Tagged: education

[Daily Blog reposts] Comprehensive sexuality education works

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 25 July 2013.

The state of California has seen teen pregnancy rates drop to a 20-year low, across all ethnicities.

I know what you’re thinking.  ”They must have lectured the kids about throat cancer and sellotape!  Teens are ~waiting for marriage~ and ~keeping themselves pure~!”

You would, to the surprise of no one who understands what being a teenager is like, be wrong.  From a linked article:

Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.

What’s that?  Scientifically reliable information together with “information about abstinence”, which might involve supporting teens’ individual choices and instilling the idea that they can resist social pressure to have sex if they’re not ready?  How the fuck could that possibly be effective?

Especially when compared to the amazing results delivered by the “abstinence-only education, scaremongering, and general judgyness” approach.

Over the past decade, teen pregnancy rates have consistently been higher in Southern states that don’t provide students with adequate sexual health instruction. Since abstinence-only courses often present misleading information about contraception, a full 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference. And teens in rural areas still struggle to access contraception, partly because there are fewer health clinics in less populous places and partly because a societal stigma surrounding teen sexuality still pervades conservative communities.

California has also come up with innovative concepts like “getting bilingual moderators when dealing with bilingual teens”.  And check out this fucking sexy graphic from the CDC about how to design “teen-friendly” health visits.

The facts are plain and simple.  Giving young people actual full information – not “you’re going to get cancer every time you give head” information – and the power or esteem or respect to make their own decisions works.  It doesn’t mean there’ll never be any teen pregnancy, it doesn’t mean we’ll eradicate STDs, it doesn’t mean teenagers will stop being emotional hormonal creatures struggling to find their identity and place in society.

But it does mean they’re far better equipped to deal with that than lying to them.

If you’re of a conspiratorial mind, you might ask why lying abstinence-pushers are so insistent on a strategy which empirically does not work.  You might think about modern capitalism’s need for a less-empowered class of worker drones, and its use of racism and patriarchy to keep certain groups of people in line when it comes to doing the shitty underpaid jobs which and making the babies which are necessary for the elite’s continued lives of luxury.

Of course it’s possible that they’re honestly such self-absorbed, hateful douchecanoes that they’ll happily throw teenagers under the bus if they don’t conform to said douchecanoes’ personal beliefs about How Things Should Be.

But moral, upstanding compassionate folks?  They are not.

[Daily Blog reposts] A brief, contextualised history of sex ed

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 6 June 2013.

Once upon a time, sex education – when it was provided at all, which wasn’t a given – was a simple biology lesson, which assumed that all people identified with the gender which corresponded to their genitalia, which were in the standard configuration.

Students learned the “facts of life” and, if they were really lucky, got a lecture about how they weren’t allowed to use their societally-approved genitalia until God said so.

Because in those days, people were happy to ignore the fact that not everyone’s a man or a woman or heterosexual or cisgendered.  So it went without saying that boys grew up knowing they had to force themselves to at least look like they were men, and girls, women.

There were a lot of sexually transmitted diseases, but everyone pretended they didn’t exist because they were associated with immorality, and thus those who contracted them weren’t worth caring about.

Certain behaviours were labelled as “not normal” and  there were harsh social and even criminal punishments for being at all different.

Things have changed.  Kinda.

Now we have comprehensive sexuality education, which acknowledges the fact that humans are generally social creatures who have relationships and emotions and and aren’t all heterosexual cisgendered men and women.  Children learn they’re sexual from birth, because we install sexchips in their brains, and that the proper time for sexual activity is when they’re ready, because we want them to be sluts.

They’re taught they have a right to pleasure, birth control, and abortion, because … um, they are.

The terms husband and wife aren’t used, ever.  Using them is punishable by death.  The union of man and woman is one of several options, because, um, it is.  And trying to erase the glorious diversity of human relationships under the guise of “morality”?  Well, that’s judging, and judging is douchey.

You will find biology in sexuality education, it’s just part of a wider curriculum designed by heathen sluts who understand that relationships are about a little bit more than Tab A entering Slot B to produce Baby C.  There’s also voluminous information on the existing, factual varieties of sexual expression, the pros and cons of different contraceptives and abortion, and the harm of gender stereotypes.

