Sex education in Minnesota schools

(Subject/language warning)

The Minnesota House, you may have heard in Tim Pugmire’s story this morning, has approved a bill establishing a sex education requirement for Minnesota schools. Some people, however, don’t care for a one-size-fits-all approach to the subject.

Which brings us to condoms, specifically Rep. Sondra Erickson’s reading from “a sex education curriculum:”

“Barriers and methods for preventions. Is the condom going to be used for anal sex, vaginal sex or oral sex? Parents, I hope you’re listening. That’s what can be in these curricula that parents may choose, some parents choose that you don’t want. Your children need to be excused. Under safer choices explicitly how to put a condom on. What’s that about for 7th through 12th graders.

Well, yes, that’s what can be in “these curricula,” but is that what’s in this curriculum? No. It hasn’t been written yet. Here’s the requirement as specified in the bill:

Curriculum requirements. (a) Consistent with its curriculum review cycle under section 120B.11, or no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school year, whichever comes first, a school district must offer and may independently establish policies, procedures, curriculum, and services for providing responsible family life and sexuality education that is age-appropriate and medically accurate for grades 7 through 12.

So what was Erickson citing? It appears to be the curriculum of the Birds and Bees Project (see it here – pdf), a Minnesota-based group that claims to be presenting it to 8,000 students and adults in “area high schools, alternative learning centers, correctional facilities, churches, synagogues and adult-education programs.”

Which ones in particular? They haven’t yet told MPR’s Tim Nelson, who’s working the story today.

Here’s an “exercise” that’s aimed to 15-18 year olds:

For questions 4-5 have the teens focus only on the lists for Vaginal Sex, Anal Sex and Oral Sex.

4. Let’s say you are trying to communicate your feelings, desires and boundaries with your sexual partner. If all the above words listed are synonyms for sex, how would your sexual partner understand what specifically you meant if you said “do you want to have sex?” Could the same problems occur that we listed earlier when we talked about styles of communication? What additional problems might we add to the list? How can you be sure that your sexual partner is consenting to the same sexual experience as you if the words you use are vague or if you are using different communication styles?

Well, OK, that’s… uncomfortable, and I know it is based on the number of folks who’ve reacted to hearing Erickson’s comments on the radio this morning while their kids were in the car.

Where it’s likely to get testy, if this curriculum should actually be adopted in schools statewide, are sections such as this:

This activity illustrates the fact that whether or not abortion is legal, there is a need for the procedure. Making abortion legal makes it safe for the women who access these services.

1. Write “1973” on the board.

2. Explain that 1973 was the year when abortion became legal in the U.S., but that women had abortions before then.

3. Ask students to think of reasons why a woman would have an

illegal abortion and write all of their responses in a column to the

left of “1973”.

4. Next, have students think about why women have abortions today, and list all of their responses in a column to the right of “1973”.

Over to you, governor.