Sex Education: Progressives should explain clearly how they want this to work

The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill should prompt an important conversation about the nature of sex education for younger children, but instead of clearly saying what they mean, as in how young they would introduce topics like sexuality and gender identity, progressives choose to malign and misdirect.  Why is that?

The progressive world and much of the mainstream media is aghast about the pejoratively branded “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida.  White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declared it to be based on “misinformed, hateful policies that do absolutely nothing to address the real issues” without defining those issues, of course.  “Parents across the country are looking to national, state and district leaders to support our nation’s students, to ensure that kids are treated equally in schools, and this is not a reflection of that,” she explained.  The Guardian believes the new law is a threat to children’s mental health, claiming “LGBTQ+ parents and pediatric psychologists say the law stigmatizes being gay or transgender and could harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth,” without mentioning the law doesn’t say gay at all or do anything to LGBTQ+ youth, even assuming there is such a thing as sexual attraction is a product of puberty.  They quote Laura Anderson, a child and family psychologist in Hawaii, who explains, “We all have processes around clarifying who we know in our heads and hearts we are and who we are drawn to or attracted to.  To make an increasingly large percentage of the population’s experience invisible and taboo is just so harmful and unsafe for all kids.”  They cite a poll from the Trevor Project that reported “Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth said debates concerning the state laws have had a negative impact on their mental health.”  The Trevor Project is an advocacy group, by the way.

Natasha Poulopoulos, a pediatric psychologist in Miami, attacks Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.  “We have governors – that have no education or basis or expertise in child mental health – that impose such laws that are going to have horrendous impacts on kids” without mentioning that the law doesn’t actually target kids in any way, shape, or form.  Some teachers have taken to social media to express their own concerns about how to conduct their classes.  One almost practically broke down on camera, saying “As an elementary school teacher in Florida, this new bill is weighing on my mind a lot.  I teach first grade which means my classroom is one of the ones that will be directly affected.”  The center of her concern:  That she will no longer be able to tell her students about her marriage with a transfem, as if it is standard operating procedure to inform six year olds about your choice in partners.  “Do I lie?  Do I not talk about my marriage?  Do I pretend I’m single?  Do I invalidate my spouse’s stance as a transfem person?  Or do I put my job on the line?”  Even Florida-based, supposedly family-friendly, The Walt Disney Company, is now involved, claiming they will help repeal the bill.  “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

Of course, few of them are actually mentioning what is in the bill, officially known as the “Parental Rights in Education Act,” that they find so objectionable.  They’ve done a great job mischaracterizing the impact and branding it as “don’t say gay,” but does the text actually say any such thing?  Not really, nothing close. Critics point out a couple of key provisions including, “prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and a “school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”  In Florida, primary grade levels are defined as kindergarten through third, meaning students aged five through nine.  It’s also worth nothing that sex education doesn’t begin in the Sunshine State until fifth grade, meaning the students covered under these provisions aren’t supposed to be talking about sex at all.  Therefore, classroom discussions about homosexuality and gender identity shouldn’t be “encouraged” in the state’s opinion as expressed by their legislature and governor.  Further, the bill doesn’t preclude a student whose parents are a homosexual couple from mentioning them, or talking about their life at home, or that a teacher can’t refer to their same sex spouse.  It merely says conversations about sexuality and identity shouldn’t be encouraged in the classroom, and why precisely should they be at this age?  

To be sure, some critics believe the bill allows the state to go much further.  Alex Woodard, writing for The Independent claims, “the text of the bill relies on vaguely written and broad prohibitions on classroom speech while allowing parents to sue school districts over perceived violations, inviting costly investigations and lawsuits targeting teachers that could have a chilling effect on LGBT+ issues and people.”  He also sees the provision about “age” and “developmentally” appropriate instruction for older children as a potential poison pill, claiming “the state would also prohibit those discussions in other grades if it deems those conversations not ‘age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.’”  At the same time, how else would it work?  Surely, the sex education you provide for a fifth grader, to the extent you should be providing any at all at that age, is necessarily different from what you would offer a senior in his school.  It’s not like the idea that some topics are appropriate for certain age groups isn’t already fully accepted in popular culture.  We rate just about everything based on age, television, movies, video games, and more because some subject matter is not suited for young or even adolescent children.  As a society, we have long since decided that sex and violence, for example, aren’t rated G.  Why would education be any different? Would you put on Basic Instinct or The Crying Game in a second grade classroom?

Putting this another way, no progressive I’m aware of has actually come out and said what they would teach when.  The subtext is that they would start earlier, but they never specify at what age they think students should fully engage in discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Is any age too young?  Incredibly, Ms. Psaki refused to answer this question when asked earlier this week.  “At what age does the White House think that students should be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity?” Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked her.  Though this question is clearly fundamental to the debate, Ms. Psaki completely punted, attacking politicians in Florida and insinuating the state might be under investigation for violating civil rights laws.  “Well, I would say, first of all, Peter, we have spoken to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the past, I believe is what you are referring to, and made clear that as we look at this law, what we think it’s a reflection of politicians in Florida propagating misinformed, hateful policies that do absolutely nothing to address the real issues.”  She continued, repeating the false notion that anything in the bill would treat students differently.  “The Department of Education is well positioned and ready to evaluate what to do next and whether its implementation violates the federal Civil Rights law.”  Mr. Doocy asked again, “So, if you guys oppose this law that bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in K through three, does the White House support that kind of classroom instruction before kindergarten?” Still, Ms. Psaki refused to answer, suggesting that the burden was somehow on the reporter, “Do you have examples of schools in Florida that are teaching kindergarteners about sex education?”  “I’m asking for the president’s opinion,” Mr. Doocy continued, obviously confused as he was asking a pretty simple question.  “I think this is a politically-charged, harsh law that is putting parents and LGBTQ+ in a very difficult, heartbreaking circumstance,” she ended the exchange with another falsehood.  How is anyone being put in a difficult position by not encouraging these conversations among five year olds?

Of course, the cynic in me believes they are refusing to answer because they don’t want people to know precisely how young they would start these conversations.  They fear parents would be outraged to learn their real plans. In principle, this shouldn’t be a difficult topic for a broad consensus.  I think the great majority of people agree that there are some things that are age appropriate for young children and others that aren’t.  Assuming that’s the case, it’s merely a question of debating what should be taught when.  Instead, progressives insist on spreading false information (dare I call it misinformation?) and pretending the issue is somehow complex or damaging to even discuss.  In their view, teachers should have complete discretion as to what happens in their classroom when.  Failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe actually said this out loud at a debate last fall.  This, however, is certainly not the majority view of parents in general, who feel they have a vested interest in their children’s education for obvious reasons.  In other words, is it outrageous in principle that the mother and the father of a five year old don’t want certain things taught or discussed in their child’s presence or believe that some things are simply unsuitable for children of that age?  If not, how can it possibly be dangerous or damaging to have state laws that reflect these preferences?

They do not say, instead they malign and misdirect. One has to wonder why.

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