Not Teaching Something is NOT Teaching

This is interesting:

California’s sex-education law prohibits school districts from indoctrinating students on the need to remain celibate before marriage or teaching them that abstinence is the only safe way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, a judge has ruled.

The decision by Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black applies only to the 40,000-student Clovis Unified School District. But as the first ruling to interpret California’s 11-year-old law on sex education and disease prevention, it should put schools on notice that “young people need complete, accurate health information required by law,” said Phyllida Burlingame, director of Reproductive Justice Policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, which took part in the suit.

“This is the first time that abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula have been found to be medically inaccurate,” Burlingame said Monday.

The state law requires school districts to make their sex-education programs “age-appropriate” and directs them to teach students, starting in the seventh grade, that abstinence from sex is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But it also requires districts to provide “medically accurate information” on other methods, including all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

I’m shocked by the ruling because it is so simple and obvious but it never even occurred to me. I mean, obviously, I knew abstinence only was not teaching kids sex ed, but I never had it framed this way in my mind in that if you are mandated to teach sex ed, you have to teach sex ed. This is functionally equivalent to a state mandate to teach math, and the way the teachers teach algebra is to say “Don’t do algebra.”

At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the God Botherers react to this one.






72 replies
  1. 1
    rea says:

    As Lindsey Graham has pointed out, al-gebra is Islamic, and therefore evil.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/l.....le-east-al

  2. 2
    low-tech cyclist says:

    I fully expect that there’s a lot going on in an “abstinence-only curriculum” that is scientifically and medically inaccurate.

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant? AFAIK, every means of birth control has some failure rate, however small. Seems that school districts could have teachers note that fact in passing, then get on with providing accurate information on methods of birth control that you’d want to use if you’re having sex.

    (If we include pubic lice as a STD, then abstinence from every kind of intercourse isn’t even a sure-fire way to prevent STD transmission, so that part’s medically inaccurate.)

  3. 3

    @rea: Most high school students seem to have taken Graham seriously, since their Algebra skills suck. Its pretty frustrating to see even some engineering students try to do algebra with a calculator.

  4. 4
    piratedan says:

    @low-tech cyclist: well it’s commonplace knowledge that the abstinence only method didn’t work for this girl Mary and she was even married, so go figure….

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    And if you try teaching them logic… Heaven only knows where that could lead.

  6. 6

    @low-tech cyclist:

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    Only if you narrowly define abstinence as refraining from vaginal intercourse. There’s plenty else to cover in a sex education course beyond that.

  7. 7

    At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the God Botherers react to this one.

    Meh, it’s California. We’re already a lost cause with accepting the gays and ‘soshalism’ and all. They’re just sitting over in Arizona, Texas, and Utah waiting like Jonah for the fire and brimstone to start falling.

  8. 8
    NonyNony says:

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    Yes. Note that in the quoted bit:

    The state law requires school districts to make their sex-education programs “age-appropriate” and directs them to teach students, starting in the seventh grade, that abstinence from sex is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But it also requires districts to provide “medically accurate information” on other methods, including all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

    The law requires that you teach that abstinence is 100% effective and is the only form of birth control that is 100% effective. It then also requires that you inform students of the other methods along with their failure rates accurately. It’s a good law – if condoms have a 2-15% failure rate (depending on if they’re used properly or improperly), well, you should teach that! It might also be a good idea to throw some prob & stats in there so that students understand what a 15% failure rate might actually mean, what a 2% failure rate means, and why they should be making sure they’re using the condom properly.

  9. 9
    BGinCHI says:

    I’m pretty sure one of the reasons the religious right doesn’t teach Sex Ed is that they don’t know anything about the subject.

  10. 10
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @NonyNony: And they don’t get to just cite the higher contraceptive failure rates that include improper use while still claiming abstinence is 100% effective. Most of the failure rate of the pill has to do with not actually taking the pill, which seems to me to be pretty much analogous with not actually abstaining.

