Saturday, March 10, 2012

H.B. 363

Utah lawmakers recently passed what is being called an "abstinence only" sex education bill.  You can read it here.

A childhood friend of mine recently posted about it on facebook.  At first I hesitated to comment on his post, but finally I jumped in because I feel it's an important issue and I strongly disagree with his premise.

As a result, I may have lost a friend, though that was not my intention.

I want to share here our conversation, transcribed verbatim, but with names changed, in order to make my case to the wider world.

Governor Gary Herbert will soon decide whether to veto this bill, which I sincerely hope he does though I also highly doubt he will.  Here's why I think it's a terrible piece of legislation.

I'll call my friend Nephi, and me Me.

Nephi's original status update:

I support HB363 and encourage you to also. It is the parent's responsibity to talk to their children about contraception, not the State's responsibility. Some argue that teens will not talk to their parents or ask them questions about the subject; therefore, the State should. The logic is flawed. They should argue for the State offering courses or training for parents/guardians who don't know how to talk to their children about contraception. However, that is not their goal. Do not be confused by the rhetoric! Parents have the responsibility, the right, and priviledge to educate their children on extremely sensitive moral matters, not the State.


Response from Jennifer: 


As a Mother of teenagers I agree and disagree. I know what it is like to experience 1st hand having a teenager NOT wanting to discuss the issue with either parent, reason for feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, etc...not because she couldn't come to us or because we didn't go to her but she would of rather hear it from teachers or peers or even her Doctor compared to talking with us. Now on the other hand our teenage son has no problem coming to us with questions ( mainly his step-dad) but he also is learning in school. We as his parents got the exact same workbook that he did so we could follow along with him and know exactly what is being taught. Here in PA it is not like Utah was when I was in school, sex education is an 8 week course and there is a permission slip....the one thing that I disagree with on his workbook in which he will not be a part of is when they talk about same sex attraction and that it is OK. That feeds into their minds way too much and is immoral to be teaching in public school no matter how different the world is today or how liberal. I am thankful as parents we were able to see the material BEFORE allowing him to participate.
It is somewhat of a catch 22 some children will seek out their parents and some won't. Some parents are more than willing and comfortable to dicuss this with their children and some aren't. So either way I would hope that the education would come from somewhere if not at home....and correct education at that.



Nephi:

Young people do need to be educated. I think if my own children were not comfortable talking to me, I wouldn't default to the State or other representatives to teach them about sensitive moral issues. I would still want to direct them to someone that I choose, someone that holds the same values, not a State representative. Even with your points you make, I still see this as a parent's choice, not the State. The State can teach them how the human reproductive system works, the dangers of STDs, and then say, "Talk to your parents, or another trusted adult on matters of birth control."


Dingleberry McNuggetbottom:


You fool. What makes you think you know what is best for your family? These are professional educators you know. Especially those that lobby for the UEA.


Jennifer:


Dingleberry McNuggetbottom you made me laugh. All I have to say is good luck in what you want to have happen & what will really happen. It's a tough subject no matter what and every parent is different, I know I never would of gone to my own parents about any of this. Just thankful that at least one of my children has no problem coming to us...it's almost like an issue of taking prayer out of school and the pledge.


Nephi:


Let the Utah House of Representatives know that you support parent's rights by supporting HB 363. Do not defer your privilege as a parent to the State. Let them know!
http://www.le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Me:

Nephi, parents have always had the privilege of teaching their children about sex and they always will. They have also had the privilege in this state, of opting out of public sex-ed. Historically, only 10% have opted their kids out. Your rhetoric implies that the state is trying to take something away from parents, when in fact what this legislation takes away is something 90% of parents have gladly accepted. You are warning people not to be confused by the rhetoric, but your rhetoric is itself confusing.


The real issue at hand is republican lawmakers fear of being replaced by ever more conservative tea-party legislators trying to bolster their street-cred in a race to the right.



Nephi:



David, I would agree with you if I had not attended the conferences and met so many of these professional educators. They have an agenda that doesn't correspond with my values nor with my definition of a just society.


Jennifer:


Hey now Kate is a "professional educator" LOL just imagine what its like living outside of the Utah box. I mean really teaching 7th graders that same sex attraction is OK and perfectly natural if you feel that way. Ugh! Don't think so!!!



Nephi:




The issue is what I have stated, parents should not defer to the State to teach their children about extremely sensitive moral issues. Teach them how the human reproductive system works and let the parent guide from there.



Jennifer:


Wait a just society? When you find one let me know :D


Question? Did your patents sit down and talk with you? Curious. And you know nothing I say is in malice towards you or your thoughts, we go eons back.


Me:


So don't defer to the state. Opt your kids out. Problem solved. Where is the justification for new legislation?



Nephi:




I guess I'm viewing this from more macromoral lenses than myopic preferences.



Me:

I'm not sure if you're insinuating that I am myopic or not there Nephi, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt since I know and admire you. But it's very clear from your original posts that you feel a parents right to educate their children about sex is somehow in jeopardy. My point is that you are wrong about that. There is no legislation either on the books or under discussion that would in any way infringe on your rights as a parent. If that's what you're really concerned about, don't worry, because it isn't happening. If on the other hand your real contention is something else, you should say what it really is make your argument based on that rationale-- whatever it may be. Throwing out a fear-based facebook firebomb that isn't remotely factual is not productive political discourse.

Nephi:

I say myopic preferences in general, not as an attack on you.

