The Citizens For Responsible Curriculum (CRC) don’t like the newly proposed human sexuality curriculum for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, specifically as how it approaches sex education for eighth and tenth graders. The Washington Blade’s Joshua Lynsen reports that…
…Montgomery County Public Schools are poised to approve a gay-inclusive sex education curriculum.
Objection to the curriculum, especially regarding GLBT-related lesson plans in the curriculum, isn’t particularly surprising — this is the second go around for this curriculum fight. Montgomery County’s human sexuality curriculum includes material that many of the county’s parents could find objectionable. Per the CRC website, some of the objections include:
• Proactively teaches that the lifestyles of homosexuals, bisexuals and lesbians are to be embraced and celebrated:
– “Many people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender celebrate their self-discovery and feel relief and a new sense of joy when they can be honest with themselves and their loved ones”
• Half a lesson is dedicated to students to reading undocumented “personal” stories of students who discovered they were lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender. After reading the stories, students break up into groups to analyze the stories and answer detailed questions.
• Includes a new focus on the concept of transgender and sex change operations, while not informing students that all reputable medical organizations classify transgender persons as mentally ill.
A NARTH Connection To This Story.
Nonscientific terms like homophobia are used (actually are masqueraded as science). A phobia is a serious mental illness which requires psychological care. Homophobia is a social constructed (sic) term with no grounding in science. As a construct, homophobia may be used to describe fear or disapproval but it is also a politically correct term used for name-calling, to intimidate, to discourage dialogue. A better term to teach students is cultural humility — acceptance of people who are different without necessarily embracing their belief systems or lifestyle choices.
If homophobia didn’t already have dictionary definitions defining the term, perhaps he may have a point.
Dr. Byrd further in the letter also states:
There are two great dangers posed by these…health lesson plans. First and perhaps foremost is that the lessons encourage self-labeling. Research is very conclusive in this area: the risk of suicide decreases by 20% for each year that a young person delays homosexual or bisexual self-labeling (Remafidi et al, 1991). It’s prudent to encourage adolescents to avoid self-labeling and to postpone decisions about sexual identity during adolescence. The second major danger is the stark omission of health risks associated with homosexual practices, particularly during adolescence (American Journal of Public Health, June, 2003).
Schools should be safe places where respect for all people must be taught. Many students are victims of taunting and cruelty(this is not limited by any means to sexual orientation). Such acts should not be tolerated and problems should be compassionately addressed. However, premature foreclosure on sexual identity may encourage risky behaviors and place adolescents, many of whom already struggle with impulsiveness and self-restraint issues, at further risk for both physical and mental health problems such as sexually-transmitted diseases.
Rather than affirming teenagers as gay or bisexual through self-labeling, educators should affirm them as people worthy of respect and encourage them to wait until adulthood to make choices about their sexuality. Dr. George Rekers, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University Of South Carolina, summarized this point nicely: “No service is done to our children by offering them lifestyle options before they are properly able to make informed choices about them.”
Indeed both educators and parents should be concerned about health lesson plans that encourage premature self-labeling. The associated consequences should concern schools because of legal liability and parents because of potential harm.” (link, emphasis added)
Pierre J. Tremblay has a different take on why GLB youth commit suicide when they come out younger, and it’s not self-labeling. He states:
The 30 to 50 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents who attempt suicide are in a very low self-esteem category, and this is partly the result of feeling hated by almost everyone. The majority of youth have been taught to hate homosexuals and this hatred becomes self-hatred for about 60 to 80 percent of youngsters who are recognizing their homosexual natures. Because of this lethal socially created situation, some of these youth will kill themselves, thus accomplishing what murderers of gays and lesbians do in other ways.
Feeling hated at home, at school, and in society is certainly an extreme form of anomie’ Durkheim (1997) presented to be one of the three major causes for suicide … Homohating school environments are also, in great part, responsible for the high rates of declining academic achievement, truancy, and dropping out of school reported by researchers who have studied gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.
The bottom line for Tremblay is that concern doesn’t kill kids – lack of concern does. From Better dead than queer: Youth suicide and discrimination in a heterosexual world:
“Put [LGB] identity into the human potential, like it’s no big deal,” suggests Tremblay. This includes teaching it in sex-education classes in the same way that heterosexuality is taught, rather than discussing it as an alternative. Accurately representing LGB identity in popular culture is another way to normalize non-heterosexual orientations. “We need to make it a non-issue; let’s make it go away by simply being fair,” suggests [Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams, chair of the Department of Human Development at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York].
Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s and Dr. David Blakeslee’s Connection To This Story
NARTH’s website includes the article Psychologists Analyze Pro-Gay Curriculum Considered In Montgomery County, Maryland. The article references a paper submitted to the Montgomery County Public School Board of Education entitled Health Education as Social Advocacy: An Evaluation of the Proposed Montgomery County Public Schools Health Education Curriculum. The paper was authored by Warren Throckmorton, PhD, and David Blakeslee, PsyD. An except from the paper:
The curriculum could be more aptly titled: Presenting a Value Free, Essentialist Perspective on Human Sexuality. The key word here is perspective. If this material were presented as part of a debate class, or even as an article in the school newspaper it would be understood that it was just one point of view. When the MCPS unwittingly uses a biased approach to teach children about sexual behavior, children assume that this is scientific and balanced. Restricting children’s information to a biased point of view interferes with their full knowledge of what options are available to them in setting their life goals and managing their personal behavior to reach those goals. This seems completely contrary to the mission of the Montgomery County Public Schools.
