Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Another state, another school district trying to usurp the rights of parents to be parents in increasingly outrageous ways particularly involving sex ed. taught to students. Whether it was the kindergarten introducing sex education elements to 5 year olds, the Catholic pamphlets everyone thought were inappropriate considering the age they were given to and their motivation “to prepare children for confession,” the individual teacher who took students to a sex shop, increasingly graphic photos and videos meant to be shown to younger and younger children, the sex ed. books allowed in libraries at middle and high school levels. Lastly what Fox News’ Out # discussed this week a pilot program in a Seattle school district giving young girls, middle school, as young as 11 access to IUD contraceptive birth control, here’s the kicker for many along with the Fox panel, without parental consent. Said panel pointing to every conceivable problem regarding their plan from the hypocrisy of schools where you can’t get a candy bar or a sugary soda but you can get invasive birth control, to horror at their still young child being exposed to this as an option, the ludicrousness of expecting 11 year olds to understand the implication of hormone based birth control’s effect on their body, be knowledgeable about their complete family history, histories of breast, other female cancers and taking these drugs potentially multiplying their risk vs. using a condom that has no long term effect on their bodies the way the  given items do. One member boldly telling their cohosts, nationwide audience members schools were focusing on the wrong end, they needed to focus on the head, give girls more options, give them more things to reach for, instill in them there are better things to reach for,  larger goals and you won’t have to worry about it. That was their answer to the reoccurring “liberal” question what are we supposed to do, how do we prevent teen, even tween, pregnancy happening at younger and younger ages, lower and lower grades? Going on to say it’s bigger than just one more case of schools trying to be everything to students instead of fulfilling their prescribed mandate to educate kids in the 3 R’s reading, writing and arithmetic, but proclaims this is part of the reason our scores in those areas are so low internationally because schools are doing, trying to do everything else. Usually known for my stances on letting parents be parents, letting parents decide what happens to their children aside from clear cases of abuse, neglect, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, almost always accompanied by one of the other 2 elements listed, my routine habit of calling out cities for their curfews, who they inevitably end up targeting, disenfranchising, exposing school districts rules and letters to parents on children having devices, social media pages, altering prom traditions to make sure kids don’t go drinking at an after prom party because they have to be in class the next day, simultaneously begging parents to be parents getting mad when they make a solid decision school administration simply doesn’t agree with, deconstructing asinine honor codes threatening to take AP credits away from students for violations, handing out suspensions for less than misdemeanor offenses happening off school grounds, punishing kids by association, doling out the same to a student for being at a party where there was alcohol sans proof she knew it was there, direct knowledge she never drank any, another getting in trouble for providing a sober ride to a drunk friend.  When it comes to sex ed. my readers know me as continually siding with schools, echoing their question on what are they supposed to do, admonishing both the religious, morality approach and advising all faith-based entities what they would do if they ever saw fit to stop being apoplectic about what liberal, progressive, removed god from education, schools are teaching young people about ‘the sacred act between 2 married people’ and developed a program of their own teaching anatomically correct names for body parts, reproductive bodily function, emphasis on abstinence, sex is for marriage while teaching them what to avoid, teaching them how to be safe, what to do when they are ready to have sex, when don’t want any more kids once they are married.

