THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON), September 27,
Bush and Kerry states are
worlds apart on sex ed in schools
By DAVID RENNIE
GEORGE W Bush and John Kerry are both American
but they come from two different countries.
Anyone who doubts this should consider a pair
of matching rows now convulsing their home
states, on the subject of school sex education.
In Massachusetts, home state of Senator Kerry,
debate is raging over whether school "sex
ed" lessons should include descriptions
of gay safe sex.
Meanwhile, in President Bush's beloved Texas,
conservatives on the state's powerful board
of education are poised to pull off a cherished
goal: the selection of a new generation of
sex education textbooks for teenagers, whose
sole guidance on sex is: don't have any until
A bastion of Subaru-driving, tofu-eating, whole
wheat liberalism, Massachusetts has been toppling
taboos this year, recently legalising same-sex
marriage. Now some homosexual teachers are
arguing that school curricula need to catch
Brian Camenker, head of the state's conservative
Parents' Rights Coalition, cited a recent radio
interview in which a teacher from the town
of Brookline talked proudly of teaching 14-year-olds
about lesbian practices, including the use
of "sex toys".
He said: "Even in a whacked-out liberal
city like Brookline, if the average parent
knew this is what they're teaching, there'd
be a riot."
His group backs a new law that would make it
easier for Massachusetts parents to keep their
children away from sexuality-related events
A very different battle is under way in Bush
Country. The Texas board of education is vetting
four new health textbooks, which include courses
on sex education for 15- and 16-year-olds.
Bowing to the conservative doctrine of "abstinence-only"
sex education, three of the four make no mention
of birth control methods, whether the pill,
condoms or anything else.
Instead, they repeatedly state that chastity
is the only sure route to avoiding pregnancy
One textbook adds the advice that students "get
plenty of rest" to avoid contracting sexually
transmitted diseases. "When you're tired,"
it notes, "it's hard to think."
The fourth book makes a brief reference to condoms,
but only to warn against buying foreign-made
contraceptives. Advocates of "abstinence-only"
education include Mr Bush.
Under his presidency, federal funds for "abstinence
only" education have tripled, from an
annual pounds 54 million to pounds 150 million
Supporters argue such self-censorship is the
key to keeping the young chaste.
They argue, passionately, against offering any
Jim Sedlak, vice-president of the American Life
League, testified at recent public hearings
in Texas in favour of the new books. "Once
you tell children how to avoid getting pregnant,
you're basically giving them a way to have
sex without fear," he told The Daily Telegraph.
"You're giving them a licence to have
The official adoption of a textbook by Texas
is a huge prize for academic publishers, said
Dan Quinn, spokesman for the liberal Texas
Texas spent pounds 136 million on textbooks in
the year to May 31, making it the second largest
market after California. Books approved by
Texas are then bought by smaller states across
the country. The proposed Texas textbooks will
come with teacher's editions and paperback
supplements offering birth control information,
for use in more liberal jurisdictions.
Mr Quinn accuses the Texas board, an elected
body, of having a long record of hard-Right
meddling and even banning a drawing of a breast
in a textbook.
Liberals note that Texas has the nation's highest
rate of births to teenage girls aged 15 to
17, though the state legislature mandated "abstinence-based"
education in schools nine years ago.
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