The Frontal Cortex

Outsourcing Sex Ed

When sexual education classes in the Montgomery County public schools were outsourced to the Rockville Pregnancy Center, an “evangelical, antiabortion clinic,” the education part of the class took a dramatic turn for the worse. Instead of actually learning about birth control or STD’s, Rockville high schoolers played edifying games like the “gum game,” where the students are forced to share the same piece of gum. They also play the “ex-lax game”:

In this game, students were handed squares of Hershey’s chocolate, but before they popped the candy, they were told that a few kids had instead received Ex-Lax laxatives. Still want to eat it? Few did, and, in fact, Tierney assures me that although this exercise “really freaks them out,” it is only a mind game designed to drive home the idea of random risk — no laxatives were distributed to students.

That’s tax dollars well spent.


  1. #1 Lauren Muney
    February 15, 2007

    Ah, the Montgomery County school system at work. I graduated high school from that county, which has some of the most wealthy communities in the whole nation. Even more impressive, many of your senators and congresspeople live with the county, as well as celebrities. But many send their kids to private schools. Hmm, I wonder why.

    In 1990, I was part of a Kaiser Permanente initiative to teach kids about AIDS. We traveled in the DC area, giving a ‘play’ which seemed just like the kids themselves. The show was called “Secrets”, and was widely known as a well-executed way to reach kids. (We even had a quality Q&A after the show, based on information from the CDC.) There was a segment where the two main characters, a teen couple in love, try to figure out whether to have sex…. In fact, a line in the show (I still remember 16 years later) was, “If we can’t talk about sex together, we certainly aren’t ready to do it”.

    Many schools, and one whole county (Fairfax VA), required the show to cut the section about condom use. Why, you may ask? Because, they said, ‘to talk about condoms means that kids may be encouraged to have sex’ : if you don’t talk about it, maybe the kids won’t do the act. (This rule was set by 50 year old people, btw, whose formative years were the early sixties).

    There were many high schools where kids were already pregnant. Just recently I heard there are nurseries in many schools for the teen mothers.

    The problem is lack of real education (lack of real teaching) and outdated ideas of ‘older’ decision-makers who don’t know how to communicate with kids. Get real teachers, communicative sources, and reach the kids ‘where they are’ — and not through evangelical methods in the public sector. It’s truly possible: they just have to think of the “end user”, not themselves.

  2. #2 Agnostic
    February 15, 2007

    Ha, I too graduated from a MoCo public school (though not one from one of the “wealthy communities”). This is no surprise — in the 2004-05 academic year, the entire Walter Johnson High School (a fairly well-to-do school) did away with homework — as in, they didn’t even assign “suggested” work to make sure students kept up, and any work they did do was optional. The next year, no surprise, homework was back.

    But then in the 2005-06 year, they ordered new geometry textbooks that have no formulas in them, just question marks: i.e., “Area of a circle = ?” after paragraphs of description. Since all children are mathematically gifted geniuses, they’ll have no trouble figuring out the formulas on their own! Unlike the ban on homework, though, use of these constructivist moron textbooks persists into the current year.

    Needless to say, the idiocy of the school board, and the wooly-headed Graduate Schools of Education that churn out the leaders, is good financial news for tutors like me. However, I’d just as soon have the kids actually learn something in school rather than fork over private funds to hire tutors.

    Fisher doesn’t get off so easy, though, as he claims that there is “rampant sexual activity” among high schoolers w/ no evidence — in fact, most don’t do anything, and the rate of having teen sex hasn’t increased within the last generation. Coturnix linked to an article on the subject, and The Lancet did a global review several months ago, finding the same thing. Is it impossible to talk about the sexual behavior of teenagers without suggesting that they portentously spend the entirety of their free time fucking multiple partners? Sheesh.

  3. #3 Agnostic
    February 15, 2007

    To clarify, the geometry textbooks devoid of formulas are county-wide, not just at WJHS.

  4. #4 Genevieve Williams
    February 15, 2007

    Boy, we’re crawling out of the woodwork—I also graduated from MCPS. Though I was a magnet/IB student, so my experience may be atypical. But I remember having no fewer than three sex ed programs, in fifth, eighth, and tenth grades, and all of them were comprehensive: the approach was basically, “We advocate waiting, but if you don’t, here’s how to protect yourself.” Sensible advice.

    That the school system outsourced this important topic, and to this particular organization, greatly disturbs me. (So do the geometry textbooks without formulas. Buh? How do you teach it without formulas? Wouldn’t the paragraph after paragraph of description be even MORE confusing?)

  5. #5 MattXIV
    February 15, 2007

    I went to the adjacent Howard county public schools. Not that the sex ed there was that savvy – we had a lesson that tried to show up how to talk a peer of the opposite gender out of having sex with you. The example dialog was so euphemismistic that you wouldn’t know they were talking about sex if the lession hadn’t specified it. My preferred tactic is still the gross-out images of STD-ridden genitals – it’s the only thing that I remember from sex ed for reasons other than being laughably ham-handed.

    Also, wouldn’t the take-away lesson from the gum activity be that you can swap fluids with all the members of your class and still not catch a serious infection?

  6. #6 quitter
    February 15, 2007

    Feeling all small-world because I actually remember “secrets” when I was getting my WJHS eductation.

    I don’t feel in retrospect that my education was defective, my teachers were mostly quite good. If it’s true they’ve replaced the real sex education that I got with some hack pregnancy center’s BS, than that’s very upsetting.

    At the school I’m about these days, an undergrad girl here did a serious piece of investigative journalism and went to the local pregnancy center and planned parenthood and compared the two. Big surprise, the BS pregnancy center, lied to her, was full of pamphlets and materials telling lies like birth control increases your susceptibility to acquiring HIV, etc. While planned parenthood actually gave her valid information, asked her the important questions, and really just did a good job medically treating her.The WaPo has a similar article on the lies of the pregnancy crisis centers.


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