It’s no different here, while the program is radical as a headline, agreed probably won’t withstand parent protest, you can’t argue against the schools intent, to prevent the 11, 12, 13, 14 year old pregnancies they find themselves dealing with, kids in middle, junior high school coming to school pregnant and on their second pregnancies. Zeroing in on girls in this particular initiative, acknowledges the fact 11-14-year-old’s likely to have sex are far less likely to use a condom, because a condom is something the guy must wear, protection circumvented when he comes up with a clever excuse not to use one, she acquiesces to his not wanting to wear one for fear he will leave her, believing they are both in love, destined to get married, thought processes that happen with older teens, college kids and adults all, not singularly the immature far too young to have sex. 11-14 year old girls who are having sex usually doing so with teens years older than they are, more mature at least physically, girls 11-14 emotionally craving love, father figures, curious about sex, desperate to experience sex for fear of missing out on what they think all their peers have already experienced, who will lie about their age to be with someone older, a person they think they love.  11, 12, 13, 14 year old boys who, thanks to their parents who don’t notice, don’t want to admit their child is going up, don’t have a father at home, don’t have father figures in their life to guide them through puberty, tell them why sex at their age is bad, operating on the long held, popular yet false mythos ‘if I talk to my kid about sex, show him details surrounding safer sex he will want to have sex, think I am giving him permission to have sex, paramount among men, who likewise wouldn’t think to show them how a condom works, thus don’t know how to use one when they do end up having sex, ‘fooling around’ with a girl just enough to get her pregnant. Female condoms are hard to come by, harder to use, never mind use properly or effectively; how many teens show up to the ER panicked because the condom got “lost” during intercourse using traditional ones?  From the school’s point of view, using IUD’s over the traditional pill means it’s implanted and effective for X amount of time sans having to remember to take a pill be you a busy professional, a mother to at least on child already, a flighty teen or tween, IUD’s mean not having to continually obtain a prescription, fill said prescription either with no health insurance, objections by certain insurance plans. Being implanted by a professional, a nurse, there is less chance of it being used incorrectly, improperly inserted rendering it ineffective compounded chances of success by what it is and how it is designed to work. Excluding parents from the process, unthinkable to the known conservative Fox news show hosts, good parents everywhere, but can actually be good thing for some young people because they never had solid guardians in the first place and they need, at minimum, this to increase their chances of finishing school, obtaining a high school diploma, then possess options for going to college versus the outcomes they see now junior high, high school girls who get pregnant, almost drop out of school, forced to repeat grades, most never graduating, stuck in medial labor work, surviving on welfare. What about the older kids, those in high school, remember this is the whole school district, who are moderately well informed, who tried to have a conversation with their parent about getting on birth control and the parent lost it, started yelling and screaming about ‘you better not be having sex,’ possibly even throwing the child out of the home for asking about contraceptives, the teen who fears being ejected from their home should they become pregnant; behaviors repeatedly shown in the identical “good parents” these hosts referenced. Not mentioned is what related sex education materials our vilified Seattle school was distributing to students, what are the actual criteria for the youngest students to receive an IUD, hormonal implant, what health information is asked of the student before the physical procedure is done, does it include questions on family history, how extensive is middle school health services, the nurses office there; are they equipped to do any sort of testing that would indicate  reproductive, female cancer risk? Are students wishing to have it done being referred to a local free clinic for said testing before implantation to ensure student safety; questions and their answers that skew the balance one way or the other about how good an idea this is or not, questions Fox News did not ask, answers they were thus uninformed about.

One of the reasons schools keep doing more and more, taking on a position of parent to their districts students, exerting more control, commenters saying it as if it were a swear word, is because they have been forced to; they are faced each year with growing numbers of students who though their parents love them, try to care for them, in addition to being poor, poverty stricken, minus needed school supplies, kids from preschool, kindergarten up are coming to school filthy, hungry, clothes that are too small, hardly have shoes on their feet. A second category pointedly coming from neglectful homes where parents are rarely around, the child is repeatedly left alone, left to fend for themselves while the parent gets drunk, does drugs or sleeps around, parities, describing terrible conditions at home, suspected physical, sexual abuse they just can’t prove, social services seeing a borderline parent who may be struggling, may be doing some things badly but has yet to cross the line to criminal abuse, neglect, has yet to meet grounds to remove the child, others working