- (Associated Press)
When Martha Schaerr announced her candidacy for a spot on the Montgomery County Board of Education, she probably didn't predict that her race would be consumed by the issue of anal sex, and how to talk to kids about it.
Early in her candidacy, Schaerr made pains to distance herself from several groups that, several years ago, formally protested the mention of gays in the county's sexual education curriculum. "Why would I go back to things where I know nobody's going to agree with me?" Schaerr said, promising to no longer pursue the gay issue on the school board. But after being accused of harboring "anti-gay" views last week, Schaerr found herself rehashing her official views on homosexuality again, this time in the pages of the Washington Post.
For the record: Schaerr is all aboard with teaching kids about gay people, she clarifies—as long as the curriculum focuses on how they chose to be that way, and also how dangerous the sex they have is.
To recap: Sexual education should reinforce "beliefs," not facts; teaching students that sexual orientation may be derived from a variety of complex factors, of which "choice" is not one, would be prohibitively "pro-gay"; gay students should be singled out and warned about how dangerous their sex is, even though most people who engage in anal sex are heterosexual.
I do not agree, however, that schools should be teaching students that sexual orientation is inevitably innate and that this is the only legitimate view of the issue. As the American Psychological Association has recently stated, "Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation . . . is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles."
The curriculum should leave students free to determine for themselves whether sexual orientation is a matter of heredity, environment, choice or some combination. Allowing students to make that decision for themselves is not "anti-gay." Nor is it "anti-gay" to seek to ensure that all students are given clear information about the health risks of any sexual practices discussed in the curriculum. American teens—both gay and straight—are acquiring sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. If we're going to talk about anal sex in a health class or a condom video, it's irresponsible not to warn students—especially gay students—about the medical evidence showing the heightened health risks of anal sex compared with vaginal sex, even with a condom.
Personally, I would have stuck with Schaerr's previous campaign position of "I know nobody agrees with me on this so I'm not even going to say anything about it."