Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Sex Ed. & Religious Ed. - Contradicting Rationales
In an article in the Kansas City Star last Sunday, I read about an aggressive legislative agenda being pushed by conservative Republicans in Missouri. (Please forgive the use of labels, but I am using them for the sake of brevity. I could use a more descriptive term like "regressive" or something, but that probably would not facilitate dialogue ;) So "conservative" it is.) One of the things that jumped out was a seemingly contradicting rationale motivating two of the bills. If the rationale was to be consistent across the board, one of the two bills would need to go bye bye.
First, there is a bill to limit sex education in public schools.
The second is a bill to increase religious education in public schools.
So basically, we are going to end up with a bunch of pregnant teenagers who have the Bible memorized. (Hat tip to AC.)
The rationale for the first bill is, in a nutshell, "Leave it to the experts." The sponsor feels that human sexuality is a topic best taught by medical professionals. Young people are encouraged to go to their doctors to learn about sexually transmitted diseases, the pros and cons of birth control, and other basic biology.
Now, if this "leave it to the experts" rationale for the conservative agenda was consistent, there would be no bill to increase religious education in public schools, for the experts when it comes to religious education are in the church, the synagogue, the mosque. In fact, there would be a bill to restrict religious education and encourage young people to go to their clergy persons in order to learn about God, heaven, and other faith stuff.
I don't buy the "leave it to the experts" rationale at all. News flash #1: public school students are already having sex. News flash #2: public school students are already practicing religions. Young people are quickly becoming self-proclaimed experts in both subjects. So, you either teach about both topics OR you teach about neither.
You see, sex and religion fall into a category of topics that may or may not be considered "academic." And so, first question: "Should public schools focus exclusively on 'academic' subjects or expand to include other types of subjects?" Then the second question is: "What subjects are 'academic'?" Can you say sexual health is academic and religion is not? Or vice versa? If you want to teach religion as merely history, why not teach about sex as merely biology? If you don't want to teach sex because of moral reasons, why would you want to teach religion with all of its moral implications?
As for me, I am afraid that I am rather biased. I happen to think that the church (or synagogue or mosque, etc.) is the best place for young people to learn about God, and I happen to think that the family is the best place for young people to learn about sexuality. Not the public school. Problems arise, however, when the church and the family fail young people in this responsibility. I fear this happens all too often.
And this systemic failure is a disaster, because then the schools feel like they must pick up the slack, and they start burdening teachers with these undue expectations, and then teachers go on strike, and so no one learns how to read anymore, so no one ever writes any more blog entries about crap like this, and then how would I bore everyone with my opinions about stuff?
But seriously, though, the church needs to step it up a notch and take Christian education back from the public schools. It's our job, let us do it!