Dave,
I think you have misunderstood my argument. First of all, I am not referring to a parents right to decide IF their child should participate in sex education. As you have stated, that is a mute point. Further, I am not referring to merely an issue of contraception. I don't see this so much as about narrow minded views from either side of the issue of contraception. This is about whether you feel it is okay for the State to educate your children on extremely sensitive moral issues which traditionally remained within a parent's realm. What other sensitive moral issues would you defer to the State to educate your children on?

One of the assumptions of my argument is that you can teach how the human reproductive system works without making the instruction a moral issue.

Me:

Sounds like what it's really about for you then, isn't whether I feel that the state should teach MY kids about sex, but whether YOU feel the state should teach MY kids about sex.

Nephi:

Your missing the point.

Me:

What is the point? First you aver that I should stand up in defense of parental rights that aren't in question. Second, you reiterate your first point. Third? What is your real contention?

The fact is, there are unfortunately lots of kids who are going to have sex, even here in Utah. Many of those kids are not going to go to their parents with questions, and many parents are not equipped to answer those questions. I would rather they had an educator to turn to for information, than leave them to their own devices. Any kid can get all sorts of information about sex from google, and you can bet they'll go there for it. In an ideal world it would be parents that did all the teaching. But we don't live in that world and there are kids that need help. If this bill passes, it will be illegal for a teacher to answer a sexually active teens questions about how to avoid pregnancy other than to say "stop having sex." A teen with a disease won't be able to ask a trusted teacher for help, it would be against the law for a teacher to even discuss it.

Legislating ignorance will not make the problem go away.

Nephi:

Deferred morality is ignorance.

Overall, I would caution you to be careful not to legislate away your parental rights to the State.

Me:

Again, nobody is deferring anything. I wish you would just make your case. For all I know I may agree with you. But you haven't made an argument. I'm left to assume here. I assume you feel that if the state teaches sex-ed they will teach something that goes against your morals. Maybe you fear they will teach kids about homosexuality or abortion, I don't know. And maybe they would. And maybe I wouldn't like that either. But you haven't made that case. The only case you have made is that parents should be afraid of losing their rights to teach their kids, and that somehow if something is taught in schools, something you or I or anyone has the freedom to opt out of, that somehow it still is deferring the teaching of morality to the state, which is simply not the case.

Your caution is appreciated but it is moot Dan. You agreed that it was a moot point when you said, " I am not referring to a parents right to decide IF their child should participate in sex education." My rights as a parent will not change one bit whether this legislation passes or not. It's a laughable assertion. What your argument then becomes is not one of keeping the State out of my rights as a parent, but one in favor of the State deciding whether my child should have access to sex-education. In other words, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth. You say I should be afraid of the State taking over, and the solution? The State should take over.

Nephi:

Maybe I have been too abstract. Here is the curriculum I support: "Here's how the human reproductive system works. If you want to know about contraception, ask your parents."

Me:

Ok. Knowing that you have a right as a parent to opt out anyway, you are making this argument based on larger "macromoral" lenses. You believe that it is immoral for contraception to be taught in schools for everyone. Now we're getting somewhere. So let's just dispense with the "State is usurping parents rights" argument right there, it's a red herring. Let's assume this law passes and it becomes unlawful for any teacher, staff member or volunteer in any public or charter school in the state of Utah to even so much as admit that contraceptives exist: What do you expect the net result to be? Will it further your goals or be congruent with your moral compass? Will fewer teenagers have sex? Will teens all just go ask their white moms and dads about sex during family council in their upper-middle-class homes? I doubt it. Will fewer teens use contraceptives? Most likely. If fewer sexually active teens use contraceptives what will then be the result? Is it moral according to your conscience for more teenagers to be pregnant or infected? Is that the recipe for a better society? Will that build up the kingdom of God?

Nephi:

Must... stop... facebook... argument... So... hard... not... to... respond... to... fallacies...

Me:

Nice rebuttal. I'm not trying to argue with you. I only wanted to reason with you. The fact that I disagree with you in no way diminishes my esteem for you or my love and appreciation for your friendship all these years. I haven't meant any insult in this discussion.

When you posted your first comment, I felt it was important to call you out on it because the position you took there is indefensible. I hope we've finally gotten to the heart of the matter. If so, then we simply disagree about what a moral society looks like.

I am trying to be the kind of parent my kids will talk to about anything. I am also trying to teach them to make wise choices, including abstinence before marriage. I recognize that they have moral agency, and at some point in their lives they will probably make critical decisions that I will disagree with. I hope these decisions involve which brands of cars they buy, or whether to become vegans. I allow however, that no matter how good of parents my wife and I may be, there is an outside chance one of our kids will have premarital sex. And no matter how much I insist that I will love and support them and they can talk to me about anything, I probably won't be at the top of their list of people to talk to about it-- I know that. I hope they have a trusted adult they aren't afraid of to give them advice--good or even not so good-- because if I have succeeded at teaching them anything they will be able to winnow truth from error and though they may stumble they will turn out all right. This law has very little to do with these ideals except for that it precludes my hypothetically screwed-up kid from talking to a teacher. But that doesn't matter because this legislation isn't really designed to do anything of any material significance other than bolster our republican representatives chances for re-election in an environment where the tea-party, republican/libertarian/mutant/hybrids that they are, has hijacked all moderation in an insane race to the right that has taken them right off the edge. And it appears that you have bought a ticket to watch.

1 comment:

Azúcar said...

Ugh, I SO AGREE WITH YOU, D.