Gender itself is taught like it’s a complicated matter.  Because, um, it is.

We now actually discuss the many types of sexually transmitted disease, and how common a lot of them are, which some people insist on pretending means that we think getting one is totally cool.

And childhood innocence?  Well, we no longer treat sexuality as an inherently immoral thing from which children must be protected in a fake, sheltered state of grace.  On websites recommended to students, things are explained, even if they were previously labelled “deviant”.

Oh, Dr Grossman, I wish it were so.  What a fantastic world it would be where we treated sex like a natural part of human existence (which it is) and stopped trying, with words, peer pressure and naked violence, to force everyone into little boxes labelled Husbandfatherworker and Wifemothercarer.

We don’t.  But giving the rising panic amongst fundies, I think we’re getting closer.


Source.  Click for her armchair-albeit-professional psychoanalysis of Alfred Kinsey, which oh-so-conveniently aligns with her own biases.

[Daily Blog reposts] Our depressing narratives around TEEN! SEX!

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 23 May 2013.

God, we’re a terrible society to be a teenager in.  Scary, dramatic adolescent shit is going down, you’re trying to discover who you are and what you want to be in life, and at a time when you could seriously just use a little bit of understanding and hands-off-yet-supportive guidance from the adults in your life …

You get this.

Things which are apparently news now:

  • Teenagers have sex
  • Teenagers don’t tell their parents they’re having sex
  • Teenagers, especially teenage boys, aren’t really hyper-focused on the legality of their actions

Things which are apparently the problem:

  • The teenage brain is so underdeveloped that they’re literally incapable of understanding where babies come from.  And walk into poles a lot.
  • Binge drinking culture, which affects only young people and is not a reflection of their parents’ generation’s behaviour and attitudes at all
  • Teenagers watch TV and go on The Twitters and that’s how they figure out that they have fun nerve endings in their genitals (seriously, go re-read paragraph 8)

Things which are totally not the problem:

  • Adults throughout history treating teenagers like they’re fucking idiots/criminals who must be monitored and tracked at all times
  • Adults throughout history panic-mongering about young people having sex
  • Our media constantly panic-mongering about SEX!!!!!!!!!! yet ignoring the wider social context even when that context is described in their coverage
  • Young adults being denied decent information on sex and relationships because ew, sex is icky

Things which you would think are the solution but clearly aren’t because ew, sex is icky:

  • Comprehensive sex and sexuality education which emphasises consent and gives teens the power to resist peer pressure
  • Not treating sex like it’s the bubonic plague – because maybe teens would feel like they had more of a support base if our answer to them having sex wasn’t LOCKDOWN!  CURFEW!  CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!

I steal your questions, part 2

A continuation of yesterday’s post, wherein I appropriate the labour of Young Labour to comment on the Old Labour leader candidates.

Would you vote for the End of Life Choice Bill? (Euthanasia)

Robertson:  Yes

Well, that clears that up.

Cunliffe:  Yes it is my intention to do so, but I want to check that sufficient protections are in place.

Basic political answer for the issue.

Jones:  Highly unlikely.

And Jones immediately shatters his straight-talking stance, inasmuch as he had one, by dodging a pretty simple yes/no question.  Of course, it all makes sense if you add “unless Sealord makes it worth my while” at the end of everything he says.

Will you commit to a universal student allowance?

 Cunliffe:  I really think we need to improve the financial support and structures for students.  I can’t make a commitment to a universal allowance until we’ve crunched the numbers – but it’s something I want to strive for.  I am committed to extending eligibility for the allowance.

Jones:  I will, subject to fiscal resource, deliver a universal student allowance system.

Robertson:  Question is not if, but when.  One of the things I am proud to have been part of was the interest free student loan system.  I have always been committed to making study more accessible.

They’re all pretty much the same – no one’s saying “yes, 100%, in the first 100 days we’ll get it sorted”.

What I will be picky about?  Is Robertson being proud about merely ameliorating the shittiness of student loans by making them interest-free.  Those who studied while interest was being applied?  Still have to pay that interest back.  And we now live in a country where there’s a new “being a grown-up” milestone:  the milestone of getting the first paycheck after you’ve paid off your loan.

