If a public official is acting really badly, you can depend upon the fact that he is doing it, “For the kids!” It’s gotten to the point where much of the country is determined to destroy itself in the name of keeping the development of children arrested. It boggles my mind. Children are much less naive than most people think. Before puberty, no amount of access to naked people will make them interested in sex. And after puberty, no amount of naked picture depredation will keep them uninterested.
But that doesn’t stop many and sundry fools from trying. A new crop of neanderthals has decided to get upset about a state-approved sex education diagram being seen in a middle school, Kansas Senate Weighs Bill to Ease Prosecution of Teachers Over Offensive Materials. The State Senate is currently working on Senate Bill 401, which would pretty much make illegal anything that any of the fellow neanderthals are against.
The bill specifically targets “teachers, librarians or school principals.” Because the only way to stop an intellectual with “bad” facts is a conservative neanderthal with an unconstitutional law. The crux of this law is that “community standards” should rule. And so if a teacher talks about something that offends the local purveyors of intolerance: off to jail with them! Right now, it is all about sex. The “offensive” poster that caused all the ruckus was called “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?” It listed things ranging from “cuddling” to “anal sex.” Personally, I think the girls need to learn about anal sex, given how many of them will be practicing it after their virginity pledges.
Regardless, after a parent complained about the poster, it was removed. What’s more, the state decided to reconsider its prior approval of the poster. That’s where it all should have ended. But instead, the conservative ideologues jumped on it and used it as an excuse to effectively criminalize the teaching of anything that they don’t like. Of course, it isn’t the actual penalties that matter, but the effect it will have on teachers. The Kansas—National Education Association wrote that, “The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that will purge literature from our schools, censor art classes, and stop field trips.” They noted, “The lead proponent of this legislation is the American Family Association in Kansas which has been leading an effort to force the removal of a sculpture of a bare-breasted woman from a public arboretum in Johnson County, going so far as to successfully petition to impanel a grand jury on the issue.”
Proponents of the bill claim it is necessary. For example, Mary Pilcher-Cook, one of the bill’s sponsors, claimed, “Right now if a teacher were to give pornography (to a student)… it is not likely at all that a prosecutor would take the case because there is such a high hurdle protecting our schools.” This is not true, of course. According to the president of United Teachers of Wichita, Randy Mousley, the law is a solution in search of a problem. “It’s just an overreach where some particular group is trying to impose their values on everybody else in society.”
What I think is very interesting is that the bill is so broad that it could include anything. And here I’m not thinking about art, but basic science. The same people who don’t want anyone’s children to know about different sex acts also don’t want them to know about evolution and that the earth is more than six thousand years old. I’ve been hearing for years that such supposedly anti-religious teaching are harmful to children. In fact, a 2003 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics found that 30% of parents home schooled for explicitly religious reasons. And another 31% did so because they did not like the school environment, which I figure is mostly religious too. A lot of those religious concerns are nothing more than fear of the teaching of natural selection.
None of this too much matters. The ACLU seems to think it is clearly unconstitutional. (Of course you never know.) But I’m more interested in it just in terms of what it says about our culture. We are extremely intolerant and closed-minded. The American Family Association is not concerned with keeping their children from seeing the breasts on the Venus de Milo. They want to stop everyone’s children, and by extension, everyone. It’s sad, but even worse, it’s dangerous.