Monday, March 17, 2008

Sex-ed topics too narrow, group says

Education is about awareness. Education is to open eyes and eliminate blind spots. Ignorance is the enemy of education.
Sex-ed topics too narrow, group says Sex-ed topics too narrow
It makes sense to fight against narrow outcomes and narrow-minded leadership, especially when it comes by design.

Parents are needed to push and pull both the educators and educational administrators beyond their 'comfort zone.'

Our kids are not be be short-changed. Our kids are advanced -- and advance beyond 'comfort zones.'

I don't want 'dumb' leadership and lesson plans that are incomplete.

Personally, in our family, I understand that the topic of sex-ed, is too important to trust to our children's teachers. We have plans for getting our boys these lessons concerning their whole lives -- not just the narrow slice of life that the school might teach. Our Whole Lives, also known as OWL, is a program offered within our church community for our young teens. Other versions are for younger groups too.

Regardless of what we do in our faith community and our family -- we need to insure that the other kids are enriched with an understanding of the whole story of how and why human biology and life unfolds.

"In Pittsburgh Public Schools, teens aren't receiving the information they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions," reads the petition at
I signed the petition.

I would NOT say that "abstinence programs are ineffective." That has to be bad reporting. Rather, I fully endorse abstinence for the behavior of the youngsters. Abstinence is effective if the aim is to avoid babies. However, "abstinence programs" are not holistic educational programs. Let's not advance educational lessons that contain glaring blindspots that ignore many aspects of the human condition.

I know how a nature unfolds and, say, a lightening bolt occurs. Lightening, thunder, and forces of nature are understandable, teachable and respected. For example, I don't need to get hit by lightening to comprehend its meaning and get an "A" in my high-school science class. If I should get hit by lightening, I'm dumb enough to NOT get an "A" in science class.


Anonymous said...

Whole text:

The petition

In Pittsburgh public schools, teens aren't receiving the information they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions. Instead, the schools use an abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum. U.S. government studies have shown that these programs are ineffective. Some actually deter teens who become sexually active from using condoms and birth control to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies and STDs.

Pittsburgh schools are using a textbook called Totally Awesome Health. The text book relays fear and shame to our teens, informing them that "being sexually active can affect [your] mental health. Stress can result from guilt that is associated with being sexually active," while never specifying what sexual activity is. In addition, the text never discusses how to use condoms or any other form of contraception.

The text acknowledges only heterosexual, married families. This exclusion of all other families stigmatizes single parent families, gay and lesbian teens, the children of gay and lesbian parents, and other families. As a public institution, Pittsburgh public schools should support all families and students.

Our teens need sex education that helps them to delay sex, protect their health, and prepare them to make healthy and responsible life decisions. By wide margins, Pennsylvania parents support this approach. Join us in telling the Pittsburgh school board to adopt a sex education curriculum that stresses the importance of waiting to have sex while providing medically accurate, age-appropriate, information about how to use contraceptives effectively to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV/AIDS.
Please sign the petition below.

We, the undersigned parents and community members, support medically-accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education that gives our teens the tools they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions. We strongly urge all abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula be removed from the public schools. We further urge the Pittsburgh Public School Board to implement sex education curricula that stresses the importance of waiting to have sex while providing medically accurate, age-appropriate, information about how to use contraceptives effectively to prevent unintended pregnancy and STDs.

Anonymous said...

news article:

Sex-ed topics too narrow, group says
City schools' abstinence-based program targeted
Monday, March 17, 2008
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Amid a national debate over how much schools should teach students about sex, a parent-led group has begun circulating an Internet petition to force an overhaul of the Pittsburgh Public Schools' abstinence-based sex-education curriculum.

The group is pushing for what's commonly called "comprehensive" sex education. That would mean shifting from a curriculum that urges abstinence before marriage and offers few details about sex to a curriculum that potentially would discuss abstinence, contraceptive use and sexual practices.

"Kids have questions [like] 'What's oral sex?' " said Squirrel Hill parent Terri Klein, who posted the petition last month. In the current curriculum, she said, oral sex isn't explained.

About 230 people have signed the petition so far.

"In Pittsburgh Public Schools, teens aren't receiving the information they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions," reads the petition at

The petition calls abstinence programs ineffective, touching on one of the flash points in the sex-education debate.

Nationally, proponents of abstinence-based and comprehensive sex education tout the success of their respective approaches while accusing the other's of failing to curb teen sex. Each side cites studies to back up its case.

When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week suggested that one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, abstinence advocates blamed the comprehensive sex-education movement. When the government in December announced the first increase in the teen birth rate since 1991, the camps blamed each other for the setback.

About 75 percent of students nationwide receive comprehensive sex education at school, according to the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington, D.C.

The state Department of Education couldn't provide a breakdown of how many districts used either approach. State regulations require classroom discussion of HIV and AIDS -- parents may choose to have their children excused from those sessions -- but districts otherwise are free to teach sex education as they please.

In Pittsburgh, about 15 students, parents and residents appeared at a Pittsburgh school board hearing last spring to urge a more detailed curriculum, and the district later said it would form a task force to study changes. The task force hasn't been formed, a delay that prompted Ms. Klein to post the petition.

The district said it still plans to review the health and physical education curriculum, which includes sex education, but officials haven't committed to abandoning the abstinence focus that they have said reflects the city's conservative mindset.

While contraception isn't discussed by teachers, guest speakers from social service agencies sometimes address the issue, with parents deciding whether to let their children attend those sessions.

Jean Fink, a school board member since 1976, said she couldn't remember a time when the district offered anything other than an abstinence-based program. She said abstinence is still an important message but believes it might be appropriate to better educate students about STDs.

When the district formed "wellness clinics" with local hospitals in the 1980s, some parents worried contraceptives would be handed out. That didn't happen, Mrs. Fink said. She said she believes a shift to comprehensive sex education would "stir everything all up again."

Andrew Moore, 17, a senior at Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview, said his sex-education classes were too vague to be helpful and noted that some students think sex "is just vaginal intercourse."

The petition criticizes the current curriculum for associating "fear and shame" with premarital sex and for acknowledging only a heterosexual, married lifestyle.

"This exclusion of all other families stigmatizes single-parent families, gay and lesbian teens, the children of gay and lesbian parents, and other families," the petition reads. "As a public institution, Pittsburgh Public Schools should support all families and students."

Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes comprehensive sex education, says abstinence-based programs offer little to the majority of teens who studies show are already sexually active.

"I understand parents' desire to help kids avoid big mistakes. ... But the only way you can do that is if you empower them with education and information and talk to them about your values," said Debra Hauser, executive vice president of Advocates for Youth.

Valerie Huber, executive director of the abstinence association, said comprehensive programs downplay abstinence because they assume most youths will be sexually active. She said abstinence programs may include a discussion of contraception but "always in the context of why abstinence is the best choice."

Politics and religion inflame the debate. Advocates for Youth claims the federal government has spent millions of dollars on abstinence programs to further the agenda of conservative congressmen and evangelical Christians.

In May, the abstinence association lamented a federal report that documented what advocates called an "offensive" level of detail in some comprehensive programs.

The study found one program has teachers and students pretending to be sex partners during a discussion of condom use. Another program suggests students wear hats or sunglasses to avoid embarrassment while buying condoms.
Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.