  11. 11
    BGinCHI says:

    @rea: Thank Allah this doesn’t apply to al-cohol.

  12. 12
    shell says:

    Well, sure, abstinance is the only 100% way to be sure you won’t get pregnant. Just like the only 100% way to be sure you’ll never get in a car accident is to never get in a car.

    Neither not very practical. Unless you’re Amish

  13. 13
    Amir Khalid says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    Abstinence has a 100% success rate in preventing pregnancy and disease only if your willpower NEVER EVER fails.

  14. 14
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @shell: Plenty of Amish ride in cars, driven by their “English” friends and neighbors. They just don’t drive them.

  15. 15
    Amir Khalid says:

    @BGinCHI:
    I must point out that it does apply to alcohol, which is haram.

  16. 16
    lol says:

    @rea:

    I understand many countries in the Middle East have been having problems with an organization calling itself Al-Welayaat Al-Muttahedah that seems to be primarily made up of foreign combatants.

  17. 17
    Michael G says:

    @rea: So much for his al-Jewish cabinet.

  18. 18
    aimai says:

    @low-tech cyclist: Sex education is not about how not to get pregnant. Whether abstinence works, or doesn’t work, to prevent pregnancy is irrelevant to a proper sex education course. Sex education is hygiene and ethics for people who are intending to have a sex life before, during, after, or outside of marriage. Those people may or may not intend to get pregnant, or may wish to time their pregnancies. They still require accurate information on sex, sexuality, reproduction, and methods and goals of different kinds of sexual connections throughout their lives. The entire marketing of sex ed for children/students as all about and only for pregnancy prevention is, itself, absurd. Sex Education, like growth education curricula, is an owner’s manual approach to the human body. It shouldn’t be taught by or for hysterical sex-phobes and their anti sex crusade. Pregnancy is not a punishment for sexual activity and sex ed should not be taught as if it were.

  19. 19
    Belafon says:

    Don’t do algebra, but if you have to, do it this way.

    I know a lot of adults that stop before the first comma.

  20. 20
    Michael G says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    There’s always gay sex, too. Weirdly nobody seems to ever suggest that as the basis for a sex education program.

  21. 21
    Cervantes says:

    @NonyNony:I can think of a few ways to have sex that have a zero percent chance of resulting in pregnancy, actually.

    Also, by the way, if you teach kids not to do algebra, it will work quite well for most of them. Teaching them not to have sex is another matter altogether, so not a very good analogy.

  22. 22
    Pogonip says:

    @Amir Khalid: If your willpower fails it’s no longer abstinence. And more than likely when kids are off by themselves their willpower will fail, especially when there is such tremendous social pressure on them to Do It. I would not be surprised if a lot of kids would be secretly relieved to be chaperoned.

  23. 23
    Belafon says:

    @Amir Khalid: Except there was this one case, about 2018 years ago…

  24. 24
    Belafon says:

    @Pogonip: Remembering my own childhood, there was no social pressure involved. It was entirely hormones.

  25. 25

    @shell:

    Just like the only 100% way to be sure you’ll never get in a car accident is to never get in a car.

    Even that isn’t 100% effective, because a car that somebody else is driving can still hit you when you’re riding a bicycle, walking, or even in your own home. Of course, abstinence won’t protect you against rape, so maybe the analogy is more accurate than first impression.

  26. 26
    shawn says:

    @Michael G: in Texas in 1989, the nurse came to our 7th grade class to answer these kinds of questions and I don’t know if she let it slip, but she was a big, fat, old, grey, no nonsense woman and hand to God she said “homosexuals do it up the butt.” She didn’t pass judgement, didn’t condemn or endorse, just said it matter of fact. It was glorious. I can’t remember any sentence before or after that one from that day, but the image of her saying that is stuck in my mind forever.

