At Least Utah’s Governor Is Sane…
Unsurprisingly, I was not the only one horrified by the implications of Utah’s attempt to remove sex education from schools altogether and ban the discussion of homosexuality. I found a bunch of other great articles about why it would have been problematic, and normally I would link you to them, but as it happens, someone even more important than a bunch of bloggers and activists decided they hated this bill: the governor of Utah.
That’s right, folks: on Friday, Governor Gary Herbert vetoed the bill after it had already cleared both Republican-led state houses. This came as a shock, as Herbert was generally expected to sign the bill into law. Had he done so, it would have been the first bill of its kind to actually become law, setting a precedent for other legislatures to follow.
According to the Huffington Post, “In vetoing the measure, dubbed HB 363, Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.”
Herbert also argued that many parents choose to allow schools to initiate or provide most of their children’s sex education, and that removing this option would restrict parents’ choices. Maybe this is just the debater in me talking, but I find this an interesting argument-~-especially since proponents of the bill argued that this removes power from the parents when it comes to teaching sex ed and determining what their children should know. Herbert is right, however, in that parents are still able to provide their children with whatever information they think is necessary-~-nothing is preventing parents from teaching their children that abstinence is a correct lifestyle choice OR giving them further information about protecting themselves.
I personally find it interesting that it is the parents’ rights that are of the greatest concern. While Herbert does openly state that he think sex education is an important part of the curriculum, it should be noted that most schools already teach abstinence-only sex education OR what is called “disaster prevention sex education”, wherein students are told not to have sex but if they do this is how to prevent pregnancy…but they REALLY shouldn’t (picture the sex ed classes in Mean Girls. That’s pretty much what I’m talking about here). No one is really concerned with giving teenagers the opportunity to discuss and explore their sexuality or providing them with all the information needed to make the most informed choices, they’re far more concerned with how parents feel about this.
One of my friends posed the question to me yesterday: at what point do people decide that all of the things they did as teenagers are unacceptable for their teenage children to do? When do parents look in the mirror and say that all the nights THEY came home with a hickey were fine but heaven forbid their daughter walk through the door with a mark on her neck? This is just a piece of the problem that arises when we refuse to talk to teenagers about sex and sexuality despite the fact that we know they themselves are trying to navigate these areas. Because teens can’t get the information in school and for whatever reason parents have decided to condemn the idea of their teens having sex and are therefore not the ideal people to discuss it with at home, we leave adolescents with few options in terms of acquiring accurate information and getting their questions answered. If we truly care about having sexually healthy teenagers, then we need to alleviate the taboos that prevent open dialogue about not just sex or sexual orientation but sexuality itself.