long hours just to afford the bare basics producing the same effect, kids absent needed parental influence. Third, courtesy of the recession formerly middle class kids, families suddenly rendered homeless, food insecure, living in their cars, pay by the week motels, living in shelters, moving in with neighbors. Move past elementary school with said crowd who still obviously don’t have solid parenting at home, possibly an abuse victim, suffering the loss of a parent through death, incarceration, divorce, a parent who just walked out and you have exactly which 11-14 year olds are likely to engage in sex, girls who are likely to seek out older guys, young men who are apt to go with what feels good, be fixated on manhood and exerting that manhood by having sex. Schools are on the front lines of child and teenage trends, children, teenagers and their parents pushing the envelope enacting policies accordingly dealing with children exhibiting increasingly provocative, even illegal behavior earlier and earlier, not just centered around puberty, sexuality; think the preteens who attacked a classmate because they believed the fictional online character Slenderman would hurt their family if they didn’t, bullying, fights posted on YouTube, social media posts contributing to suicides. The problem with the elementary school principal who sent letters home about what age kids should and should not have social media pages, recommendations about where to charge devices and guidelines parents should use, is the demanding nature with which he did so. Not to mention the problems schools do have surrounding puberty and sexuality, kids provocatively propositioning each other in hallways including touching, harassment, sexting, sending explicit photos of classmates to each other, caught having sex with each other in closets, stairwells exc.; behavior parents either don’t know how to, are seemingly unable to quell. The underlying problem regarding school’s “obsession with food,” what your child is eating, that should be your preview, is school lunches needed to be revamped in the first place eliminating mystery meat, green globes of things supposed to be vegetables, supposed to be healthy, the repetitive reuse of items like beans cooked in every way imaginable. Friction, contention today stems from the fact that there is an obesity problem in this country, more and more students are overweight, obese, suffering health problems that also impact them at school; school age children and young adults are there roughly 8 hours getting as many as 2 out of 3 meals a day at school, meals that should be healthy. Especially true for the kids whom these are the only meals they get; the issue with bans on certain foods outside sugary junk, vending machines is bans on specific items nuts, canned fruit, string cheese, popcorn in one area, were not explained. Bans on cupcakes and similar sugary confections for  classroom birthday parties approved by states, select school boards sparking national debate when a cupcake provision was put into federal nutrition standard updates for school lunches, vending machine contents that  didn’t take into account what was going on, or not going on, in individual schools or recognize the woman leading the charge was a food zealot, before she was ever a progressive, paranoid her children were going to get life style related diseases. And, instead of talking to her children’s teachers, goes on national television expounding on why no parent should allow their child cupcakes for school birthday parties; kind of like the lunch lady who told Nightline chocolate milk was soda in drag, both conveniently left out of the “control” debate regarding schools obsessed with food stories replaced with the word progressive, again connotation smacking of swear word. Returning to our original topic, the chief disconnect between conservative and progressive ideologies on sex, sex ed., putting aside religion and all its inaccurate baggage, is they labor under the astoundingly wrong assumption every parent, the majority of parents parent the way they do, are inclined to teach their child abstinence, is knowledgeable enough about contraceptive methods, STD rates and related statistics to teach them, woefully untrue. And anytime throughout history anyone so much as suggested we reevaluate, restructure, rethink, add more information to what is taught in sex ed., what is offered by schools, to facilitate child, teen health, especially on the subject of sexual, reproductive health; above is the standard reaction.

Despite ok let’s face it, parents’ track record for home based sex education is a joke, almost as much as 1950’s 1960’s sex ed. film reels, videos; most parents won’t or don’t know how to talk to their kids about sex either because for the religious sex is a dirty topic to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, their religion says that is a conversation to be had shortly before marriage and not until then, they labor under the mentioned false mythology talking about sex gives teens the idea, inclination to want sex. Among non-religious or more modern religious parents, best of intentions notwithstanding, they botch it completely, how many from the Mayberry era were terrified what would happen on their wedding night, horribly nervous they didn’t know what they were doing; how many still today find themselves with the same feelings post having “the talk” with their parents? I’m both young enough to benefit from modern sex ed. and I’m old enough to remember 1990’s PSA’s telling parents they didn’t have to be perfect in talking to their kids about sex, they just had to have that critical conversation usually featuring a dad comparing feelings for a girl to a bologna sandwich or socks listing an address where parents