  27. 27
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @aimai: That’s a really good point. Birth control is relevant even if you don’t have sex until you’re married.

  28. 28
    charluckles says:

    A liberal conspiracy to turn our children into preverts!

  29. 29
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @shawn: Way to get a seventh grader’s attention! Perhaps it would make them pay attention in algebra class too.

  30. 30
    D58826 says:

    OT but Jeb, after mulling it over for a week has decided maybe he would not have invaded Iraq after all. In a way the entire debate is absurd. Hindsight is always 20-20 so it’s easy to say what you would not do in the past given what you know now. The real question is what you will decide about a future event when you are presented with a mix of conflicting information. By his own words we know Jeb would have made the same move that the Decider made as would the rest of the GOP field, Rand Paul may be an exception.

  31. 31

    @Amir Khalid: BTW I have many Muslim friends who imbibe. Now that I think of it, there is tons of Urdu poetry about drowning ones’ sorrows in sharab after heart break.

  32. 32
    Tommy says:

    I am 45. Now I don’t have kids so I don’t know what is going on in schools today. But in middle school I had amazing sex ed. I was taught important things that have benefited me in my life.

    My mom and dad never talked to me about sex. If it wouldn’t have been for my school I never would have learned anything.

    They taught me about my penis. A Vagina. STDs. Teacher put a condom on a wooden dildo to show how to do it.

    Many years later when I did have sex I thought back to that.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    @D58826:
    So it took ¡Jeb! a whole week of people shouting at him to understand that only a bonehead would have started a war in Iraq based on what people know now. I don’t think he catches on as quick as people say.

  34. 34

    @aimai:

    Sex education is not about how not to get pregnant.

    No. It’s to teach you that sex is icky and only intended for procreation within the bounds of heterosexual marriage./wingnut

  35. 35

    @Pogonip:

    And more than likely when kids are off by themselves their willpower will fail, especially when there is such tremendous social evolutionary pressure on them to Do It.

    FTFY.

  36. 36
    elm says:

    Also, the only perfectly safe way to swim is not to swim.

  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    But wait, isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    I don’t think anyone has ever got pregnant from fellatio.

    I vaguely recall sex “education” when I was a student. Two auditorium assemblies, one for the boys, a separate one for the girls. Some mumbo jumbo and “don’t do this” and “be careful.” Confusing and largely forgetable.

    I think we later had something in a high school health class. Again, a lot of confusing info without context.

    The strangest sex education involved a teacher who insisted on telling us about her frustrations with her boyfriend (and how she had almost joined the CIA). Later, she had to take some time off when her life spiraled out of control.

  38. 38
    Tommy says:

    @aimai:

    Sex education is hygiene and ethics for people who are intending to have a sex life before, during, after, or outside of marriage.

    I have a comment awaiting moderation …

    But in it I said as much. This was back in the early 80s and my public school taught not as much about sex but hygiene and ethics. It is an important thing to care for your body.

    Even more so for the person you are having sex with. It is called respect.

  39. 39

    @D58826:

    Rand Paul may be an exception.

    It’s hard to know with Rand Paul, since he’ll say whatever his current audience wants to hear. Of course that makes me suspicious that he’d go along with whatever the party as a group wanted, which doesn’t give me any confidence in his willingness to keep out of wars.

  40. 40
    Gravenstone says:

    At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the God Botherers react to this one.

    Very badly, and LOUDLY!!1! would be my guess.

  41. 41
    scav says:

    2+2≠5

    “OK class, that completes the totality of your mathematics education, let us now move on to the next area of testing . . . “

  42. 42
    Brachiator says:

    @aimai: Great points. But the problem is that while some parents might be willing to go along with the hygiene part of sex education, they would draw the line at your view of ethics, no matter how reasonable, especially when you start talking about sex before, after or outside of marriage.

