The sudden announcement that standardized, comprehensive sex education tests are coming to the District of Columbia represents the first shot in a full-fledged blitzkrieg by Washington-based intelligentsia against a populist ideology that cuts across party lines.
Who are the combatants? The federal Department of Education under both President George W. Bush and President Obama has long argued that bureaucrats need to be empowered by more standardized testing, more state and federal oversight and more ability to intervene in local schools. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and Planned Parenthood have maintained continuously that experts should teach children that casual sex is virtually inevitable and offer a full-fledged introduction to condoms and contraception. Teachers unions such as the National Education Association traditionally have opposed centralizing educational authority in the hands of distant minders unfamiliar with the situation in the classroom. Parental rights advocates have always held that sex is more than biological but has a spiritual and moral dimension best addressed by parents one on one as opposed to in a crowded public school classroom.
The comprehensive sex education tests represent the fusion of the historically Republican belief that "expert" bureaucrats know better than teachers and local communities and the historically Democratic view that "expert" organizations can handle sex education better than parents responsible for the moral and spiritual formation of their children. And this is only the beginning. The 50-question standardized D.C. test will be modeled in part after 17 recommended questions put out by the Council of Chief State School Officers, a registered trade association representing the highest-ranking education official in every state and the District. It has been authorized by the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, a bill passed by the D.C. Council and permitted to go into effect by the U.S. Congress.
Here is a recommended question: "TJ wants to remain abstinent, but also wants to know how to properly use a condom in case he is ever in a situation where he might become sexually active. Give TWO reasons why using a condom properly is important and describe THREE people or places that could give TJ accurate information about condom use." The question implies that TJ ideally would remain abstinent until marriage but is responsible enough to admit that circumstance could very well trump his free will. This subtly denigrates free will and true human liberty to the level of a shallow illusion. The worldview underlying the question implies there is no free will and, therefore, no true moral discernment that goes into human decision-making. This is precisely the philosophy that underlies the comprehensive sexual education courses soon to appear in the District.
Many District families think sex is more than biological - that it should be a full expression of committed, life-giving love. Many families will be horrified that the District's education establishment is demeaning sex-related education topics to the level of a standardized test.
But this is a fight that will not be confined to the boundaries of the District of Columbia.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, working hand-in-glove with the National Governors Association and the Obama administration, through its Race to the Top grant in the federal stimulus, already has imposed national standards on almost the entire nation. The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is a set of standards and national tests that will allow education policy to be determined in the National Governors Association headquarters in Washington. Currently, the standards cover just English and math, but "experts" are clamoring for control in more subjects.
Most teachers fiercely oppose these centralized efforts to diminish teacher autonomy. However, the Washington-based NEA has hung its members out to dry and refused to attack the Obama administration over the issue. It instead has endorsed President Obama's re-election campaign and left teachers a diminished teach-to-the-test role in the classrooms of America.
The effort in the District is a stalking horse for expanding the Common Core to include comprehensive sexual education. If the Common Core and this standardized comprehensive sex education test both go into effect, education leaders in Washington will not rest until they have nationalized comprehensive sex education in this country.
One of the few governors who refused to go along with the Common Core Standards is Rick Perry of Texas. The governor indicated that on issues this big, it is time for left-right local battles to be laid aside temporarily: "Now, I've had my moments with some of the teacher groups, but they stood up with me and said, 'No! We don't want Washington, D.C., and their one-size-fits-all mentality telling us how to educate our children in the state of Texas. We don't want their national tests down here. We don't want their national standards.' "
In the District of Columbia and across the country, it is time for parents and teachers to unite with populists across the political spectrum. If education moguls win, it is clear that advocates of both teacher autonomy and parental rights will lose.
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative, a program of American Principles in Action.
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