Sometimes the best questions our readers ask are the most basic ones. In response to my post calling “abstinence only” sex education anachronistic, DRH asked, “Now for a real tough question. How should sex ed. handle gay & lesbian students?”
It is a great question. And the answer is not as simple as partisans on either side of the debate would like. It’s why I’m willing to cut Kevin Jennings a little slack on the Brewster incident. If he had shown some remorse in the years since the incident (before his appointment to the Department of Education), we would know he appreciated the complexity of the situation.
That leads to the question, how should a teacher handle a gay student, particularly when said student is a minor who approaches him (the teacher) in confidence, fearful his parents will find out?
Should he teach him about safe sex? Tell him that his feelings don’t render him a pariah or deviant, but instead are, while perhaps an aberration or anomaly, in the great scheme of things, natural? Should he discourage that boy from having sex until he finds someone with whom he can share something more than just physical stimulation and release? Or at least teach him about the emptiness and remorse that often follow casual sex and the potential that our sexuality offers for emotional intimacy?
As to the first two questions above, the answer is clearly, “yes.” As to the second two, the answer is not so clear. That education seems to better belong with the child’s family and place of worship. But, what if that place of worship teaches them that homosexuality is not just an aberration, but an abomination? Should it be the public school’s job to contradict that teaching?
Given what the hard sciences have taught us about sexuality, with the authors of Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men & Women, while debunking the “social construction” theory of gender difference (which should please social conservatives), affirm the biological origins of sexual orientation (which should displease them). In short, the physical sciences teach us that a homosexual orientation is perfectly natural. It should thus be taught in high school courses on sexuality.
Let churches that don’t like that finding contradict it on their own time.
And while some parts of the question* that DRH asked are, to borrow his adjective, less “tough” than others, it remains a complicated issue. I am certain that some schools have found responsible ways to address it, that while not pleasing to all, at least acknowledges the conflicting views.
Finally, given everything I’ve read about and by Kevin Jennings, he is quite possibly the last person I’d consult when considering these questions. It shouldn’t have taken him twenty years to figure out that he should have handled the Brewster situation differently.
*if we break it down as I have.