Posted on Mar 8, 2011
I read this a couple of days ago when Holopupenko linked to it, and I didn’t know whether to weep, scream, or vomit. All three are fitting: but there is an even better response, which I’ll return to at the end of this post. The context for this statement is a side event paralleling the recent meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
“O___ s___, m_________, and o_____s need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia. Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression. She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.
Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.” “Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.”
Did she really say that to the UN? Yes, she said it. It’s hard to tell exactly who the audience was, though it seems to have been a conference running alongside the UNCSW meetings. Was she really representing the NEA? Unless and until we hear a disavowal from the union, it would seem so, based on other content of her speech. The Commission’s draft of agreed conclusions makes no reference to this discussion, but the web page on which her recorded speech appears seems to list it as part of the meeting’s program. I would welcome further clarification on that if anyone can provide it.
Besides the above, she glowingly describes the NEA’s “LGBT Cadre,” which delivers four modules of training on “safe schools” and the GLGT Caucus, founded in the 1980s to provide “safe schools … free of anti-GLBT intolerance,” partly by monitoring and developing NEA policies.
Regarding sex education, Schneider says (downloadable audio file) the following. Seldom have I encountered so much to object to in so short a statement. (Caution: there is explicit language ahead. All emphasis is mine.)
I do not know of any other subject that is so maltreated when it comes to freedom of topic, style, and format. Many schools throughout the world cover sex education in the realm of reproduction as part of a biology class, which provides a subtle message to LGBT youth that their intimacy does not count. There are schools that are vehement about offering abstinence-only-based sex education classes. Many schools offer parents the opportunity to have their child opt out of sex education and still receive full health credit for their class.
The United States was founded by a very religious faction whose strongholds are still felt by those sex educations programs that are founded on the guidelines of sex for the sake of reproducing. How can we teach sex education without including terms such as orgasm, oral sex, and masturbation?
We are here today because of the chasm that exists when it comes to addressing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity within the educational forum. I have asked many health educators when topics such as sexual orientation arise. They have said homosexuality is only mentioned during their sessions on HIV/AIDS. With this in mind, how can we expect to obliterate homophobia in this country? The question arises how we as educators can serve to combat homo- and transphobia through education. This is an awesome task.
The key to the answer lies in the recognition that both gender identity expression as well as sexual orientation is a spectrum and not a box that houses our being. We must teach our children at a very young age that the male-female or intersex comes with the presence of genitalia and no further expectations; that one needs to grow up and be their authentic self, free of society’s gender expectations. The same could be true of our sexual orientation. Homophobia exists when those stuck in the binary box of strictly hetero find themselves slipping out of that role that religion and family promote. When we as a society encourage a sense that it is normal to be attracted to a variety of people and situations, will we then begin to conquer homophobia? Once again, to be true and authentic about romantic relations without fear or sin [sic] of wrongdoing could mark the beginning of the end of homophobia.
She goes on to talk of making schools safe for GLBT faculty, staff, and students; teaching GLBT history and values, insisting “education is the only way to combat the phobias that bring us here today.” She asks how to combat “heterosexism” and gender conformity.
- She assumes that schools own the responsibility for our moral future, even if it requires opposing parents or religions. What hubris!
- She speaks of her topic being the most maltreated in terms of “freedom.” There is at least one other subject that is more restricted, which is of course religion.
- She refers to “a very religious faction.” What does “faction” mean in this context? It misleadingly suggests that people with biblically formed values have been a contentious minority in our history. Never lose sight of the fact that gay-rights advocacy is our generation’s real cultural insurgency.
- She speaks frequently of “safe schools” for different kinds of people. All Christians must strongly support this (safe for all people, not for all values). We need not agree that teaching about oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms is any part of that; nor need we agree that abstinence-only education undermines it.
- Her goal is to “obliterate” or “conquer” homophobia. Aside from the error in that term, this is an explicit threat to the values, religious beliefs, and possibly the freedoms of those of us she would label that way.
- Her reference to the “authentic self” is incoherent and inconsistent unless she is willing to open it to include a Columbine shooter’s “authentic self.” (See further here on bullying.) It also rests on a contentious and erroneous view of the nature of being human.
- Her perhaps Freudian slip in “fear or sin of wrongdoing” reveals her perspective that sin is not real, a way of thinking to be overcome.
- She implies that it would be valuable to pursue romance without fear of wrongdoing: but doesn’t fear of wrongdoing keep us sometimes from doing wrong to the people we’re closest to?
As I close, though, I want to focus on just the second- and third-to-last bullet points. These are the ones that make me weep for Diane Schneider herself. She has no understanding of what it means to be human: that she was created in God’s image for a loving relationship with him; that God himself knows who we are and what we are to be, so it is not ours to create ourselves; and that in his love, he has made us potentially to be so much more than we could ever make ourselves be. She does not know that there is a barrier separating us from all the good God has for us, that this barrier is sin, and that is a problem to be solved, not a way of thinking to set aside. She does not know that God has solved it—he has solved it for her.
I call on you to pray for the Diane Schneiders of the world. They need to know God. And yes, let’s also pray and use godly wisdom to block their advocacy from having any more effect than it has already had—so they do not prevent others from missing God’s best for them.