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Sherwood’s bill would upgrade state’s sex-ed curriculum

Last month I introduced a comprehensive sex-education bill, SB1020. No, it doesn’t give condoms to kindergartners or promote promiscuity, as some extreme social conservatives will try to tell you. It simply recognizes that it’s 2016 and it’s time to start educating our young people in modern, ethical and medically sound ways so we can achieve everyone’s mutual goals of improving health, reducing AIDS/HIV infections, unwanted pregnancies, STDs and yes, the need for abortions.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study “School Health Profiles 2014” ranks Arizona in the equivalent of the stone age when it comes to teaching our young people how their bodies work, how to think about family planning or how to be safe if they engage in sexual activity.  For example, while other states offer health classes to all of their secondary school students, Arizona is the worst in the nation in teaching about HIV, pregnancy, STD prevention, or human sexuality. Unprotected sex and auto accidents can kill you. Shouldn’t we educate our children equally in both so they can protect their own and others’ lives? That’s the purpose of my bill.

Andrew Sherwood

Andrew Sherwood

The GOP-controlled Legislature’s way of dealing with sexuality and sex education is to suppress it. Think of their Religious Freedom Bill, the Surprise Inspections on Abortion Clinics Bill, and the Papers Please Bathroom Bills – three perfect examples of how Arizona lawmakers wish to control our personal lives yet do absolutely nothing to solve any real problem. Their approach is to deal with the symptoms and ignore the cause.

So where do we go from here? Rather than try to shame our young people into ignoring human nature, we need to create age-appropriate education programs so we can develop a mature, informed and responsible culture that will move society in a better, healthier direction.

My bill makes several important and needed changes to Arizona’s health curriculum. First, kids will default into taking the sex-ed program.  Their parents can opt their children out of the course, which is opposite the current standard of parents needing to opt-in. We know busy parents may miss the opportunity to sign their kids up to learn something they need to know, which is exactly what the Republican lawmakers hope will happen.

Second, medically accurate knowledge will become the new standard. No more “old wives tales” or Internet myths can be taught. If you can learn about it from a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic or other top-notch Arizona medical practice, then it qualifies for inclusion. Nothing else belongs in the curriculum.

Third, these programs can be taught at appropriate times throughout the student’s entire school career. No one is making the absurd suggestion we begin to teach sex education to kindergarten or first graders.  Understanding procreation can wait until adolescence, but conversations about families, healthy relationships and respect for others should start much sooner.

Consider this: If a school only teaches sex-ed for 10 hours per year starting in 7th grade, an Arizona teenager will have had a total of 60 hours of studies by the time they graduate. Certainly, teenagers have thought about their sex lives for much more than 60 hours by the time they graduate from high school.

A new driver’s learning permit lasts six months before they get their first operators license. Shouldn’t we provide our young people at least as much time learning how to be responsible and healthy adults, as well as effective parents before they have their first child?

Remarkably, some people have a problem with that.

Andrew Sherwood is a Democratic state senator representing District 26, which includes parts of Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix and the Pima Salt River Indian Reservation.  

9 comments

  1. Yeah! Some guy with no kids knows what is best for our children.

  2. As he said all but kindergarteners and 1st grade. Where do these people get the idea that any other child from 1st to 6th grade is even ready mentally for this kind of teaching. I say let the children be just that children. If you want to do it right educate the parents on how to council the children on becoming responsible ADULTS. Lose this idea that we raise children. Otherwise keep your liberal ideas out of responsible peoples lives. I care not what a liberal thinks. These people that have designs on children are perverted in their thinking. And who’s to say that they are not that. And, no I am not a democrat or a republican. I am a political atheist. But, I do know that this is more of separating the children from the parents.
    This man is not talking common sense, this is about control, PERIOD!

  3. It is nice to see a legislative agenda that is about enlightening people and helping prevent problems. I fully support the idea that we should teach our children about these things very early on. I have had to discuss these issues with students when I volunteered in high school – by the time children are 10 years old many of them are already beginning to “figure” these things out. And while the parents are, understandably, thinking that they are shielding their children from these things by not talking about it they are failing at preparing their children for reality.

