Wednesday, January 25, 2012


In New Hampshire, a law was passed to allow parents to object to curriculum.

Under the terms of the bill ... a parent could object to any curriculum or course material in the classroom. The parent and school district would then determine a new curriculum or texts for the child to meet any state educational requirements for the subject matter. The parent would be responsible for paying the cost of developing the new curriculum.

Now, much as I would like to see schools take parents seriously, I can't see how this would possibly work. For starters, think of the time and effort that would be eaten up "determining the new curriculum" for one child. And how could the teacher, who is already juggling everything from the learning-disabled to the gifted in one overcrowded classroom, also oversee different curricula for different children? It's impossible.

Suppose I marched into Younger Daughter's classroom and told the teacher that I think Investigations is nonsense and I'd rather have Younger Daughter learn Singapore Math (true enough!). Does that mean the teacher now has to keep a different set of books for my daughter, and tutor her with Singapore Math? What would the rest of the kids be doing while this was going on? Could I specify that I don't even want my child to be exposed to Investigations, so they'd have to take her out of the room while the other kids were being taught?

Suppose there's another parent in the room who objects to both Investigations and Singapore Math, and insists on Saxon Math for her child. Now what?

We need parental input into the schools, but it should be at a much higher level, where the curriculum is chosen in the first place. Tweaking the curriculum one child at a time is madness.


  1. Okayyyy, so should my kid be sitting in the class while "how to put on a condom and have gay sex with men" is taught? Because that shouldn't be happening. At all. I know that when you sign your child up for public education, you really aren't going to have a say in every nitpicky detail, but I think if the parents are willing to get involved and do their part the school should make reasonable efforts as well. My kid can just read in the hallway during sex ed. :)

  2. I think most schools allow parents to opt out of sex ed. Doesn't yours?

    While we're opting out, I want to opt my child out of the standardized tests that she will be expected to take, starting next year.

  3. And notice that the New Hampshire law doesn't simply allow parents to "opt out", and have the kid read a book in the hallway, or whatever -- it calls for a substitute curriculum.

  4. I'd still rather have that than our option in California, where there is basically no opt out for anything except sex ed, and even that is really limited. There have even been cases where students were given "voluntary" questionnaires with explicit sexual questions, where parents had to "opt out" but where parents weren't given the questions first so didn't realize what was coming.

    The answer to "Do parents have the right to prevent education in subjects of which they disapprove" in California is "Almost never." Which is why I am not handing my kids over to the state.

  5. Right, "opt out" is meaningless if the parents aren't fully informed.

    The more I think about this, the more I think that my problem with the law isn't so much the "opting out" as the demand for a separate curriculum.

  6. What an incredibly offensive statement about "gay sex.". Since when have schools promoted sexual orientation??? Watch your words.

  7. They are doing this sort of tower of babel thing to make the school even more unworkable imo. It's feature not a bug. You can't create a for profit education system if the public one keeps lurching along

  8. I think this might be my favorite post of yours!


    I also think that Happy Elf Mom's comment was HIGHLY objectionable and oozes stereotypes about sex ed, as well as stereotypes about the gay community (i.e., that homosexuality is perverse). I'm very surprised that as a self-proclaimed "lefty" you didn't respond to this comment with distaste.

  9. Well, I wasn't thrilled about it. I guess I just wasn't in the mood to open that particular can of worms.

    I actually sympathize with some objections to sex ed in the public schools. It can be value-neutral in a not very helpful way. If rumor is to be believed, modern sex ed has resulted in, or at least not prevented, a teenage culture of casual oral sex for boys, engaged in on the theory that it's "safe sex". This is not a step forward for teenage girls, who (if possible) are being treated with less respect than ever, and not attaining sexual satisfaction either.

    When I was a teenager, there was still a culture of "falling in love". Does that exist any more, or is sex just seen as a biological need, on the order of scratching an itch or blowing your nose?