If you ever pay it off, of course.  It’ll take you longer if you’re a woman.  And we know that social and educational outcomes for children are on average a lot better if their mothers have higher education.

Meanwhile people wring their hands about why younger people aren’t able to afford first homes …

2016: Clinton or Biden?

All:  Clinton

Boy, that sure tells us a lot about them.

What policies will set you aside from the Clark era?

 Cunliffe:  Helen’s great achievement was putting the brakes on the neo-liberal experiment and putting people and social justice back into politics.  The role of a government I lead would be to really move forward on making fundamental changes to our economy based on the traditional Labour Party principles of fairness and social justice.

Jones:  I will alter the tax system to reward investment and jobs in the regions.

Robertson:  I am proud of what the Clark government achieved.  But the economic framework of that time needs to change.  This means a government that is more hands on in creating jobs and policies like a capital gains tax.  The era of light handed regulation is also over if we are to have safe workplaces.

Cunliffe and Robertson both try to have it both ways, praising Clark yet criticising.  Jones … again, I just can’t tell if he’s meaning to sound as snarky as he does (just add “unlike SOME governments” at the end to see what I mean) or if he’s just not much of a thinker or if he’s just that straight up-and-down (insert porn joke here).

Family First and Dr Miriam Grossman are still lying about sex ed

Well, another lethal blow to my ego:  no one in the mainstream media reads my blog.

That’s the only reason I can think for them breathlessly covering a “report” from Family First – who, let’s all remember, were de-registered as a charity, in part because all their “research” is baseless propaganda – which dishonestly covers much the same ground I did nearly a year ago.

That is, the dark, seedy underbelly of New Zealand’s sex ed websites.

If only I’d published my post as a “critical review” under the banner of some vocal, extremist Christians, then the mainstream media might have taken me seriously published my opinions as though they were fact.

Anyway, you should totally go check out my original post, if only because there are balloon animals fucking each other in it.

Hat tip to Kevin HagueFrank and Gay NZ for fighting the good fight on this one.  As Kevin says,

Our problem in New Zealand is not that the resources produced by great organisations like Family Planning and Rainbow Youth are wrong. It is that we know what works but have failed to ensure that every school uses a sexuality education approach consistent with these criteria.

And one of the obstacles in our way is extreme conservatives trying to force a ludicrous Mad-Men-if-you’ve-never-actually-watched-Mad-Men style of morality on us.

Mind-blowing information about sex from Dr Miriam Grossman

Dr Miriam Grossman, who thinks all comprehensive sex ed should strongly emphasise that performing fellatio even once gives you a 120% chance of dying of throat cancer, has made a shocking discovery which will rock the foundations of the evil, slutty pro-sex-ed movement to the core.




their sexual history.

Holy fucking shit.

Well, this sure screws us, doesn’t it?  All the time we pro-sex-ed people have put into our solitary key message – “just ask people about their sexual past and believe everything they say” – well, that was a waste.  Because people lie.

Oh my god.

If only we’d thought to make multiple points, like:

  • it’s a great idea to discuss your partner’s sexual history and ask if they’ve had a recent STI check
  • even if they say they’re STI-free, using barrier methods like condoms can greatly reduce your chances of contracting an STI

And if only we’d thought to make comprehensive information about STIs available on some kind of common knowledge-sharing platform, like a website!

We are undone.  Cancel the sexual health talks, burn the informative posters, sell the domain names.  If we can’t even figure out that people lie and that we need to advice people on how they can keep themselves safe in a world where people lie … well, what good are we?

No surprise on Novopay

Via No Right Turn:

Talent2 has found it more difficult and more expensive to deliver on its contract commitments than it originally estimated, but this does not mean the ministry must accept a higher price or a reduced scope.

Gosh, it’s so hard to understand how that could have happened.  It’s like there’s some kind of process where companies are encouraged to bid as low as possible for contracts so current managers can get a big tick on their budgets, then sod off to the next debacle.  Or maybe form a consulting company.

Meanwhile, MOE can’t even redact its documents properly – and that doesn’t really matter because not all the redacting in the universe would apparently be enough to hide the fail.