  43. 43
    Mayken says:

    @Amir Khalid: Or you’re never ever raped. So, yeah…

  44. 44
    chopper says:

    @aimai:

    this. ignoring the bad track record abstinence-only has with high school age kids, it is, for most all kids, the only structured sex ed class they will ever have. if all you are ever going to teach kids is ‘don’t have sex’ they are far more likely to fuck up as adults when they reach the age where society hi is its okay for them to do it.

  45. 45
    Bill says:

    @shawn: Except – of course – not all homosexuals do. And there are a fair number of straight people who do.

  46. 46
    Mayken says:

    @aimai: Yes! This!

  47. 47
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mayken:
    AND if you’re never ever raped, you mean.

  48. 48
    Mayken says:

    @Amir Khalid: Yes, that. Heh.

  49. 49
    GregB says:

    I remember sex ed at the UU Church and they showed some pretty good instruction porn. A memorable moment in my youth.

  50. 50
    Central Planning says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    Way to get a seventh grader’s attention! Perhaps it would make them pay attention in algebra class too.

    So something like this:

    Mr. Smith: Welcome to Algebra 1 everybody. Homosexuals do it up the butt.
    Class: *gasp*
    Mr. Smith: Today we’re going to talk about imaginary numbers.

    I think you’re right. I bet the kids would pay attention after that.

  51. 51
    Central Planning says:

    @GregB:

    I remember sex ed at the UU Church and they showed some pretty good instruction porn. A memorable moment in my youth.

    Same here. I think I remember pictures of a white couple on a black background and a black couple on a white background. That’s about the only thing I remember, besides the cute girl and trying to get paired with her for the trust exercise – leading your partner (ha ha!) around with a blindfold.

  52. 52
    Tommy says:

    @GregB: I was showed a live birth in the sex ed I got on VHS. It wasn’t best I can tell meant as a hindrance. We learned about how our bodies worked.

  53. 53
    beergoggles says:

    Not sure I agree with this. By this logic, atheism can’t be considered a religion and therefore doesn’t warrant the same protection as actual religions.

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Tommy:

    I was showed a live birth in the sex ed I got on VHS. It wasn’t best I can tell meant as a hindrance. We learned about how our bodies worked.

    I remember a similar film. I got into a ton of trouble when I asked why we could see a baby coming out of a vagina, but we couldn’t see a penis going into one. Semi true story. I did not say it as succinctly at the time.

  55. 55
    bcinaz says:

    So the abstinence only people teach boys that if a girl says “no” then that’s the girl you want. Isn’t the ‘girl you want’ pretty much the opposite of NO?

  56. 56
    Keith G says:

    @Tommy:

    Many years later when I did have sex I thought back to that.

    Really.

  57. 57
    Gravenstone says:

    @Tommy: We were shown “The Miracle of Life” in my SIngle Living class (aka, Home Ec for guys). After the live birth footage ended and the lights came up, we looked around, Most of us handled it well. The one junior in the class was about 6 shades of green and sinking fast, though.

  58. 58
    boatboy_srq says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    isn’t it a fact that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to not get pregnant?

    That would be taught in the lack-of-sex ed class.

    @Amir Khalid: I still say the one and only smart thing he did was to own the 2004 hurricane recovery efforts in FL. Outside of that? Nah.

  59. 59
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Central Planning: You know darned well that putting “homosexuals” and “imaginary numbers” in the same scenario will only get the wingnuts agitated.

  60. 60
    boatboy_srq says:

    @bcinaz: Except that the abstinence-only people probably think that the girl says “no” because she wants to wait until she’s married (i.e. the girl who says “yes” is easy, and therefore not spouse material, where the girl who says “no” is abstinent and therefore a good girl to marry); but what the boys hear from that approach is “no=yes”. It’s no wonder Red states lead in unintended pregnancies (do we have any remotely-accurate stats on instance of rape by state?).

  61. 61
    LesGS says:

    @GregB: Ah, you “survived the slides,” as the Junior High kids say after going through the Our Whole Lives sex ed classes at our UU church.

