Originally published in the Wausau Daily Herold.
In a high school quiz, answers are usually right or wrong. Science, math, and health teachers don’t score them as though all points of view are equally correct.
It’s important to respect each person’s right to speak, but since public education is about education, in our public debate about sexual health education, what is most important is to respect public education’s core values of evidence, science and reason.
Parents are the primary sex educators of their children and they impart the essential elements of family values and moral beliefs. But that doesn’t cover current health choices and risks completely or even adequately. Based on my participation in the Central Wisconsin sex education debate for three decades — here is a tongue-in-cheek Sexual Health Education 101 Quiz:
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1) The most commonly reported sexually-transmitted infection is:
c. Secular Humanism.
2) The most common side-effects of Plan B (common emergency contraception pills) are:
a. Headaches and mild nausea.
d. Sexual assault.
3) The purpose of sexual health education is to:
a. Give young people the information they need to protect their sexual health over their lifetime.
c. Throw virgins into the volcano of pagan popular culture.
d. Teach young people that it is OK to have sex if they use birth control.
a. Reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/Aids, if they are used consistently and correctly.
b. Don’t work.
c. Have tiny microscopic ‘holes’ through which the Human Immunodeficiency Virus passes.
d. Should only be used by married couples when one is HIV-positive to prevent transmission. Otherwise, they don’t work.
All of those answers have been asserted, but they are not all correct. Wisconsin’s law now requires that if a public school chooses to teach sexual health, there are topics that must be included and the materials must be medically accurate and age-appropriate. Parents can view the curriculum and opt out.
In a democracy, we are all entitled to our opinions. However, school boards might be wise to focus on the requirements of the law. Even if a board wishes to hear the full range of discord, the human growth and development committee’s deliberations can be limited in scope. The last quiz questions might be:
1) The school board is going to allow the teaching of human growth and development:
a. According to the law.
d. Not if I can help it.
2) If the answer to 1 is “a.” the material taught must be:
a. Medically accurate and age appropriate.
b. Chosen only after every district resident agrees.
c. Selected based on the religious beliefs of the most outspoken opponents of sex education in the district.
d. Selected based on the political ideology of the most outspoken opponents of sex education in the district.
e. Both c. and d.
It is a very simple lesson.