(Sex + Education) – Education = ?

June 25, 2008

From a blog called Teachers Count:

A middle-school health teacher (in a small, conservative [read that religious] community) was put on administrative leave for teaching details about sexuality. The original story inferred that she was holding forth on details on homosexuality, masturbation, and oral sex. The truth is that she had taught the regular curriculum and thereafter fielded student questions, which turned to these things.

On the one hand, the outraged and prolix parents had every right to wax eloquent, loud and long on the violation of their parental rights in teaching their offspring about sex. It is even possible that some of those innocent students were hearing details theretofore unimagined by them

On the other hand–probably not. I teach junior high students, the same age as the endangered middle school kids in question. My students know lots about sex, far more than I ever knew at that age. For sure, these students see very explicit material on prime-time TV, and they surely see plenty of sex in the movies they watch. From time to time we discuss cinema in art class, and I am often floored at the kinds of movies these young kids view, both for violence and for sexuality. Furthermore, they watch and rewatch very explicit music videos–and many of them use outright porn. And furthermore, walking around the art room as kids work and talk, I overhear that many of them are sexually active at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

No wonder they have questions about sexual practices. I believe the young health teacher caught herself in a trap. Experienced teachers know that there are certain things you never say, never discuss, because of community reaction. Young teachers, hoping to help kids understand a sexual world they really are much too young for, can get tripped up on answering questions.

No doubt our Utah middle school health teacher will not have her contract renewed next year. I think that is a shame. Obviously, the offended parents have no clue about what their kids’ lives are really like. They do not realize the misinformation–and the pressure–these young students experience. I would not be surprised to find that these offended parents have not given their kids much information on sex. Maybe the teacher crossed a line–and maybe a few students pushed her there. Still, I’d rather see her keep her job and learn the hard lesson of staying very conservative on certain subjects, like sex.

Accusations included the charge that the teacher distributed a list of 101 ways to have sex.  In a heated meeting at the school, it turned out that the list was of 101 things to do instead of having sex.  Ooops.  And for this, parents want the woman fired?

Good analysis and background data in column by in the Salt Lake Tribune.

From that column, a list of what can and cannot be taught:

Careful what you say

What teachers can, and cannot, teach
as part of Utah’s human sexuality curriculum:
Teachers can:
* Stress the importance of abstinence from sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.
* Provide factual, unbiased information about contraception and condoms with prior written parental consent.
They cannot:
* Discuss the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation or erotic behavior.
* Advocate homosexuality.
* Advocate or encourage contraceptive methods or devices.
* Advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.

Source: Utah State Office of Education

Who knows what’s really going on? It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved.  It’s been hanging fire for a month now.

Other resources:

USAID allows DDT use in Africa

June 25, 2008

Africa Science News Service reports that USAID signed a contract that allows U.S. money to be used to purchase DDT for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

If so, this is one of the final barriers to use of U.S. funds for DDT use. Oddly, the news report offers no details on when or where the contract was made.

DDT use in Uganda was halted pending a suit by Uganda agricultural businesses to stop the spraying. The contract discussed would allow purchase of other insecticides to be used in place of DDT for IRS.

It’s important to note that no environmental organizations have expressed opposition to the limited use of DDT in IRS applications. It may be significant to note that the programs involving indoor spraying fall into the category of integrated pest management, which is what Rachel Carson urged in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.

28 poems on living life to the fullest, today

June 25, 2008

So, you just graduated from [pick one: high school, college, business school, law school, medical school, flight school, cooking school, firefighters academy, police academy] and you’re looking for a job. But here you are cruising the web instead of knocking on the doors of employers.  Carpe diem poems for making the most of time

You have come to the right place. To keep you in the flow where you need to be to get that job, let me suggest this article from the Academy of American Poets, “Carpe Diem: Poems for making the most of time.” And most especially, let me suggest the 28 poems they list there on plucking the day. The chief list of 28 you will find below the fold.

The Latin phrase and a lot of the history of the idea in poetry gets a lithe explanation in the essay there:

The Latin phrase carpe diem originated in the “Odes,” a long series of poems composed by the Roman poet Horace in 65 B.C.E., in which he writes:

Scale back your long hopes

to a short period. While we
speak, time is envious and

is running away from us.
Seize the day, trusting
little in the future.

Various permutations of the phrase appear in other ancient works of verse, including the expression “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” which is derived from the Biblical book of Isaiah. At the close of “De rosis nascentibus,” a poem attributed to both Ausonius and Virgil, the phrase “collige, virgo, rosas” appears, meaning “gather, girl, the roses.” The expression urges the young woman to enjoy life and the freedom of youth before it passes.

Since Horace, poets have regularly adapted the sentiment of carpe diem as a means to several ends, most notably for procuring the affections of a beloved by pointing out the fleeting nature of life . . .

The careful reader will find another three poems on the topic hidden in the list at the end of the article.

Graduates, you’d be happy with just a little per diem at the moment. I can’t give you that. You might find that these poets give you much more. Seize the opportunity, and see for yourself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Typewriter of the moment: W. H. Auden at Swarthmore

June 25, 2008

Poet W. H. Auden taught students at Swarthmore for three years, 1942-1945. Swarthmore’s library started rather early to collect Auden’s manuscripts and other materials, including the typewriter he used there — an Underwood, as you can see, below.

Auden's typewriter during his Swarthmore years (1942-1945).

Auden’s typewriter during his Swarthmore years (1942-1945).

The library has a detailed, on-line exhibit of Auden’s work and associations with the college, material useful for student research and in-class presentations related to his work.

Auden’s poetry was contemporary, and it reflected the fears and passions of lovers, and lovers of liberty, in the face of the fascist threat of World War II.  Auden died, aged by tobacco, alcohol and barbituates, in 1973, aged 67.


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Symposium in a book: Rachel Carson’s legacy

June 25, 2008

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn released his hold, Rep. Jason Altmire’s bill moved, and three weeks ago the post office in Springdale, Pennyslvania, was named in Rachel Carson’s honor. On the internet, yahoos still try to blame her deaths from malaria, claiming that her message of stewardship was misplaced, and led to a “ban” on DDT that allows malaria to run wild.

Off the internet, serious scholars still work. SUNY Press published a compilation of lectures at Oregon State Univesrity commemorating the 40th anniversary of Carson’s most famous book, Silent Spring. The new book, Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge is edited by Lisa Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore.

The press release from the University of Indiana is below the fold.

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