The Nashville Scene just published a great piece by Jonathan Meador (read it here) about some new legislation awaiting Tennessee governor Bill Haslam’s signature.
The article explains that the “Tennessee Integrated Sexual Education Bill” (an incredibly misleading bill title, in my opinion) would prohibit public school curricula from promoting as-yet-undefined “gateway sexual activities.” The bill is designed to keep abstinence at the heart of sexual education programs.
Tennessee statute already demands that sex-ed programs explicitly promote abstinence. The difference in this bill is that it intends to make it “the only permissible focus, despite overwhelming evidence that leaving out open acknowledgment of sexual practices makes sex education less effective from a preventative standpoint.” The article cites an Auburn University study called “Sexual Health of Young People in the South,” which found that the South’s high birth rate and poor sexual health were “due in part to a lack of investment in the region in implementing medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education programs.”
The bill’s writers and supporters claim that abstinence only sexual education programs will solve these problems.
Look, let me say on the outset that I absolutely adore living in Tennessee. It’s beautiful, the weather is wonderful, the people here are friendly, the food is good, and it’s got some awesome cities: Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, to name a few.
But I am so frustrated with the recent slate of bills that have passed through my state’s legislature. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill sought to restrict the discussion of LGBT issues in public schools, and the “Monkey Bill” (which PASSED) will now allow public school teachers to teach alternatives to scientific theories of creation.
It’s not my style to bash other’s belief systems. At my very core, I believe in a variety of opinions flowing through the public sphere. However, I truly believe that the separation of church and state is an invaluable part of our constitution, and that’s why I can’t stand to see these inane bills get so far in our legislature (and occasionally pass into law).
What you teach your children in the privacy of your own home is your choice and your right.
However, I am so sick of Tennessee’s legislators spitting in the face of reason and sacrificing the health and safety of their constituents in order to force feed religiously fueled dogma into public schools. It is so completely irresponsible to leave the sexual health of young people in the hands of “abstinence-only” education.
High schools kids are having sex, y’all. They just are. You can trust me. It hasn’t even been four years since I left the place myself. Our high schools are TEEMING with sexually active teenagers. Whether you think that is inappropriate is your personal business, but facts are facts, folks. Choosing to ignore them on a wishful whim of sex-less teens can be your beautiful fantasy, but it’s utterly unrealistic and moronic as a sexual education program. I won’t even start on the psychological consequences of teaching pre-teens and teenagers that something their bodies do naturally–a basic biological function–is dirty, unmentionable and shameful.
I’m not at all shocked that this bill is up to be signed. I am, however, completely frustrated and depressed by it. I believe that all people should have age-appropriate sexual education given to them in a way that is accurate and effective. Otherwise, society pays the costs of unexpected pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Tennessee, I love you, but your legislators are nonsensical idiots.