Americans agree on God, country and sex ed

Nine out of 10 Americans agree on a few things, according to pollsters, reports AP.  Nearly all believe in God, country and teaching sex education in public schools. More than 90 percent:

—admire those who get rich by working hard.

—think society should ensure everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.

—think it’s important to get more than a high school education.

Americans also believe it’s their duty to always vote, though voter turnout doesn’t reflect that.

U.S. rule makes every student a sex harasser

John asks Mary for a date. She says no. The request was unwelcome, so he’s a sexual harasser. Professor Smith discusses the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex, making one of his 500 students uncomfortable. He’s a sexual harasser. Just about everyone on campus is guilty of sexual harassment under rules set out May 9 by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, charges the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The University of Montana’s mishandling of sexual assault charges – assault, not jokes — triggered a Letter of Findings and Resolution Agreement intended to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.”  The DOJ and DOE declared that sexual harassment should be defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (speech).

It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.

Without a “reasonable person” standard, anyone can silence anyone else by claiming to be offended. FIRE lists some “forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government.”

 Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.

Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.

Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.

Colleges and university that take federal funds — nearly all of them — must try to enforce the rule. ”The federal government has put colleges and universities in an impossible position with this mandate,” said FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff. “The DOJ and DOE have doomed American campuses to years of confusion and expensive lawsuits.” And the federal letter misquoted a Supreme Court opinion to mandate an unconstitutional rule, he added.

Punishment may be required before a disciplinary hearing, writes Hans Bader, citing the letter of findings.

a university must take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment prior to the completion of the Title IX and Title IV investigation/resolution. Appropriate steps may include separating the accused harasser and the complainant, providing counseling for the complainant and/or harasser, and/or taking disciplinary action against the harasser.

It appears that zero tolerance extends from sexual speech and dating requests to speech about the transgendered, writes Bader. “Gender-based harassment” is defined as “non-sexual harassment of a person because of the person’s sex and/or gender, including, but not limited to, harassment based on the person’s nonconformity with gender stereotypes.”

In a 2001 case, Saxe v. State College Area School District, an evangelical Christian successfully challenged a harassment policy that “forbade certain criticisms of homosexuality,” Bader writes.

If Saxe is kaput, any discussion of homosexuality could be banned. Mary speaks up for gay rights. John says her speech is unwelcome, gender-based verbal conduct that he finds offensive. He doesn’t have to be a “reasonable person” to make her guilty of harassment. Of course, she’s offended by the fact that he’s offended, so he’s a sexual harasser once again.

Update: Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, has more on federally mandated speech codes.

Online ed works—for sex, alcohol, and health

All-online courses have low success rates, note the Hechinger Report. But computer-based instruction can be more effective than classroom teaching for sex, drugs, and health issues, “subjects in which privacy, personal comfort and customized information are especially important, and embarrassment or cultural taboos can get in the way of classroom teaching.”

Simple video- and animation-based interactive courses in these disciplines turn out to be good ways of teaching subjects you may have giggled through in health class.

. . . “We’re seeing significant and large effects on attitudes, knowledge, and also behaviors” from online courses in nontraditional subjects, says Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who coauthored one study of the subject.

Colombian students who took an 11-week online course in safer sex knew more about safer sex — and practiced what they knew — compared to students who took a conventional health class.

For every 68 students who took the online course instead of the traditional course, researchers estimated by reviewing students’ medical records and comparing them to those of peers who didn’t take the course, up to two sexually transmitted infections were prevented.

Students — and teachers — often feel embarrassed to talk about sex in conventional classrooms, the researchers found.

Years ago, I looked into how contraception was taught in San Jose high schools. One teacher told me sex ed was lumped in with drivers’ ed, anti-drug ed, career awareness, etc. He left sex ed till the end of the school year in hopes he’d run out of time and not have to teach it.

Abstinence ed is now ‘risk avoidance’

Abstinence-only sex education has been rebranded as “risk avoidance” sex ed, writes Ed Week‘s Ross Brenneman.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) wants to increase grants for risk avoidance ed in response to a Centers for Disease Control report that says young people ages 15 to 24 are responsible for half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-education groups claim “risk avoidance abstinence education” is more effective than comprehensive sex education.

