I received a forwarded email ("do not share, do not post to social media, do not let this get into the wrong hands") last night full of talking points, misinformation, and lies that opponents of comprehensive sex education are using to ignite their base and mobilize protests against sex ed reform in Nebraska, an issue coming up for soon in our state unicameral. One quote reads:
"The proposed comprehensive sex education (CSE) curriculum is NOT pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-virtue or pro-child. On the contrary, CSE is pro-promiscuity, pro-condom, pro-abortion, pro-pornography and pro-LGBT lifestyle. CSE promotes all the negative consequences those attitudes cause.”
When opponents talk about sex education being “pro-pornography,” I think they’re really misplacing the blame for the thriving porn industry. Parents and educational institutions have historically been so afraid of discussing the experience of sex and facts about healthy relationships, and the result, throughout GENERATIONS, is that young people turn to porn (whether it’s your grandpa's Playboy or your son watching Brazzers on his iPod) and think that is the way to have sex. As technology has improved and access has increased, hardcore pornography has become the de facto sex education for an entire generation, distorting the way kids think about sex, consent, and healthy relationships. Opponents of sex education say that it should be up to the parents to teach their children about healthy sexual relationships, but even though parents have always been empowered with the control to lead those conversations, the facts shown through research say that parents just don’t, or they delay the conversation too long, and kids are left to their own devices to learn what they can, most of which is inaccurate.
This email from opponents of comprehensive sex education say they want “children and youth to be loved and educated as whole persons in body, mind, and spirit, esteemed toward self-control with natural values instruction.” How can we expect people to take responsibility or have self-control if they’re too ashamed to admit that they need help or are struggling with questions about sexuality, puberty, or relationships? What if they can't pray it away? Where do they turn? That's where our public education is failing them because of these broken polices.
We are human. We are imperfect, and we always have been—this isn’t a generational challenge. It is wrong to hold our children to higher standards than we ourselves can meet. A world where we expect abstinence until marriage, expect marriage until death, expect marital sex without contraception, and expect every pregnancy to be welcomed and wanted is a world that no person can succeed in. We just would not be able to manufacture Prozac fast enough.
We’ve already tried doing it the religious right’s way. Opponents of comprehensive sex education have already seen the consequences and ramifications of a world where kids are raised with abstinence education, with prejudice and bigotry against LGBT individuals, without access to contraceptives, and with expectations of body shame bordering on absurdity. This is the world we live in now, this is the world our parents and grandparents grew up in, and we can do better for our kids.
Comprehensive sex education is not about pornography, it’s not about replacing candy with condoms on the homecoming parade floats, it’s not about promiscuity. Passing this bill for comprehensive sex education will revise standards for sex education to include age-appropriate, medically-accurate education about biology, which is shockingly NOT currently mandated in 31 out of 50 state sex ed curricula. It will train educators to be able to speak about gender identity, consent, and human trafficking. The opposition wants schools to teach values, but only if they’re their values. However, that is not the role of a public school, and we have 50,000 children to keep safe, alive, and thriving. Research shows that medically and scientifically accurate sex education decreases the number of teen pregnancies, decreases the incidence of abortion, reduces incidence of STDs, and delays the average age when students begin engaging in sexual activity. So that’s where I feel like we can drop the mic.
I’m sitting here in the coffee shop this morning asking myself why I’m even writing this address to opponents of comprehensive sex education. I want to tell myself that comprehensive sex education will pass, of course it will, so why am I wasting my time on these discussions and arguments? Can’t I just stand before the room, point to the arguments made by the opposition, and go “no”? What else is there to say?
When reasonable people stay silent, when we don’t show up at town hall forums or city council meetings or write letters to the editor or call our representatives or vote or take the initiative and TALK to our kids about these things and BE their primary educators, kids are the ones who lose. I’m confident about sexuality as a parent, I’m comfortable talking to my kid about her body and my body and biology and relationships, I’m not afraid of those conversations. I can only imagine the motivation a parent must feel who is truly AFRAID of these things. And because of that, if you’re like me, you have an obligation and responsibility to match their motivation and join the conversation about how we can educate the next generation, to empower them with knowledge, so our kids won't be left behind making decisions that could impact their entire lives, based on inaccurate information.
I’m writing this to to call upon the majority of people who are reasonable, who support research- and science-based policies in education, but who lay low while scores of well-funded extremists show up to town halls and forums and roundtables and drown out the logic.
For those of you in my area locally, PLEASE plan to attend the Comprehensive Sexual Education Community Roundtable discussion on Tuesday October 20th at the TAC building on 32nd and Cuming in Omaha. The meeting starts at 6:30, but I would love to see supporters arrive before 6pm to be included in the discussion. Opponents of comprehensive sex education will be there in droves. They have done a lot of work to organize and ignite their community to come out and tell everyone how dangerous contraceptives are (pro-family), how we need to keep our hands off our no-no parts (pro-virtue), and how a wife’s duty is to provide sex to her husband (pro-marriage). What’s really pro-child is educating them, not scaring them. Come show up on the 20th and stand up for Nebraska’s kids.