Aside from blatantly attempting to shut down sex education through “opt-in,” Kansas HB2199 poses an interesting question: “To what extent should parents control the content taught in public schools?”
This bill requires school districts to “...provide all instructional materials on human sexuality, including any teaching plans and syllabi to any parent or legal guardian who requests such materials before such parent or legal guardian makes a decision of whether or not to allow such student to be provided such instruction.”
So why shouldn’t ALL school materials require parent approval before they are taught in the classroom?
I taught for my first five years in Kentucky where the local dialect used “Hit hain’t got no...” for “it doesn’t have any....” As teachers, one of our important roles was to help our students rise above the local grammar or they would not have much chance to succeed in society. We likewise are professionally responsible for increasing our students’ abilities in reading, science, art, music, social studies and math beyond the level of their parents.
If you think that only backwoods Kentucky might have low expectations for academics, consider the statement in the Hugoton USD application for hiring unqualified teachers under the CISD system: “The subject of math is an excellent example of how a teacher in Kansas virtually has to have a Ph.D. in math to earn highly qualified status at the high school level.” Kansas standards for math teachers do require more math than the average parent understands, but it is hardly Ph.D. level. The failure of that school’s leadership to understand the academic level in modern math reflects how 1800's thinking survives today.
Of course, HB2199 is narrowly targeted at sex education, assuming that a parent’s knowledge in this field is “gud enuff.” But unless a child’s parent is a medical doctor specializing in neuro-hormonal pathology, that is no longer the case. Our 21st Century understanding of basic human reproductive biology has gone way beyond lessons in “simple plumbing.” With one-couple-out-of-seven infertile, far more detailed reproductive knowledge is critical in this modern era of infertility treatments and obstetric procedures. Sometimes there is ambiguity in anatomy and the doctor cannot say “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” Usually XY chromosomes result in a male and XX chromosomes cause a female; but there are variations from XO to XXY, XXYY etc. Sometimes an XY person has female anatomy while another XX person appears male. This is science that few parents know.
I remember my parents marveling at the new things I was learning in middle school in the 1950s that they had never been taught. That was an age when door-to-door surveys revealed that everyone thought tomorrow would be better than today, because today was better than yesterday. And we expected that our children would have a better life than us. That drive forward was propelled by ever-advancing education.
But today, surveys show that we believe tomorrow will not be better for us or our children. And the HB2199 fig leaf bill is an endorsement of an earlier century of ignorance.
In all public school classes, teachers require student “understanding,” not “belief.” It is important for our next generation to understand concepts even if they do not accept them.
For parents who want their child to remain ignorant about human sexuality, they already have several mechanisms to remove their student without denying the subject to other students. Local school districts are already required to offer parents either opt-out or opt-in for sex education in health. It is a local school board decision. HB2199 takes away that local control and mandates opt-in at the state level.
For those parents who have an objection to their child taking ANY course work that contradicts their religious beliefs, they can always exercise their religious “opt-out” provided by K.S.A. 72-1111(f).
House Bill 2199 is a bad bill. “Opt-in” shuts down coursework for all students, not just opt-out students. Not only is it not necessary, it is a step back in time reinforcing the ignorance of a prior century.