    Our children deserve to know what is going on, and be prepared for the reality around them even if they parents don’t want to admit it is there.

  4. This is actually a very reasonable and responsible approach to an important health issue that is too often ignored in schools. Good, sound health education should begin early in a child’s life. All legislation is considered and voted on by individuals that may not have a direct life experience with the subject of the legislation. But when it comes to our children, all legislators have a responsibility for our children’s health and safety, and that includes age-appropriate education about sex and sexuality as described in SB1020. As a parent and grandparent of healthy, well-adjusted adults and children, I believe this legislation is a significant improvement to what Arizona schools offer in the way of health education. Having spent nearly four decades as a classroom teacher I have seen simply too many students enter and leave Arizona high schools without a sound and healthy understanding of these issues. I believe that we have an obligation to teach our students how to be socially sound and responsible citizens and parents, and that includes a healthy sex-education program.

  5. To those of you who are just shouting without reading, please notice that he wants to teach our youngest students “family values,” not sex. Specifically, he called for “conversations about families, healthy relationships and respect for others.” I think that’s right in line with conservative ideas. And for the person who said, “what can someone who has no children know about what’s best for our kids?” have you checked the number of elementary school teachers who do not have kids yet? If having children is a criteria for being educated about issues facing children and families, then many educators won’t qualify. I applaud Senator Sherwood and hope he is pleasantly surprised and gets some traction.

  6. I hope that by asking a few questions it doesn’t seem as though I am putting down Senator Sherwood’s efforts, I really want to know these things. Do you envision a one semester course every other year as you used a six month comparison to a learner’s permit, and if so what other semester course would this replace? When you say age appropriate curriculum involving family relationships and respectful behaviour, what does this entail and in what grade would that start? What role will parents play in developing the curriculum? Finally, what internet myths and/or “old wive’s tales” are being taught now? (That one I am really want to hear. could be interesting to say the least). Lastly, what is the Paper Please Bathroom Bill? Anyway, thanks for the time if anyone cares to answer!

  7. Family values and education should be the responsibility of the FAMILIES, NOT THE STATE! I would not want a very young child exposed to any sort of sex-ed materials that might violate the values that I want to instill in him or her. And those include CHRISTIAN values of morality and decency, something the schools have no clue about!

  8. I agree that we need to focus on educating children early. By 5th grade kids are focusing on boyfriend/girlfriend status. It’s time to start guiding them to learn how to build healthy friendships. No need to have BF/GF at those ages. Teach them ALL not to touch family members, in their curiosity. Teach them the cause and effect, and the damage they cause, and the consequences to their actions. We have a new era, smart phones, sexting is illegal, children have to be aware what the consequences, and to report such activities, to protect themselves. For those that want to argue, that’s a parents job…then provide classes with familes involved. As it stands now, none of this is being taught in the homes. What’s being taught in the homes is, the younger kids are seeing the online, txting behavior from their teenage siblings, parents, and any wrong influence. Start teaching them to protect themselves, online etiquette, cyber bullying laws, and how to, and how Not To interact online. We are in a new age now. These things need to be discussed, in a responsible manner. The children have to know the consequences to their behavior, and the effect it has on others. Wrong, is wrong, and to some people, wrong is normal. The cycle has to stop. People are being raised, touching family members, to continue doing it with kids when they are older. Teach them the sex laws. Protect them young, educate them early. Teach them respect for others, build healthy friendships, bf/gf at young ages are too many emotions to have to deal with at a young age. Teach them how much it costs to raise a child, vs. Missing out on their own goals. There is hope, and a better way. It has to be lead…in a LEADERSHIP type of way. Inspiration, Motivation, squashing bullying, develop social skills in a more positive light. Let’s face it…the current status quo..is not working. Sex offenders can be prevented at an early age. Start there to find solutions. IMHO and with all due respect to parents. No matter how much you teach your own child…NOT everyone does, and the wrong friend influence can un do everything you worked so hard to instill. Pay attention, to the groups of friends, and watch their behavior. No more burying our heads in the sand. We have to see the signs. It’s possible. Hope that helps.

  9. Go to StopCSE.org and you can see what the real agenda is for your kids and everyone elses’ kids.

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