training of school employees or volunteers that supports or encourages criminal conduct.”
“In accordance with the provisions of [the law], in-service training may not support or encourage criminal conduct.”
The proposed changes are marketed as being “comprehensive” and “scientific.” They mock “abstinence-based” programs in comparison with what they call “evidence-based” programs. These are loaded marketing terms. They leave a person to infer that Utah’s current approach is lacking and unscientific, and who wants that?
But the reality is that Utah’s current approach teaches the scientific fact that abstinence is the only 100% certain way to avoid pregnancy and STD’s, along with basic information about contraception. It protects children and young people from exposure to details about things they are not ready for, and families from the interference of an instructor promoting ideas inconsistent with their values. And it promotes strong families through advocacy for premarital restraint and fidelity in marriage.
Comprehensive sex ed is only comprehensive in it’s teaching of explicit sexuality, not in it’s presentation of facts which would keep children safe. HB 215 specifically removes lines of Utah rules which protect children from sexual abuse, pornographic materials, and explicit sexuality instruction. Ironically, the bill’s sponsor is promoting CSE as a remedy for porn because, he says, young people in the state go to porn to learn about sex, but this proposed sex ed program will help them get “healthy” information at school.
The Historical Picture – How did we get here?
It’s not exactly shocking that CSE is saturated with post-truths. It’s foundations were built upon the faulty research of Alfred Kinsey, a sexologist who used pedophile’s reports of sex with infants and children to sell the world on his ideology that children are sexual from birth. In the 1940’s, Kinsey used over $40,000 in grant money to create the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. Although his research has been completely discredited, his findings continue to influence public policy and educational curriculum today.
Another sex education crusader was Mary Calderone. “She insisted that there was too much focus on unwanted pregnancy and diseases and that the real problem was that society is puritanical and repressed. Calderone wanted to change the discussion from biological facts to an open celebration of sexuality without limits,” explains Miriam Grossman in ‘A Brief History of Sex Ed.’
In 1964, Calderone left her position as a medical director for Planned Parenthood and used Kinsey’s faulty research to found the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS.) Seed money for the organization was provided by Hugh Hefner, of Playboy fame. “In my own words, I played some significant part in changing the social-sexual values of our time,” Hefner said. “I had a lot of fun in the process.”
Today, SIECUS writes the guidelines for CSE programs. Then Planned Parenthood, in partnership with SIECUS, moves these programs into American classrooms.
Discern Truth and Heed the Call to Act
BYU President Kevin J. Worthen delivered a speech on January 10, 2017, entitled “The Pursuit of All Truth.” In it, he discussed the concept of post-truth, and included the following counsel:
“While there are many causes for political polarization and crises of faith, one common feature is that they are often a partial result of living in a post-truth world in which truth seems so difficult to discern that many may wonder whether it is worth the effort—or even possible at all.
My message to you today is that truth does exist, it does matter, and it can be discerned.”
In no case is this more true than in the case of our stewardship for our children. Is what is popular really best for their healthy development and eternal welfare? Do we quietly go along with worldly trends, hoping our children will weather it without negative consequence? The pressures to “get with the times” and accept brand new ideas about what is appropriate in regard to human sexuality are significant. As David Stone described in Zion in the Midst of Babylon, “All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is ‘cool.’”
Going with the flow of the world around us has never been a safe course for parents, but the need to stand for something and confidently buck worldly trends as we guide our children in the ways of righteousness has grown to an imperative.
Children deserve to enjoy the innocence natural to their state when those entrusted with their care protect them as they should. Young people deserve to be treated not as animals that need to indulge their every urge, but respected as human souls with the ability to make wise life decisions under the straightforward guidance and encouragement of supportive adults. In the matter of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, wisdom advises that we arm ourselves with truth so we can discern the marketing ploys for what they are, and speak up for our children.
Call To Action:
Utah’s HB 215 will be heard in the Education Committee today, February 6, 2017, at 3:40 p.m. If you live in Utah:
- Contact the members of the Education Committee with a quick email or text message and let them know how you feel about this bill. Contact information is here: https://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?Year=2017&Com=HSTEDU
- Contact your own state representative and senator with a quick email or text message and let them know how you feel about this bill. In the subject line write that you are a constituent. Find your local legislator here: https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp
- Attend the hearing at the Capitol in Room 30 of the House Building, which is the east building on the north side of the Capitol.
JHFebruary 10, 2017
Mormons don't need to fear CSE in schools. This article is full of fear tactics, propaganda, and bad research. Programs that teach young people about both abstinence AND contraception and STD prevention are more effective than abstinence only. Communities where education and contraception are readily available have fewer instances of unwanted pregnancy, STD's and a lower abortion rate. Abstinence-only programs do not delay sexual activity among teens. It's time to get real about what strategies actually protect our children.
E.B.February 8, 2017
I was blessed to have taken an excellent - not abstinence focused but also not comprehensive - sex education class in the 9th grade and as an adult I have studied one of the best comprehensive sexuality courses (which was created by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists). These courses respect children's abilities to understand their own amazing bodies and their responsibility to take excellent care of them. A good sex ed course finds ways to open up the conversation between parents and kids - mine created a dialogue between myself and my father that is still going 30 years later - and encourages kids not to just follow the crowd - to learn how to say no to a partner but also to understand the right ways to say yes. They do not ENCOURAGE sexuality, they empower kids to make good choices for themselves - both before and after they are married. The descriptions given here are far removed from the reality of most of these programs. I finished my sex ed course a more knowledgable, strong, confident and capable human being - and I stayed a virgin until I got married at 32.