Mandatory ignorance harms students

Five months ago, the press leapt on the Kansas State Board of Education when Bobby Henderson took a stand against its latest flip-flop in the intelligent design versus evolution debate. In order to respect the boundaries between church and state, the intelligent design curriculum opened itself to all opposing views; before long, Henderson created the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hilarity ensued.

Now, for their latest trick: Since sex is so “offensive” to so many, particularly when it enters American classrooms, the board has adopted a policy requiring written parental consent before students can take sex education classes. Previously, the order was reversed; those with moral or religious objections could opt out of sex ed given parental consent. The scary part is, this isn’t even a new idea; according to the Associated Press, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah all have similar “opt-in” policies.

The chairman of the Kansas Board of Education says that its goal is to empower parents. In fact, it only deprives students of the information they need and deserve.

Far be it from us to dictate what is appropriate behavior — especially regarding the touchy subject of sex. However, evidence points to a sharp decrease in teenage pregnancy when students have all of the information taught in a typical sex ed course. Obviously, obstacles to enlightened sex ed are the complete opposite of what we need.

And teenagers whose parents want to shield them from the truth are the ones that need this information most. They’re the ones who stand to suffer from mandatory ignorance.

To make matters worse, the board is now considering tightening the rules even further to require programs that, instead of educating students about sex, pound nothing but the message “abstinence until marriage” into students’ heads. The proposed bill would limit funding for any district that fails to put into effect the preferred programs, many of which aim to scare kids with “facts” that are far from truth. Shaming, scare tactics, and misinformation are not education.

For instance, according to the curricula of some of these federally funded programs, one out of every seven times a couple has intercourse with a condom, a pregnancy will result; condoms prevent the spread of HIV less than two-thirds of the time; and merely touching another person’s genitals can result in pregnancy.

Interestingly, the Kansas state legislature is pushing an opposite stance; it recently passed a bill requiring almost the exact opposite treatment, mandating that all students receive full information about sex education with discussion of abstinence as an option.

The state of Kansas — and those who set its educational guidelines — should step back and realize why sex education exists in the first place. These classes don’t create a new society of moral deviants, and they don’t dissolve religion. Sex education has been proven to benefit the community and the individual, both physically and psychologically.

Instead of trying to empower parents, the state should consider using education to empower students to make their own healthful decisions. Education about sexuality, pregnancy, and STIs doesn’t encourage sex. Making sex taboo does.