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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Will Now Be Call RINO

I'm sure after reading this post, more than a few people will put me in the group known as RINO's; Republican In Name Only. That's fine, political labels bug me anyway.

There is a hubbub in Wisconsin this week. The State has decided that "abstinence only" sex education can't be taught. Instead, the legislature on near party line votes in both chambers has decided that sex education has to include, well, sex. Including diseases, prevention and (gasp!) contraception.

This has the far right side of the Republican party up in arms. Their minor problem with it is the loss of local control on curriculum. The major problem is the idea of teaching sex as part of sex education. They believe that's best left to the parents, and in a perfect world, I'd agree with them. Except we aren't in anything near a perfect world. We're far from it.

Two of Wisconsin;s talking heads of the right, Charlie Sykes and James T. Harris are both upset about the decision. I agree with most of what they say most of the time, but believe they've chosen a stupid fight on this issue that does nothing to advance the real issues the GOP should be dealing with.

Here's my thought on it. I spent a lot of years of my life dealing with young adults with no concept of responsible sex, safe sex, or the emotional consequences of sex. These young adults came from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds. Some were privately schooled, some home schooled, most public schooled. Some had good two parent families, some were orphans.

If "parents teaching sex ed" is such a great idea, probably 70% of the kids I dealt with would have had an idea what was going on, and some reasonable sense of how to deal with such situations. The truth was, probably less than 25% had a clue. Most were educated, in the words of my best friends Dad growing up, "on the street corner, like me". Not the best place to be taught.

To the parents who cry they don't want the schools teaching their kids things they don't believe in, here's my answer. Then unteach them. The same way you (hopefully) did when they watched another kid throw a fit and get what they wanted at the store.

This might be uncomfortable, you might have to ask the kids to put down their cell and quit texting for a few minutes, or turn off the X-Box and TV. We did it by sitting down to dinner, and until my kids were done with school, playing a game called "what did you learn", and we started out with 1st period and went through the end of each of their days. When we had questions about something, we asked. When they had a question about something at school, they asked us.

When our kids started talking to us about other people being sexually active, we explained what we thought of the subject, and what we thought was acceptable, and why. And no, it wasn't usually a comfortable conversation to anyone. But everyone understood the expectations in the family.

It also made for much more open conversations with our kids when they thought they were ready for sex. Sure, there was some embarrassment, but they weren't afraid to talk to us. One of the things I learned dealing with thousands of young adults was that abstinence only education generally drummed in the idea that anything but was failure, and should cause shame, it made them less likely to seek advice or help.

So, Cheeseheads, be unhappy if you must, about your legislatures recent decisions. However, and more importantly, be parents. Explain what you expect and why, and keep a dialogue open with your kids. It will be much more successful than anything they learn in school.

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