could write for a free guide on talking to their teen. Sadly funny but utterly uninformative and confusing on the receiving end commonly done without the guide, proving you do have to have some idea what the hell you are talking about to be effective in reaching your child on such a sensitive issue; worse by the time parents begin thinking they need to talk to their child about big issues drugs, drinking, smoking, gangs and yes, sex their child has already been harassed to join a gang, propositioned to try alcohol or drugs, try cigarettes  possibly unsure what to say, how to handle peer pressure and has had feelings about a girl or boy, been asked to engage in some type of sex act, may have already done so. Recent controversies over sex ed. bearing out those facts; take the kindergarten purportedly proposing to teach 5-6 year olds about masturbation, pleasuring their bodies was an acceptable, good thing to do, another parent standing up in a school board meeting discussing the same guidelines saying 12 year olds did not need to be taught details on oral and anal sex. Sentiments echoed by a Kansas father who contacted media after his 13 year old daughter showed him pictures of a poster hung on a classroom door titled ‘how people express their sexual feelings’ listing eye popping items like sexual fantasy, oral, anal sex and touching each other’s genitals hugging, kissing, talking oddly at the bottom, speaking with the school principal only to find out it wasn’t a prank it was part of their sex ed. curriculum, asking to camera why it was put in front of 13 year olds? Elaborating it took a special kind of stupid to call that abstinence based sex education; except they don’t teach abstinence only ed., they teach abstinence at her grade level relying on abstinence plus, easily described abstinence and, at higher grades, circa 2007. So much for being an involved parent; answering why, because those same 11-14 year olds vulnerable to come to school pregnant are quite possibly vulnerable to engage in oral, anal sex, touching. The 2 former popular with teens precisely because it doesn’t result in pregnancy; showcasing parents possess no earthly clue at what age their teens are exposed to what within their peer group, what age they are tempted to do what, requested to do by a girl, boy they like. The Michigan teacher who took middle and high school students to an adult sex shop firstly didn’t take them there to show them kinky sex toys and fetish pornography; she took them there for a specific, general sexual education class, overall resources offered by the shop. Secondly no child was forced to attend hints why there was no permission slip sent to parents; thirdly this father protesting the loudest, waits until the end of his media statement to mention how traumatized his middle school daughters, now removed from said school, were, teacher painting a whole different picture talking about kids asking questions without shame or fear calling it great to see. Making us wonder was that Los Vegas kindergarten really going to teach masturbation or the standard no one touches where your underwear, bathing suit goes sexual abuse preventative utilized for decades, and because of the recommendations for older children extrapolated that; hardly surprising is the young woman who talked about 8th and 10th grade sex ed. being taught next to nothing the first time and being subjected to the ‘you are impure if you’ve had sex talk’ possessing no caveat for sexual assault survivors, which she was. Nor were quoted statistics alerting viewers, parents Nevada has the 7th highest teen pregnancy rate, the reasonable conclusion reached by the on camera educator saying the current sex ed. was failing students. Part of the current “unsolvable conundrum” is we have yielded to parents too much, allowed conservative politicians, school boards, officials, parent outrage to adjust sex ed. parameters focusing only on abstinence and STD’s, abstinence as the primary preventative to STD’s. Less on contraceptive methods, the importance of condoms, additional risks outside pregnancy for engaging in unprotected sex, conservative, Christian sex ed. speakers, clinics telling teens condoms don’t work against sexual diseases like HPV, genital warts, herpes, irresponsibly leaving off it’s not 100% useless against those infections, just limited, much better than nothing at all. My regular readers will remember my article on Pam Stenzel, repeated reference to the damage she does to teens when it comes to understanding sex, sexual consequences. Leading to a no condom youth culture thinking why use something that doesn’t work, makes sex feel worse, perpetuated by the attitude exuded by adults pregnancy is the worst thing that can happen, common knowledge sex is no longer a possible death sentence because AIDS /HIV drugs are so successful they’ve turned it into a chronic diseases, HPV now has the vaccine Gardasil given to girls at middle school age to catch them before they engage in sexual contact, independent spotty application, incomplete vaccination fueled by parent indignation doctors, educators dare suggest it. You resent schools trying to have a different relationship with your child than the one you thought they were involving books, to paraphrase the Out # cohost, then step up and have the whole conversation about safer sex methods, birth control, all sexual behaviors because they need to know the “unnatural things” do constitute sex, can spread disease, are against you, your family’s interpretation of god. But recognize you have to have a close enough relationship with your child they will hear you, will come to you with questions an obstacle for people who think that close relationship is being their child’s friend and they are the parent, they are in charge.

