So, shortly after the Arizona Republic ran our column on abstinence-based sex ed, we received the following letter:
November 6, 1995
[Name and address of sender]
Dear Ms. Manning and Miller,
My husband and I read your column "Just say yes to abstinence for students" and then checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads. We are both American Red Cross trained and certified HIV/AIDS educators. We have done that educating in public schools on occasion. That probably puts us in your "free-love liberal" category.
Actually, we are the parents of nine and the grandparents of 13 (with another on the way). We are also in a "monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage." That is what we live and what we modeled for our children (something they took to with enthusiasm, judging from the number of grandkids!).
We feel you are giving "sex educators" a bad rap. Number one, the Red Cross treats AIDS as health education, not sex education.
It is true that we are taught to be what you call "non-judgmental," meaning we don't include moral teaching in our instruction. The reason should be obvious. We go into public schools where there are children of every conceivable racial, ethnic and religious persuasion. It is our job to try to reach all those children, not just the ones who belong to "our" group.
This is where we disagree with you. You seem to be saying that information about sex should be taught at home, and morality (in this case, your particular moral beliefs) should be taught in school. You have it backwards. This is the United States of America, and our Constitution guarantees that no one religious group will impose its beliefs on all its citizens.
Like it or not, there are children in the public schools whose families do not follow traditional fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and they have that right. Religion and morality should be taught in the homes, according to each family's belief system. Schools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.
If it makes you feel better, Red Cross instructors do teach abstinence as the best way to avoid AIDS. Of course, permanent abstinence would lead to the extinction of mankind (while AIDS is sexually transmitted, so is life) so we then recommend what we call "mutual monogamy." We leave out judgmental words like heterosexual or marriage, because we know some of the children listening to us are gay (homosexual monogamy is every bit as effective as heterosexual monogamy in avoiding AIDS), and many are from backgrounds where marriage is not held in high esteem. We need to reach those children, too! Every child deserves the information necessary to make intelligent, educated, responsible decisions about their sexual behavior.
We do tell the older children (high school age) about condoms. They need that information because many of them are sexually active. We also tell them that condoms are not 100 percent reliable. We explain that there is no such thing as "safe" sex, only responsible sex. I share the story about a young woman I knew who did all the right things. Unfortunately, her husband did not. She died of AIDS at the age of 26. That's why we use the term mutual monogamy.
My husband and I recently did an AIDS "teach in" at [a local Phoenix high school]. The majority of kids were non-white, and from disadvantaged homes (where parents are often absent or too burdened by life to parent effectively). I asked the students (as I do at the beginning of every talk) to give me a show of hands if their parents had ever given them any information about AIDS transmission. Not one hand went up. I then asked if they had previously had been given HIV/AIDS instruction in the school. Not one hand when up.
I didn't have to ask them if they were sexually active. There is a nursery and preschool on campus for the use of students with children.
In a perfect world, all children would grow up in homes with happily married, financially secure, socially and religiously correct parents who treasure their children and lovingly pass down the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior.
In reality, there are millions of kids outside that cozy picture.
These are the children we are trying to reach.
So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services.
Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job: which is not to morally corrupt children from good homes, but to try to save the lives of those who are not so fortunate.
Our response to come, in my next post....
Footnote: I am NOT comparing the despicable criminal abortionist Finkel with this kind-hearted, if terribly misguided, sex educator, but as I transcribed her words today, I noticed that some of them bore a striking resemblance to Finkel's words. Liberal talking points? I have no idea, but it got my attention:
They refer to themselves as the devil, as if I had said it:
Sex Educator: My husband and I...checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads.
Abortionist Finkel: It made me want to polish my horns and my cloven hooves!
They remind me that they do their jobs without a moral compass:
Sex Educator: Schools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.
Abortionist Finkel: I do not project or inflict my personal spiritual beliefs into the personal tragedies of my patients.
They consider themselves heroic servants of the less fortunate:
Sex Educator: So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services. Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job....[trying to save the lives of the not so fortunate].
Abortionist Finkel: I am a servant of women. I provide them with service that they want, need, and seek out. I am a physician; not a prosecutor. ... I take a great amount of pride in being there for the woman of Arizona when they need a physician and a friend.
There were other similarities as well. Anyway, it's not a scientific analysis, I just thought it was interesting.