Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Critics of a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County public schools say the program teaches that homosexuality is not a choice without including scientific information to the contrary.

“It’s inadequate,” said Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. “It’s an exercise in social advocacy, primarily.”

Mr. Throckmorton, who works with former practicing homosexuals, says in a recently published 33-page critique that some good changes have been made to the curriculum, but that the negatives far outweigh the positives.

“The changes undermine any abstinence message the curriculum may offer,” he said. “And its treatment of homosexuality is an exercise in social advocacy as opposed to education.”

Mr. Throckmorton’s opinion supports that of some members of an advisory committee that reviewed the changes and said homosexuality is a preference or choice, not a genetically predetermined condition.

The members also said their scientific evidence was rejected. The county school board unanimously approved the curriculum Nov. 9.

David Fishback, a Rockville lawyer who leads the citizens advisory committee, said he had not read Mr. Throckmorton’s criticism of the curriculum but was familiar with his work.

“The bottom line for Dr. Throckmorton is that homosexuality is a sin or a disease,” he said.

Mr. Fishback said that Mr. Throckmorton’s view “that people can change their sexual orientation and sexual desires if they really, really want to and really, really try is risky, risky business.”

Mr. Fishback has told reporters he joined the advisory committee in part because his two grown sons declared themselves homosexuals after hiding it for much of their adolescence.

“People, too often, are put through hell to fit the conception of how people think is the only way people can be,” he said.

The new curriculum will be tested in three middle schools and three high schools in mid-April. The six schools have not been chosen, said Brian Edwards, the spokesman for the Montgomery County public schools.

The advisory committee will collect feedback from teachers, parents and students in the schools, then present the school board this summer with the results of the pilot program and recommend any adjustments.

The board members will then vote on whether to approve the proposed changes and whether to continue the program throughout the school district.

The new curriculum would be implemented in the fall in county eighth and 10th grades.

Mr. Fishback rejects the claim by Michelle Turner and others committee members who say their evidence on homosexuality was ignored.

Mrs. Turner has four children in public schools and has helped organize a parent group working to stop the new curriculum.

She says most of the committee members “favor a pro-gay agenda and see homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable, if not normal lifestyle, that should be taught to our children at an early age.”

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