And the consequences for that perspective, that mindset are exactly what we see; pregnant middle schoolers, rising STD rates, riskier and riskier sexual behaviors. The consequences for the ‘I don’t have to have that conversation with my kid, my kid is the good kid’ mentality, the consequences for painting sex as taboo, off limits, shunned, instead of presented as something done between 2 adult people, preferably married makes it all the more alluring, fun and interesting to teens who no longer want to be seen as children yet are not fully adults.  The consequences for not doing something differently, for leaving sex education in the dark ages they have been for the past 40 plus years can be seen beyond these trends, shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, findings of various school aged children’s voluntary surveys on sexual activities. But in conservative office runners, office holders like Todd Akin so ignorant about reproductive facts he virtually made up magical attributes of a woman’s body to explain why abortion never needed to be legal, child star turned religious activist Kirk Cameron coming behind that whole mess calling him a good man. Which may be true in other aspects of his life, from a moral standpoint, from a will he get to heaven standpoint, but he certainly wasn’t good for the office he wanted to fill, good for the office he was already holding, serving on his state house committee dealing with science topics. Presidential candidate 2016 Mike Huckabee defending Josh Duggar’s teenage pedophilia acted out on his much younger sisters as youthful indiscretion failing to connect his strict religious upbringing’s contribution to the problem not teaching sex ed., body autonomy, what is and isn’t appropriate leading to the exact abuse that occurred, potential to make women afraid of men, make either gender feel dirty for normal thoughts and feelings associated with puberty. Purity culture, abstinence only never teaching what you do when you start having sex even in the confines of marriage, to be sure your partner is tested before the I do’s because sexual disease might be the result of abuse, rape not just premarital hedonism, using condoms and birth control to prevent kids you are not emotionally, financially prepared for, able to take care of. Or Huckabee who didn’t call out the hypocrisy of supposedly religious, moral parents too ignorant of the legal system or too conniving to do the right thing in alerting police. Never getting their obviously psychologically troubled child real help except from an academy run by a person accused of his own inappropriate behavior only as a full adult. Nationally we got an in your face view of conservative sex ed. failure; remember Bristol Palin, pregnant teen daughter of vice presidential candidate Sara Palin whose baby daddy drama was plastered all over  magazines across the country. Bristol virtually ignored by conservatives when discussing teen issues while the aforementioned Huckabee bashed career stable, financially stable Natalie Portman for being an unwed mother then and recently criticizing Obama family for letting their daughters listen to Beyoncé in her risqué outfits “pimped out” by her rapper husband Jay-Z. Bristol back in the news post cancelling her wedding and for being pregnant again, after receiving thousands of dollars in speaking fees promoting abstinence, going a step further saying this one was planned. Being called a hypocrite by left, liberal media not because she got pregnant to begin with, not that she became pregnant a second time, that they believe there is anything wrong with “those people” who do get pregnant sans marriage, nor was it about their preference she have an abortion, they would have been more supportive of that choice, suggestions by another Fox News show host or that she is fodder for public ridicule, punishment for choosing to give birth to her child over aborting it. Rather she is targeted for public ridicule, punishment and shame because she got pregnant again after taking money to be an abstinence spokesperson, admonishing teens not to do what she did twice, learned firsthand where babies come from, the result of not using some kind of contraceptive when you do decided to have sex providing you’re not trying to have a baby, inherently judging others doing something she once more seeks forgiveness for. Compounding Bristol’s hypocrisy is the stated reason why she called off her wedding revealed on a Christian websites blog; she severed her wedding plans after finding out her fiancé was married before. Obviously if they were planning to be married he accepted her prior “bad” choices, at least should be, willing to be a father figure to her now 6 year old son; however, she’s willing to ditch him for a prior, done the “moral, right way” relationship, where their doesn’t seem to have been a child involved? Continuing, you don’t know the man you are going to marry well enough to know he’s been married before, you didn’t talk enough about each other to each other to know that, but you were willing to marry him? Conservative media subsequently upset, mystified and bashing liberals like Bill Maher for going after people’s families, saying he wasn’t taking a jab at Bristol rather at former VP candidate Sara; tone implying how underhanded and wrong that was. Well who should we go after when Christians, conservative, pro-life, pro abstinence only sex education supports chime repeatedly sex ed. is something to be taught at home; who do they go after when this happens to liberals, in the inner city black, minority communities, when they announce society is going to hell in a hand basket, the parents. Looking at conservative red states where the above is the predominate thinking versus blue states where comprehensive sex ed. is taught tells the story on its own; states using compressive sex ed. have lower STD rates, lower pregnancy rates. Still we wonder why schools circumvent permission slips, allow students hormonal birth control absent parent permission when the Midwestern father repeatedly refused to sign school sex ed. permission forms, instead of following  expert recommendations to have those conversations early and often with your child which actually delays sexual activity, when in today’s society of rampant sexual abuse it could be a father, other relative, neighbor, family friend creating the need for birth control, one of the reasons vaccines like Gardasil are given so early.