It’s interesting to note that Dr. Throckmorton and Dr. David Blakeslee believe that a “value free” presentation would be biased. It would seem that changing the curriculum to reflect their’s and the CRC’s religious right Christian values would definitely add a strong viewpoint bias to the curriculum.
Essentialism is referenced (per Broido, E.M. (2000). Constructing identity: The nature and meaning of lesbian, gay and bisexual identities. In the Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Clients, Eds. Perex, R.M., DeBord, K.A. & Bieschke, K.J. p. 13-33. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) and defined as:
Fundamentally, essentialists believe that homosexuality and same-gender desire are the same thing and that homosexuality has existed, with fundamentally the same meaning, across many different cultures and historical eras, regardless of whether people defined themselves as homosexual.
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, stated in Radical Sex Education–Is Your School Next? (written with regards to the Throckmorton and Blakeslee paper):
…Blakeslee notes simply that “adolescents are not adults.” That brilliant observation seems to be missing among those leading the Montgomery County schools. Blakeslee and Throckmorton remind these educators that the adolescent mind “is undergoing a huge renovation.” In shifting from concrete thinking to more abstract forms of thought, “adolescents process their decision making in a highly emotional and impulsive manner.” The material in this curriculum–including the presentation of flavored condoms–will lead to high-risk sexual behavior. “While this is not news to anyone who has one or was one, adolescents are predisposed to think and act impulsively when contemplating sexual behavior because that emotionally-driven behavior easily overwhelms their compromised decision-making ability.”
…Blakeslee insists that “biology is not destiny.” As he explains, the Montgomery County curriculum “is permeated by a worldview which sees same sex attraction as determined by one’s biology.” As he knows, the “born-that-way” argument is employed by homosexual advocacy groups in order to present their arguments and shape public opinion. Nevertheless, “It is not a position supported by research into same sex attraction.”
A PFOX And Ex-Transgender Connection To This Story.
Perhaps a surprising element of the CRC objections is found in Rev. J. Grace Harley‘s advocating against the curriculum changes. She’s someone who identifies herself currently as ex-transgender — a former female-to-male transgender person.
Salon.com previously has profiled her in Getting Straight With God. How she identifies is confusing. Besides currently identifying as a “former transgender,” Harley alternately has described herself as “the manifestation of Christ Jesus’ truth on homosexuality (2 Corinthians 4:2) which describes same sex attraction disorder (S.S.A.D.D).” She…
… confesses that she is a former lesbian who dressed and lived as a man for 18 years. She registered as a man on a Maryland marriage application and wed another woman. At the time, the “J” in her name stood for Joe. When the marriage ended, it was “the worst day of my life,” she says. But it ended because of her own infidelity, fueled by what she describes as a voracious appetite for sex with other women. And a voracious appetite for cocaine.
Harley currently affiliates with PFOX, which has been passing out anti-gay handouts at Montgomery County Public Schools. In a talk before the Montgomery County Public School Board of Education, Harley stated
I speak today because I am concerned that your proposed lesson plans for students on sexual orientation do not include former homosexual or former transgenders like myself.
The lesson plans teach children about homosexuals bisexuals, lesbians, transgenders, coming out for gays, gender identity, homophobia, and intersexual (sic), but no ex-gays. Why is the ex-gay community being censored in the lesson plans when every other sexual orientation is discussed and supported?
It’s an interesting point that Harley, representing ex-gays / ex-trans people, considers ex-gay and ex-transgender sexual orientations. It’s also interesting that while PFOX, the CRC, and others are on one hand arguing against youth being taught about any sexual or gender identities, they want to get a second point across to dilute the message that youth can identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender by adding ex-gay and ex-transgender to the list of sexual orientations/gender identites.
There are probably a multitude of conclusions one can draw from this ongoing debate and battle over human sexuality curriculum for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools. I’m not going to try to identify all possible conclusions, but I’ll point out two.
– PFOX, NARTH, the CRC, religious right organizations, and doctors in both the medical and psychological communities who believe homosexuality is sin, have banded together to fight revamping Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools Human Sexuality Curriculum.
– This isn’t just a local fight. The people of PFOX, NARTH, the CRC, religious right organizations, and doctors in both the medical and psychological communities who believe homosexuality is sin who are fighting the changes in human sexuality curriculum aren’t all from Montgomery County, Maryland. Montgomery County Public Schools have become a national focal point for elements of the religious right fighting immoral concepts being taught in sex education curriculum. As Dr. Moher stated in the previously cited article:
Sex education in the public schools is a topic of continual controversy. The reason for this is straightforward. There is simply no way that materials related to a subject as sensitive as sexuality can be presented in a value-neutral context. After all, the real issue here is not biology and reproduction–it’s whether teenagers will be encouraged to have sex or will be challenged to practice sexual abstinence until marriage…
…The worldview behind the Montgomery County curriculum is clear. Teachers are to present various sexual lifestyles as equally valid and acceptable.
Dr. Pierre J. Tremblay’s vision of accurately representing LGB people in sex-education classes is being fought with a full court press. PFOX, NARTH, the CRC, religious right organizations, and doctors in both the medical and psychological communities who believe homosexuality is sin don’t want material on homosexuality taught the same way that heterosexuality is taught — they don’t even want to see it discussed as an alternative. Tremblay and others believe teaching homosexuality the same way that heterosexuality is taught will minimize LGB youth self-hatred and suicidality; but for reasons equated with morality, teaching homosexuality the same way that heterosexuality is taught is being fought against by those who believe all expressions of homosexuality are morally wrong.