Why Should a Health Curriculum Include Gay Students?

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Because their lives are at stake.

On Tuesday night, at the Board meeting, I heard a lot of talk from opponents of the health curriculum about “agendas.” They were concerned about socialist, fascist, United Nations agendas in the document, but more than anything they worried about the imaginary menace of the “gay agenda.”

As I testified to the Board, I do have an agenda as a teacher: to ensure that my students have the opportunity to be healthy, become educated, and learn to think for themselves. They deserve to feel safe in school and know that their sexual orientation doesn’t diminish their humanity.

Two heartbreaking stories this week,  one about a 13 year student who killed himself following taunts from classmates and another about a Rutgers student who committed suicide after roommates secretly recorded and broadcasted a sexual encounter, make it clear that schools play a vital health role for the safety of students. Our schools must confront harassment and violence  against students and must work protect the physical and emotional health of children who face very real threats.

It’s time for the critics of the proposed curriculum to start answering questions about their position. Do they really believe we should withhold information that will protect the health of students? Should we deny the fundamental humanity and equality of all kids?

The tragedies of this week make it clear that we must not.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

19 Comments

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  • Good point. I'm glad you attended the meeting. Did any wacko parents give you hell for being there? Seems that they could have made the argument that you have a vested interest and therefore should not testify. Hey, I used to teach. I encountered the wackos for years. I know how they think.

  • "Why Should a Health Curriculum Include Gay Students?"

    The answer is – that a health curriculum should not have a special chapter for gay students, because numerically they are too few.

    Should there be special chapters for other minorities?

    Special chapters based on religion?

    Or income-based curriculums?

    Where do you draw the line?

    BUT – I could also make the argument on the other side of the coin, that since the CDC (Center for Disease Control) statistics show that the only group that AIDS infections are increasing is among gay men, that it is important to point out the risks of that lifestyle in a health curriculum.

    So in short POGIE – I don't know.

    Maybe a compromise – teach the kids the statistics – which are scary.

    The statistics on race are interesting, which means that health curriculums could be tailored to fit the area – here's a link to the CDC page –

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/FastFact

  • Coobs – a health curriculum that is already discussing sexuality is in a prime position to discuss this ten-ish percent of the population. The health concerns of gay people are in fact terrifying, but not just from AIDS. Gay men (especially in Montana) do face a higher risk of premature death from a variety of causes, generally related to their participating in high – risk behaviors, including unsafe sex, smoking, and drug and alcohol use. The thing is, none of these behaviors is a necessary effect of homosexuality. Rather, they are the effects of societal marginalization, which is furthered by the fact that people like you treat homosexuals as an insignificant minority, deserving of no special attention. We can continue this attitude, but we run in to two problems.

    1. It is a morally bankrupt position. For perspective, by any count (even the most conservative) there are more homosexuals than Jews in this country; in Montana there are almost certainly more than any racial minority. To ignore the marginalization of a group that large is to turn our backs on even the ideal of equal opportunity, much less equal outcome.

    2. It will come back to bite us – marginalization robs us of productive members of society, both by sidelining their contributions and afflicting them with numerous health and social issues that end up costing us.

    So, yes, I accept your compromise, but we ought to teach kids all the facts, not just your cherry – picked statistics. Kids ought to know the truth about high-risk behaviors, and non-monogamous sex is certainly one. However, kids also ought to be taught the truth about the causes of homosexuality as far as we know, and they need to be dissuaded from further participating in the marginalization of this group of people.

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