As for “working on the head,” causing young girls and boys to want more from life than having a child they have to raise for the rest of their lives, sure nice daydream in this recession economy, considering the fate of early millennials, gen Y and emerging gen Z (now in middle school); who know exactly what the score is, know exactly what their chances are of ending up a barista even if they do well in school, go to college. Later gen Y to Gen Z whose parents have college degrees and they struggle with gainful employment, money or are trapped in medial labor for the lack of them still struggling either way, whose parents have lost homes to the recession, watched their older siblings battle the same economy, get educated and remain behind instead of getting ahead.  Add that to the tough lives lead by some kids, young people so focused on surviving today tomorrow doesn’t enter into it, looking for something that they can hold onto, something that feels good, something that gets their mind off the horrible now if only for a moment, lives where they have always known the only legacy, mark left on the world, extension of themselves left in the world would be their children. Personally I was never tempted to have sex, let alone become a teen parent; my mother answered my questions about sex, sex ed. topics. When I found condoms in a drawer somewhere in our house, left over from some prank at work, she demonstrated what they were used for, leaving me wishing I hadn’t been so curious. I was such a tomboy and, if anything, A-sexual my mother later commented she thought I might be lesbian since I “dressed so Butch,” which left me with my eyebrows connecting to my hairline wondering where she came up with that. Nevertheless she signed the forms for me to have sex education classes every time, intent on my having the information I needed, I saw the “graphic pictures of STDs and heard about the potential pain, bleeding for women when they have sex. I wasn’t interested before and certainly wasn’t after that, but that was back when I had other goals I thought I could achieve, had teachers who saw potential in me, told me I was smart invested the time in me. Situations not always so for those whose skills lay outside academia, who struggle in school just to pass, who wait years and years to get to high school where there are electives they can excel at; I can imagine what might have happened to me had I been a cuter adolescent, teen, well liked or even hated except by the guy giving me a little attention, had I known how utterly alone I would be as an adult, that I wouldn’t end up with that group of career driven friends to enjoy holidays with, exchange gifts for birthdays, how much socially and societally thanksgiving and Christmas are for family and if you don’t have one, your screwed.  Socially too we pair off into partners or mates, inevitably producing kids if we’re able and this is supposed to be the circle of life; people still in the 21st century ask when you’re going to get married if you are, or passed a certain age, goo-goo and ga-ga at the latest additions to the family asking when you will have one, no matter how many times you tell them you don’t want one, are not interested in romantic entanglements, expectations coming with marriage. Teens who enter into, attempt these emotional, social physical bonds so early, do so without marriage are those who know tomorrow and wait isn’t guaranteed to them, convinced they have nothing to lose and a little something to gain doing it now; factors that don’t change by educators ‘giving them more options’ advising them to reach for a career, enticing them to be interested in something else besides boys, marriage and kids. Neither is marriage nor waiting to have sex, have a ring on your finger before having sex the panacea to social ills we think it is; there were pregnant teens and unwed mothers circa the 1950’s. Elders, parents just shoved them off to convents, homes for unwed mothers because they were too shameful to be in public, usually forcing them to give their babies up for adoption. It wasn’t just the hippie, free love movement of the 1960’s the increasingly hard drugs of the 1970’s that gave us more teen pregnancies if not STD’s; it was a lack of education and a push back to too rigid social conformity. Fast-forward to today, of the classmates I rolled my eyes at for being boy obsessed, pregnancy obsessed, baby obsessed, most of them found stable careers in helping professions using their overactive social skills, have children if not husbands happy as clams.  Classmates I knew in high school who at least had the sense to wait ended up with kids and at least one worthless baby daddy; one classmate who got pregnant senior year, went on to marry her child’s father have at least 2 more kids with him losing her children and her parental rights because he did drugs and beat her. Proving doing it right is no assurance you won’t end up a statistic of one kind or another.