    Sex is a big, hairy, difficult subject. People get hurt, emotionally and sometimes physically, and sometimes human lives are accidentally started. It's enough to make the mother of a teenage daughter bury her head in the sand.

  10. For the record, I should also state that I'm OK with anything consenting adults get up to in their bedroom, as long as they close the door, don't frighten the horses, etc.

    Yes, I thought Happy Elf Mom's comment showed a bias against gays, and I probably should have called her out on it. However, I see that work has now been done for me!

  11. As to whether Happy Elf Mom's comment was based on stereotypes about sex ed, I'm not so sure. There's a whole thread on kitchen table math about a misguided "health fair":

    Today in your middle school

  12. When I was in public school, we had a "sex ed" assembly where we were shown a movie about venereal disease, complete with photos (from the defense department?) of diseased male genitals. I didn't know what a normal penis looked like at this age, so the sight of these oozing, pustulous monstrosities was a real horror to me.

    In retrospect, I wonder if the movie had been intended for an all-male audience, and was mistakenly shown to all the kids.

  13. On the opposite side of the globe, we have disturbing sex ed classes as well. One lesson included a powerpoint showing photos of the symptoms of different STDs. We were warned beforehand, and allowed to look away if we wanted to. Nevertheless, a lot of people mysteriously had music lessons during Health that day. One boy had a suspiciously long percussion lesson which took up the whole of the double period (80 min)!

    There was also that lesson where they had some plastic bananas and when you took the tops off there were fake penises inside that we had to put condoms on. (I was lucky enough to have had a clarinet lesson for that half of the period.)

    Maybe all of the teenagers all around the world (or at least in countries where sex ed is a requirement unless parents have chosen to opt out) should vote with their feet and ask for less sex ed, or at least fewer activities like the ones I just described!

  14. Sex ed is certainly not perfect, but I think that Happy Elf Mom's comment hinted at the idea that sex ed promotes sexual activity rather than being used as a platform to educate kids about safe sexual practices. This type of comment is typical of parents who refuse to believe that their children will ever engage in sexual behavior and who condemn schools for "introducing" the idea of sex to their children. It's a common perception, but IMO it's almost comically absurd.

    Values surrounding sexual behavior should come from the home, but the mechanics of engaging in safe sex and the risks associated with failing to do so should be the taught in schools.

  15. TeacHer, you've got way more faith in the system than I do.

    There is really no such thing as values-free education. When you teach sex ed as pure plumbing, you're implicitly teaching that safety is the only important concern. As I mentioned upthread, that can lead to an environment where teenage girls are taken advantage of. They're not getting any support for saying "no" if the sex is safe.

    If parents want to opt their kids out of sex ed, they should have the right to do so. I've never heard of a public school system that didn't agree to this right, at least in principle.

  16. American society is still very Puritanical when it comes to discussing sexual matters, so of course parents will demand that the right to opt their kids out.

    I wasn't trying to imply that safe sex is the only concern, but it's the only concern of the public school when it comes to sex ed. It's kind of like, I can teach the basic beliefs and practices of world's major religions, but I can't tell the kids what to believe. Kids need to know what's out there, but parents are responsible for communicating the family's values about sexual behavior, just as they are responsible for communicating the family's values about religious beliefs.

  17. TeacHer, speaking of bias, you assume that parents who opt out of sex ed are "Puritanical", and you accuse Happy Elf Mom, on zero evidence, of believing that her kids will never engage in sexual behavior.

    It seems to me parents have every right to be skeptical of what goes on at their local public school. Frankly, having seen the complete hash that schools have made of teaching reading and math, I'm not sure why I trust the schools to do sex ed.

  18. Sex education gets the scrutiny because it pushes people's buttons, but I bet if you took any subject you really care about and took a close look at how schools teach it, you'd probably want it done differently. With me it's literature: I'd rather have my kids study no literature at all than to study it in a way that will turn them off from it, as seems to happen to so many people.