Tennessee: ‘No holding hands’ in sex ed class

“Spurred by a classroom demonstration involving a sex toy,” Tennessee has barred teachers from promoting “gateway sexual activity,” reports CBS News. Critics call it the “no holding-hands bill.

Tennessee’s teen pregnancy rate “has dropped steadily since the first abstinence-focused sex education curriculum was put in place in the 1990s,” but remains one of the highest in the nation.

Utah governor vetoes sex ed ban

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill that would have banned discussion of contraception in sex ed classes. A Republican in a very conservative state, Herbert gave the veto a parent control spin.

. . .  Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.

“If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children,” he said.

Currently, schools can teach “abstinence plus” sex ed, with parents’ consent, or abstinence-only.

. . .  Utah teachers may describe different types of contraceptives, how they work (such as by preventing transfer of bodily fluids) and their success and failure rates, though they may not advocate their use or explain to students how to use them.

The bill also would have barred instruction on homosexuality or other types of human sexuality.

Why sex ed doesn’t work

Mandatory sex ed is returning to New York City public schools.

For the first time in nearly two decades, students in New York City’s public middle and high schools will be required to take sex-education classes beginning this school year, using a curriculum that includes lessons on how to use a condom and the appropriate age for sexual activity.

Trying to prevent teen pregnancy is part of the mayor’s campaign to improve the life prospects of young black and Latino males — and their girlfriends, in this case.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is skeptical.

. . . teenagers have sex and get pregnant not because they don’t understand how not to get pregnant (which, let’s face it, is not rocket science) but because they want babies. Teenagers (and many adults) think babies will provide unconditional love. And the longterm responsibilities involved are not fully grasped.

Sex education — abstinence only or condoms-on-bananas — has a poor record of success. Years ago, a Rand report described the most effective contraceptive for black girls: realistic college plans.

 

Sex ed in Montana

Sex education in kindergarten? Some Helena, Montana parents are opposing a K-12 health curriculum are upset about a proposed sex education curriculum.

The proposed curriculum (pdf) calls for teaching words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, nipples and testicles, to kindergartners. First graders would learn to “understand human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender.” Fifth-graders would learn that sexual intercourse “includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration,” reports CNN.

Forget Sex Ed, Teach Math and Science, writes Scott Gulbransen on Technorati Politics.

Parents have the responsibility to teach younger kids age-appropriate information about the birds and the bees. When Johnny can’t read why does he need to learn about anal sex?

Public education in the United States needs to focus its attention on teaching the kids the fundamentals they need to succeed in a changing world. They need to learn computer science, physics, biology, English and geography.

Leave parenting to the parents.

Gulbransen left out reading. Teach ‘em to read and they can read dirty books to find out about different methods of penetration.

Kids delay sex after abstinence classes

Abstinence-only classes delayed sex for black sixth and seventh graders, concludes a new study.  Previous research has found no effects for abstinence education and the Obama administration plans to defund current abstinence education programs.

“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”

Roughly a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex in the next two years, compared with half who were randomly assigned instead to classes teaching safer sex or general health information. For those who got the gold standard of sex education — comprehensive instruction on both abstinence and safer sex –  about 42 percent began having sex in the following two years.

“None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use,” an editorial in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine added.

The abstinence program did not take a moralistic tone or tell children not to have sex before marriage. It did not disparage condom use.

Instead, it involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age, including having them list the pros and cons themselves. Their “cons” far outnumbered the “pros.”

“The message was not mixed with any other messages,” said Jemmott.

Virginity pledgers end up in bed

Teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are as likely to have premarital sex as similar teens who don’t take the pledge, a new study concludes.  However, the pledgers “are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control” when they have sex.

Researcher Janet Rosenbaum studied teens from 1996 to 2001, comparing pledgers and non-pledgers with similar characteristics on  100 variables, “including their attitudes and their parents’ attitudes about sex and their perception of their friends’ attitudes about sex and birth control.”

“This study came about because somebody who decides to take a virginity pledge tends to be different from the average American teenager. The pledgers tend to be more religious. They tend to be more conservative. They tend to be less positive about sex. There are some striking differences,” Rosenbaum said. “So comparing pledgers to all non-pledgers doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

By 2001,  there was no significant difference in the sexual behavior of those who’d pledged virginity and those who’d abstained from promises.