Category Archives: Politics

Are New Sex Education Standards Needed?

We’ve said it before:  Sex education in America needs to be improved.  The point can certainly be argued rationally and there are, of course, many valid perspectives on the matter, but while some progress is being made, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control cited that over 80%  of teens ages 15 to 17 have had no formal sex education before they have sex for the first time.  At Sex Across America, we think that kind of figure indicates that a serious problem exists.

Without a doubt, it’s often an uncomfortable subject to bring up at local school board meetings, but the sad state of sex education across the country should be inspiring educators to lead rather than give in to that discomfort.  That said, it’s often not just a matter of overcoming community objections to curricula content or gaining consensus about what material should be taught to which age groups, but also about ensuring teachers are fully prepared to deliver the information and appropriately mentor students through the process.  In that regard, some leading sex educators are stepping up and investing their experience in building a framework that makes sense.

As a project sponsored by the non-profit organization, Future of Sex Education, a comprehensive plan entitled, The National Teacher Preparation Standards on Sexuality Education, was recently published which outlines standards for preparing teachers to deliver sexuality education.  Specifying seven standards along with success indicators and examples, the project seeks to establish a common national foundation for ensuring that every middle and high school student receives a complete, age-appropriate sexuality education.  The result is the first time that specific standards have been established for educators charged with the responsibility of providing sex education.

Of course, a plan is only as good as the degree to which it’s implemented and while this project is a nice step in the right direction, it has to be adopted in order to have any real impact.  It’s hard at this point to gauge the actual interest in it, but with the stakes as high as they are and recognizing the genuine challenges involved with sexual health education, embracing a reasonable structure for better preparing those who will eventually be responsible for providing sex education has tremendous merit towards solving a serious and growing problem.

If nothing else, it does demonstrate that there are many who are not content with just sitting around and hoping for better results.

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U.S. Supreme Court Okays Same-Sex Marriage

7/1/15 – Washington, D.C. — The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.  The court’s decision, which narrowly came in with five justices in favor and four dissenting, was the result of lower court appeals in several cases that have been piece-mealing same-gender marriage laws one state at a time.

Writing the opinion for the majority, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that same-sex partners have the same fundamental right to marriage as opposite-sex couples do.  In his summary, Kennedy said, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.  In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

The historic decision can be found in its entirety here:  Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision 

Ireland Approves Same-sex Marriage By 2-1 Majority

A May 22nd referendum resulted in an historic, resounding approval of same-sex marriage in a country long thought to be highly conservative and traditionally captivated by Catholicism:  Ireland.  By a popular vote of 62% to 38%, a significant majority of Irish citizens confounded expectations and approved the measure as a means of demonstrating that all are valued equally.

For more on the story, we recommend this coverage by the Irish Times.

 

Formalities of Normalities

As much as Americans tout a maverick, even rebellious spirit, we spend a lot of time, effort and cold hard cash trying to get to “normal.”  Even those who consider themselves unconventional eventually gravitate to clans with similar interests as a means for fitting in somewhere.  Whether it’s an emotional need for acceptance, a primal urging towards community or something to do with strength in numbers, “normal” appears to be a big deal–especially when it comes to sexuality.

Here’s the thing about “normal:”  When a particular social tribe takes it on themselves to define what is normal, the default result is divisiveness and, to a large extent, intolerance when it comes to anything outside the resulting definition–whether it’s actually based in fact or not.  While compliance with certain values (for example, protecting children) has its place in a civilized community, power within groups tends to obsesses over what certain behaviors are, rather than what they actually do.  Even if such nonconformity is positive, productive and poses no threat whatsoever to anyone else in the circle, challenging the prevailing groupthink is likely to be perceived as a disruption to the status quo and therefore, labeled as (you guessed it) “abnormal.”  More often than not, the label is otherwise baseless and is frequently even hypocritical, but the stigma attached usually has a real and significant impact on whomever is tagged with it.

Leadership to confront and combat mythologies about “normal sexual behavior” has been slow to materialize, but sustained efforts have been made during the past 50-60 years–even in the face of stiff opposition and incredulity.  For example, since 1947, The Kinsey Institute (originally known as The Institute for Sex Research) has led the field in discerning facts regarding human sexuality, dispelling many unfounded conceptions and redefining “normal” much more broadly than previously believed or accepted.  As one might imagine, however, political and legal controversies arising from many of their findings served to impede (and in some cases, actually derail) progress and unnecessarily prolong a state of intolerance.  The fact that the institute has remained steadfast in its mission says a lot about its leaders in their quest to better define “normal” more realistically and in an inclusionary manner, but should it really be that hard?

Human history is replete with stunning examples of groundless beliefs trumping coherent facts, but what’s even more astonishing is the consistent, irrational tendency to embrace certain beliefs rather than uncover and accept a reality which might be in opposition.  Without a doubt, a lot of that is purely political, but acceding to the power of groupthink simply to keep a superficially steady boat from rocking is a recipe for doom.  There are plenty of solid examples of that as well.

While it’s certainly much easier to merge with the popular pool of “normal” and bask in its illusory safety, good leadership is less concerned with what’s  popular than it is with what’s real and right.  Indeed, it takes a lot of spunk and moxy to go against the formalities of normalities and instead inspire a lasting respect for rational discussion and eliminating knee-jerk intolerance.  There’s likely to be tremendous pushback when facts are uncovered that disrupt ingrained beliefs, but progress cannot be made with heads buried in the sand.  Opposing any kind of bullying takes courage, commitment and conviction but the result can literally change the world for the better.

What’s more “normal” than that?

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