19 October 2020

No Sex Education, Please, We're 'Murikan

And now a bit of election-season hostility to the endemic (and inherent) hypocrisy in some downballot matters…

Out here in the Pacific Northwet1 we have the dubious opportunity to vote on a purported "citizen initiative," Referendum 90. This is an "inverted" measure, compared to normal practice, and for that reason I expect considerable voter confusion and "misvoting." The state legislature voted to impose a uniform, down-to-elementary-school sex education program through the schools (Senate Bill 5395). (Total instruction time is totally inadequate, but that's for another time.) This almost immediately got opposition from the Usual Suspects. Referendum 90 is not a "vote yes to repeal" measure, as is by far the norm; it is a "vote yes to implement and no to repeal" measure, and for that reason alone it is less than intellectually honest.

In any event, the Usual Suspects have an entirely expected rallying cry: "Local control of schools." (Parents have the complete right to opt out of the entire program on its own terms when implemented.) I grew up around here; I know what that really means. Whether here or in the South, it means "keep our schools segregated." Whether here or anywhere else in the nation, it means "enforce politicoreligious orthodoxy and conformity." Whether here or anywhere else in the world, it means "limit education to what serves the current politicofinancial Powers That Be's immediate self-interest." In short, it's bigoted, antiintellectual, and dishonest.

So for that reason alone, I strongly recommend voting Yes on Proposition 90. But there's more, and a more subtle, reason to reject "local control" if it actually means "local control." That reason requires knowing just a little bit about what "sex education" actually looks like in that curriculum, and not kneejerking that "education about sex is necessarily bad." The proposed curriculum in Senate Bill 5395 will be based on medical and psychosocial knowledge — not on centuries-old too-often-unenforced doctrine.2 Further, it will be based on professional judgment… not that of elected local school-board members.3 And parents can still opt out… presuming that they don't care that their children end up, merely for want of information, like either Brock Turner or Chanel Miller. And no, I'm not proclaiming that providing the information — especially regarding concepts of consent — will prevent all sexual misconduct; but I think it's worth it to prevent at least some and provide sufficient knowledge to victims/survivors to seek assistance. It's pretty clear that Brock Turner's parents never provided him with that information.

We'll forget, for a moment — but only a moment — that the principals and backers of the so-called Parents for Safe Schools (the organization that put forth this dishonest piece of claptrap) have refused to state what should be taught instead, or the underlying basis. The organization implicitly demands educational silence. Rather like the silence socially expected from victims of sexual misconduct; and that parallel should make you very uncomfortable. It won't make them uncomfortable, though, because they've got centuries-old doctrine to uphold…

Okay, the moment is over. The other thing to remember about those who put Referendum 90 on the ballot (and deceptively put it in the negative, so that a "no vote" is actually against education) is that their rationale is almost entirely theocratic and similarly bigoted. I'm sure that there are a few individuals of good will out there who don't think SB 5395 is appropriate (I don't think it goes nearly far enough); the majority, however, are not in good will, but are instead attempting to promote religious conformity and orthodoxy through the public school system (instead of the county clerk's office).

  1. Remember, I grew up out here. I'm not unfamiliar with the political landscape; or its history; or the coded (often as overt as dogwhistled) platitudes used to justify certain… inequities. Especially those of Mr Antitax Initiative, his family, and his allies; but not only them, by any means.
  2. If you really, really need any proof that "centuries-old doctrine" is insufficient in this area, may I suggest that you consider clergy sexual misconduct with/against children and adults and how it relates to that "doctrine." And if you refuse to do so, I suggest an anatomically impossible act usually expressed with a wicked phoneme fricative (in American English anyway).
  3. It's not possible to express the depth of my contempt for elected school boards in less than five thousand words or so. My own childhood district — adjacent to Seattle — was notorious for things like school board members proposing censorship of library materials because those materials supposedly encouraged "disrespect for authority" (the irony that this particular board member obviously hadn't read Fahrenheit 451 — one of the works on her list — was obvious even to high-school students), and for siting a new school office purposely so that it would be within the adult-theatres-prohibited zone of the existing adult theater in town (n.b. the statement of facts in the related Supreme Court opinion is wrong, starting as it does about a decade late and focusing only on the constitutional basis of zoning and not the context). And that's before considering the quality of educational opportunities available…