I was unaware that North Dakota legislators put a law in place in 2011 (that became effective in July 2012) that requires K-12 schools in North Dakota to include in sexual health curriculum “instruction pertaining to the risks associated with adolescent sexual activity and the social, psychological, and physical health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity before and outside marriage.”
I learned of it yesterday in an article in The Forum that reported that NDSU’s President, Dr. Dean Bresciani, had frozen the funding awarded to two faculty members (1.2 million dollars to be exact) for the creation of a three-year comprehensive sexual education program in partnership with Planned Parenthood for Fargo-area teens. The rub, according to Bresciani was that the project appears to be in conflict with legislative intent. This is despite the fact that the legislation is only K-12 specific. The NDSU researchers involved – Dr. Molly Secor-Turner and Dr. Brandy Randall – sought to offer a program outside the K-12 system that required parental permission for participation. The program is clearly outside the K-12 law. Yet, according to Bresciani, “Whether technically or not, in my evaluation, it’s not respecting the intent of our Legislature. And that’s close enough to me. We’re not looking for loopholes to work around our Legislature; we work in respect of our Legislature.”
NDSU’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee already transmitted an open letter to President Bresciani that addressed their strong disagreement with his decision in no uncertain terms. You don’t limit academic freedom in a research institution without putting yourself and the institution’s well-being in harm’s way. I think the President now has much more to fret over than a handful of pushy legislators.
But that matter aside, let me focus on the legislators themselves and their K-12 law. Let’s refresh – the law mandates that when sexual health curriculum is provided it must:
1) provide instruction pertaining to the risks associated with adolescent sexual activity; and,
2) the social, psychological, and physical health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity before and outside marriage.
I really take no issue with the first requirement and I also take no issue with the promotion of abstinence as a choice, but I am irritated to no end about the inclusion of abstinence in regard to the whole notion of saving oneself for marriage. Seriously?? What century are we in? Do our legislators truly believe in this day and age that couples still wait until they are married to have sex? SNAP THE HELL OUT OF IT! This is outdated Puritan thinking, and frankly, I believe it steps over the separation of church and state line. This is religious doctrine. This is not a societal norm. No one does this anymore (or at least very, very few).
Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship. Sexual compatibility matters…a lot. To present to kids that they should wait to have sex until after they are married, is to damage the strength of marriages across the board. Strong marriages need strong bonds – strong bonds that include satisfying intimacy. Why would we want to tell our kids that they should wait until marriage when it is both wholly unrealistic and a risky gamble in regard to sexual compatibility?
I am not for promiscuity, but abstinence until marriage is something I would categorically advise against. Why couldn’t the abstinence message be tied to age and maturity? How about including something about sex being better in a relationship with someone you really care about (although, some might say that is not necessarily true)? Those kind of messages make more sense and may actually produce the desired result.
I sure would like to know by a show of hands how many of our legislators abstained from sex until they were married. They are in a demographic that likewise received the abstinence message – indeed, most of them received it in a time when the importance of sexual compatibility in marriages wasn’t talked about all that much. Surely they abstained both because they were told it was the thing to do and because they had no idea how important sexual compatibility was to a healthy, happy marriage.
How many hands would be raised? I am thinking not many…perhaps not any. I hate to be the one to point out the obvious, but the fact that the legislators who made the law didn’t abstain themselves makes them look like hypocrites who are out-of-touch with reality. It is time to provide information to kids that meets their 21st Century needs – information focused on creating healthy adults with healthy relationships. Let’s move away from unrealistic religious doctrine in public schools and move toward the facts North Dakota. And before you say you don’t agree with me – tell me – is your hand raised? Mine isn’t either.
Day one thousand two hundred and ninety of the new forty – obla di obla da