Friday, July 16, 2010

Sensationalism 101

In Helena Montana, a committee of school administrators, teachers, and parents have put together a comprehensive health education curriculum, including sex ed, based on local practices and national guidelines. The plan would gradually introduce students to concepts, starting in K-1 with basic vocabulary such as using the correct name for your body parts (no wee-wees and hoo-hahs) as well as the concept that you could love someone of the same or opposite gender, and moving on to eventually discussing such things as the social and political aspects of LGBT relationships once the kids are in high school. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

But OMG this is soooo upsetting!!! To all the parents of Helena!!! The school district is proposing to teach comprehensive sex ed in Kindergarten, you guys!!! If you only read the headlines, that is. A Google news search:

Montana's school board battles morals in education
Proposed K-12 Sex Ed Program Shocking and Outraging Parents
Sex Ed in Kindergarten?
Montana School System Wants Sex Education for Kindergarten
Grade 1 Student to Learn about Gay Relationships in Montana Sex-Ed ...
Children Exposed to Montana Sex-Ed for Kindergartners Will 'Suffer in Countless Ways'
Proposed K-12 Sex Ed Program Shocking and Outraging Parents
Sex Education Debate Sparks Outrage
Helena, Mont., Mulls Kindergarten Sex Ed

What's the reality of the situation? A few parents are upset, because they object to any sex ed, or any sex ed that's not abstinence-only, or any mention of homosexuality, period. And this fringe group is to be expected. But that's OK because any parent can choose to opt their kid out of health education. But in fact, the majority of the parents in Helena are just fine with the proposed curriculum. And notice that the local paper has taken a calm tone and an even-handed approach to the topic. No shocking headlines, no inflammatory rhetoric. It's almost like they skipped the Shocking, Inaccurate, and Sensationalist Headline Writing 101 course back in Journalism school. How refreshing.


  1. Anonymous7/16/2010

    I clicked over and read the curriculum's guidelines on sexuality and thought they looked really good. I like that in the high school section there's a lot of focus on what counts as sexual assault, consent, etc. as well as a separate section on sexual coercion within a relationship. That's a really nice touch that I wouldn't have expected.

  2. Wait, do first graders not already know this stuff?

  3. Sara,

    That's what I said too! But I was informed that many first graders don't know this stuff because they haven't been allowed to watch any TV or interact with the world outside their church or family group much.

  4. happyfeminist7/16/2010

    I thought the curriculum looked good too. It does the "all drugs are bad" thing, but other than that it seemed really well-balanced and comprehensive.

  5. cheesecakelover7/16/2010

    Ditto on the curriculum. I like how it matter-of-factly states that sexual orientation is one facet of your personality and leaves it at that.

  6. Anonymous7/16/2010

    I've always wondered if the conventional wisdom that you have to make up inaccurate and sensationalist headlines in order to get people to read is really true. It's kind of insulting.

  7. Anonymous7/20/2010

    I wonder if this kind of curriculum is going to become more common? That would be great.