Utah, Schools Are Supposed to Educate People…

I think our readers may have realized by now that there are a couple of things that REALLY bother Hayley and me, but let me tell you, religion-based politics, attacks on women’s right to know their options when it comes to their bodies, and schools that let people harass LGBTQ students are ALL on that list.

And Utah is trying to pass a law that fulfills ALL of that criteria.

First, a little background: On Tuesday, Utah’s state senate passed a law that would allow schools to drop sex education, prohibit instruction about contraception, and ban discussion of homosexuality in the classroom.

This is one of the worst ideas I have EVER heard of in terms of education laws, and here is why

1. The reason for the creation of this law is that legislators believe that “sexual education belongs in the home not the classroom”.  And that’s great, but here’s the thing: we remove certain powers from the parents all the time when we know that they may not fulfill those jobs adequately.  We use federally subsidized school meals when kids aren’t getting enough at home, because SOMEONE has to provide for these children’s needs.  And if you can’t be sure that parents are actually going to discuss sex ed at home, or you can’t be sure that parents will give accurate information-~-and it can be argued that parents may not even have the right information to give in some cases, or may be unwilling to discuss sex-~-then you have a problem because…

2. Teenagers have sex.  I KNOW America doesn’t want to acknowledge or deal with this fact, but it is true.  At this point, Utah is allowing schools to opt out of abstinence-only sex education; never mind that abstinence-only sex ed should be abolished because it is proven not to work, at least abstinence only sex ed provides a forum for people to start talking about sex and sexual health.  Sex ed is the conversation starter that teenagers can use to start discussing these things with their parents-~-because when you only teach abstinence only, it’s still the parent who has to fill the teenager in, unless…

3. Teenagers are now even MORE likely to rely on pop culture and their friends for information about sex.  And that, of course, is an even bigger problem, because the media does not always give the most accurate portrayal of sex, and teenagers teaching other teenagers may well be the blind leading the blind.  I know I wouldn’t want MY kid relying on Wikipedia to understand how condoms work and what birth control options exist, and no parent in Utah should want that either

4. Just a fun fact, 10% of live births in the United States are to teenage girls every year.  This just PROVES that we are doing an inadequate job of teaching teenagers how to protect themselves during the sex that we KNOW they are having but don’t want to discuss-~-and that’s exactly why prohibiting discussion of contraception is hurting America’s teenagers

5. Speaking of hurting America’s teenagers, let’s talk about the first of the billion things wrong with banning discussion of homosexuality: it perpetuates ignorance.  If you can’t even talk about something in school, and we can’t force parents to discuss it in the home or we can’t be sure parents will give a neutral opinion in the home, then students are never going to be able to really talk about an issue that has become really important in the United States today.  And if they can’t gain an understanding of homosexuality divorced from their parents’ politics or religion, then students may never be able to confront misconceptions about the LGBTQ community.  This helps to perpetuate homophobia and hatred, which in turn perpetuates…

6. Bullying of LGBTQ students.  Even if you agree with literally none of the things I have already said in this post, I KNOW you’re going to agree when I say that this bill is a huge problem when it comes to the issue of LGBTQ-targeted bullying.  Why?  Because when you ban the discussion of someone’s identity and they are then harassed for said identity, you have placed a taboo on discussing the issue which a) makes it very difficult and/or unlikely that an LGBTQ student can/will report the incident, because he/she cannot talk about the underlying issues and b) make it so that the school can’t discuss the issue of homophobia when and if it actually confronts the perpetrators, because the school cannot discuss homosexuality.

7. The sum of all of my ranting here is this: schools are supposed to educate and inform people, but Utah’s bill prevents schools from fulfilling either of those obligations.  It isn’t that they are trying to remove LGBTQ history from the curriculum or mandate that sex ed be abstinence only, but they are actually placing a gag rule on subjects like safe sex, contraception, and homosexuality to the point where students may be given nothing but misinformation or be unable to correct misconceptions they already have about these subjects.  But many teens do have sex, and some teens do belong to the LGBTQ community, and they-~-and anyone who may ever encounter a person who falls into these categories and now lacks the information needed to have a legitimate and informed exchange with them-~-is getting hurt by laws such as these.

So congratulations, Utah.  You’ve managed to make schools a less safe place for students, managed to teach them less, and managed to bury your heads in the sand even more…all because you’re hoping that parents who want to confront these issues even less will do your jobs for you.  Well done.

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~ by Randi Saunders on March 10, 2012.

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