    OWL is pretty much designed as aimai describes what an actual sex education course should be. We offer age-appropriate classes from kindergarten to adult.

  62. 62
    burnspbesq says:

    This is a good warning against assuming that everybody here in California is sane. 50 or so of the state’s 58 counties are every bit as cray-cray as Oklahoma. Clovis is in Fresno County, which is about as bad as it gets.

  63. 63
    bcinaz says:

    @boatboy_srq: no kidding. It’s just that with almost everything the morality police turn their attention to, they reveal the fact that they have no critical thinking skills, can only see the world through a narrow, one size fits all lens and apply fixes that turn into opposite day and make everything worse for everyone involved. Ask this question; how big is the STD outbreak from anal and oral sex?

  64. 64

    @burnspbesq:

    50 or so of the state’s 58 counties are every bit as cray-cray as Oklahoma.

    I didn’t think things were quite Oklahoma bad down in the OC these days.

  65. 65
    cthulhu says:

    Besides the abstinence-only approach, the district in question (and probably a few others in California) were also providing false or questionable facts about STDs, homosexuality and abortion and, in fact, were working with a group that tries their best to steer women away from having abortions under the guise of “education.”

    So it wasn’t just about birth control, not surprisingly.

  66. 66
    burnspbesq says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Things are improving, slowly but surely, here. But you still have Kern, Fresno, Riverside, the old-money crackpots in San Mateo, and pretty much everything north of the Sacramento airport to consider.

    In 2012, Obama carried the state by approximately 2.4 million votes. Almost two million of that margin came from five counties: Alameda (Oakland), Contra Costa (East Bay suburbs), Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Clara (San Jose).

  67. 67
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tommy:

    They taught me about my p3nis. A Vagina. STDs. Teacher put a condom on a wooden dildo to show how to do it.

    Many years later when I did have sex I thought back to that.

    I honestly just can’t even parody this kind of shit any more.
    Sir/Madam/Spoof, I bow to your intertron commenting skills.
    The capital V on Vagina. Wooden dildos. Loss of virginity.
    This is just.too.good.

  68. 68
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Corner Stone: Your skills are slipping.

  69. 69

    @burnspbesq:
    For all you’re bagging on Fresno County as “about as bad as it gets”, they actually went for Obama (49.9%-48.1%) in 2012, which is more than The OC (45.6%-51.9%) can say for itself. So did Riverside (49.7%-48.1%) and San Mateo (72.1%-25.5%). In point of fact, more counties went for Obama (31) than Romney (27).

  70. 70
    trnc says:

    I knew abstinence only was not teaching kids sex ed, but I never had it framed this way in my mind in that if you are mandated to teach sex ed, you have to teach sex ed. This is functionally equivalent to a state mandate to teach math, and the way the teachers teach algebra is to say “Don’t do algebra.”

    The purpose of sex ed isn’t to teach people how to have sex. I suspect that zero people who read this blog needed a formal education on how to get their respective pocket rocket and hoo-ha (or whatever) together. The point of sex ed is to teach hygiene, related anatomy and, hopefully, how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. The most ridiculous part of the right wing puritan attitude is that they seem to believe what’s taught in school stays in school and has no usefulness beyond graduation, so married couples unfortunate enough to live in puritanical school districts never learn that they do have choices. I realize there are a few santorums in the world who want to outlaw birth control, but I think a lot of people (including wingnut couples) would be more likely to use birth control if they knew they had that choice or weren’t taught only negative associations.

  71. 71
    chopper says:

    @Tommy:

    They taught me about my penis. A Vagina.

    Lol.

  72. 72
    Corner Stone says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Honestly, I thought it was a dead thread or I would have went a different direction.
    But…who could mix and match a Vagina with a wooden dildo in school and end up on losing their virginity?
    This can’t be real, right? I mean, AMIRITE?

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