Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kudos for the Kansas State Board of Education

Supposedly being a biology teacher in Kansas is among the worst jobs in the country, but the Kansas Board of Education certainly makes my blogging avocation much easier and more fun. When there is not intelligent design, or statements that dinosaurs are metaphysical speculation, to write about, the BOE is sure to provide bloggers such as myself or Pat Hayes over at Red State Rabble lots of new material.

Take the Board's stance on sex education as described today in the Lawrence Journal World. It used to be that if parents did not want their children to take sex education, they could tell the school to keep their child out of sex education, the so called opt out option. But now the board wants parents to opt in, that is tell the school if they want their kids to take sex education.

Now how stupid can you get. Consider the parents who just don't care about there kids education- and if you think these are a small minority of parents, you must be watching too many Leave it to Beaver reruns. Under the old system, their kids would get sex education but under the new system they won't unless the districts actively court them. Consider the parents with strict fundamentalist beliefs. The new system will provide their kids with one less way to get exposed to different sorts of ways of looking at the world and giving kids exposure to different viewpoints is one of the missions of real education. So for either group, and the children are not served.

Oh and it gets better. The conservative members of the Board are toying with abstinence only sex education. Now last time I checked most teenagers are not interested in abstinence. Even those teens who take these so called virginity pledges seem a bit less interested in abstinence than they profess. They might have fewer partners but according to a recent study by Janet Rosenbaum (abstract) cited in the Washington Post...

Previous studies have found that teenagers who make pledges contract STDs at nearly the same rate as those who don't, but that they have fewer sexual partners, are less likely to use condoms and more likely to engage in anal or oral sex.

Of course the proponents of abstinence only education are calling Rosenbaum's study junk science. But what astounds me, is the BOE's willingness to completely ignore the experts on sex education programs and what makes an effective program. This makes great populist politics for the religious conservative base in those parts of Kansas that have kept the conservative majority on the BOE, but it's bad for our kids.

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