Tim McDaniel teaches high school science in Dietrich, Idaho. Part of teaching science to 10th graders includes a lesson on human anatomy. During his class, he used the medically correct term "vagina,' and a number of Idaho parents are very angry with him.
The complaints aren't limited simply to McDaniel's use of that word. They also include allegations that he "inappropriately" mentioned forms of birth control, that "inappropriate' jokes were told in class, and that a video was shown depicting a genital herpes infection.
Idaho is in Lincoln County, where 74% of the 2004 vote for President went to George W. Bush, and 69% of the 2008 vote went to Republican John McCain.
One parent expressed the opinion that if "birth control' was going to be the topic of one of McDaniel's class sessions, she should have received prior warning so that she could have kept her child out of the class on that day. In response, McDaniel has explained that he includes discussions of birth control in his class because the health teacher does not, and that, in any case, students are not required to attend his class on that day.
The Hypocritical Consequences of Opposing Sex Education.
Let's focus specifically on the anger over the term "vagina' being used in class. A number of parents objected specifically to the use of the word in the context of human reproduction. This is a real red flag. Since it is the medically correct term, the obvious question is: What term would be more appropriate? For a socio-political group that is focused in other areas on emphasizing the differences between men and women, opposing the mere mention of one of the most notable differences seems hypocritical. Still, the level of hypocrisy in this case pales in comparison to the next one I'll describe.
education and subsequent public-health repercussions of not teaching sensible
sex education across the country are significant. The most notable consequence is higher
teen pregnancy rates in states like Mississippi and Missouri, which teach abstinence-only education. This leads us to the "big" hypocrisy that
eclipses the absurdity of the Idaho "vagina' controversy. The
same conservatives who, because of their so-called "family values,' want to outlaw abortion, are the very people who also oppose policies that
can reduce the number of abortions. There are also higher rates of sexually
transmitted infections (STI's) in the most conservative states. These facts can be tracked via a very clear and sequential analysis.
Let's Bring the Right Values to American Society.
Abstinence-only sex education has long been known to be ineffective at preventing teens from having sex. When they do have sex, not knowing about proper pregnancy and STI prevention methods simply leads to more pregnancies and infections. By definition, one of the ways to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies--the very thing that conservative-led abstinence-only sex education leads to more of. Let's summarize:
1) The policies advocated almost exclusively by conservatives, catalyzed by a combination of self-described "family values' and religiously-based "morals," lead to outcomes that conservatives oppose because of those same "family values' and "morals." That doesn't make sense.
2) There needs to be more critical thinking about what is actually happening in schools, and in the population in general, with respect to issues influenced by so-called "values.' While the word "vagina' was being protested for its use in Idaho, the NRA was robo-calling families in Newtown, Connecticut, the location of the recent Sandy Hook school shootings.
What was the content of
the robo-calls, you ask? They were scare tactics and fear-mongering,
specifically designed to create anxiety in Newtown residents about possible gun safety
requirements being considered by Connecticut lawmakers.
Many parents in Newtown reported that their young children answered the robo-calls from the NRA. Thus, we have a situation in 2013 America where the word "vagina' can't be used around 10th graders, but automated phone calls from gun lobbyists discussing the minutiae of assault weapons are delivered en masse to homes where they are often fielded by children. Many Idaho parents, who would consider such children far too young to hear the word "vagina,' would, by another of their "values," not think them too young at all to assimilate gun-related lobbying efforts on the phone.
What's the good news? Many retrograde conservative "values" seem to be diminishing. In the last number of years, support for both abortion rights and gay marriage has increased steadily to an approval rate today of more than 50%. At the same time, as more data are collected about the devastating effects of abstinence-only education, efforts to improve ways in which reproductive health can be effectively taught continue to gain momentum. However, as we await definitive solutions that are still some time in the future, we must also stay alert to, and fight back against, the many hypocritical and dangerous "values" that continue to plague today's society.
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at http://www.davidpakman.com.