John Hartevelet, hero of the people #nationalstandards

So, after Anne Tolley in 2009 saying the government would make it really hard for schools’ National Standards data to be published in the form of league tables, today Stuff launched an entire new section of their site to … basically publish league tables.

(Oh no, John Hartevelt laments, they haven’t compiled league tables!  They’ve just published all the raw data online so anyone with a modicum of Excel knowledge can easily sort the schools by their performance.  It’s like publishing a list people’s salaries sorted alphabetically by surname then saying “Oh, we totally haven’t published a rich list, it’s not in order of salary!”)

And we have John Hartevelt to thank, people.  He is our hero.  Tirelessly combatting the bureaucracy and self-serving interests of those scum who dare call themselves “teachers”, he’s just reporting the facts and letting us decide.  Take it away, John:

Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.

Many more gave up their school’s National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions,

But some people aren’t so certain that National Standards data is, well, any use at all to anyone for anything:

Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. …For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.

But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.

So why publish National Standards data at all?

Wait, no, that was also John Hartevelt, in the very next paragraph.  Why indeed, John?

Well, let him tell us, people, it is not a business decision and they are not doing it to drum up pageviews, and mumble mumble something about Letting The People Decide.

Let the people decide what, John?  You’ve acknowledged that the data is inconsistent across different schools.  You’ve acknowledged that the data has no correlation to actual school quality, and cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions about, well, anything.

What debate are we meant to have with rubbish data as its foundation?

It’s like they’ve launched a new Science And Evolution section based entirely on spreadsheets of the Biblical genealogy of King David.  “Look, we know that this is only one source which doesn’t accurately reflect any kind of scientific consensus,” John would trumpet, “but we have a duty to the people, and we trust them to weigh up the non-existent facts and baseless statements.”

Does John Hartevelt understand why journalists exist?  There’s a reason that the mainstream media is still holding on despite the rise of parasite bloggers like myself – because people do assume that journalists have done the background work, they do assume there’s some kind of accountability and adherence to basic facts, and you know what, John, they kind of think you get paid to sort through the bullshit for them.

If we all had the time and expertise to play around with statistical data you wouldn’t have a job, John.

So please, let’s stop kidding each other.  This is all about drumming up baseless stories to run down our teachers and keep pretending that poverty doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, that the gap between rich and poor is just about not being able to pre-order an iPhone 5, that Reading, Writing And Rithmetic is all you need to know because that’s what gets you a job.

And as a bonus, John Hartevelt gets to sell himself as our hero.  Isn’t that nice?

Oh Shearer, so close!

David Shearer gave a speech today about education.  He announced some really good actually-talking-about-concrete-stuff-not-Excalibur policies!

Labour will put food in schools.  Labour will extend Reading Recovery to all schools.  Labour will (and this is the one I’m a little stuck on) introduce school report cards which will, somehow, tell you if your school is under-performing, taking into account things like the local demographics, without creating league tables and without costing a bajillion dollars.

I mean, it’s a great idea, I’m just sure the implementation would be a nightmare.

Anyway, I’ve got to admit I’m a hard sell.  I like the policies.  I even like the anecdote at the beginning.  But my god, people, can we not get some freaking fire into our political speeches?  Even some basic comedic timing?

Here’s David’s opening anecdote about schools:

A few years ago, I was leading a team of people in West Africa supporting a new government after its election.

Around a meal one day the topic of what school we attended came up.

As we went around the table, it turned out that all my team had been to elite schools from around the world.

One had attended Eton, another Harrow and others had gone to a number of exclusive US schools.

They asked me, ‘David, where did you go to school?’ Papatoetoe High School I replied.

‘Oh’, they said politely, ‘what sort of school was that?’

I told them that it’s a public school in south Auckland and it provided me with a great education.

I sat back, the odd one out, and realised that the teachers and school I attended had not only got me here, but rather satisfyingly, I was their boss.

I swear, those one-sentence paragraphs and the meaningful pause between each one kills me.  And seriously, when in normal conversation have you ever uttered the phrase “and others had gone to a number of exclusive US schools”?

What if David had kicked off like this:

A few years ago I was leading a team in West Africa, supporting a new government after historic elections.  One day at dinner someone brought up which school we’d gone to.  We went around the table:  Eton!  Harrow!  Everyone had gone to a posh big-name school with ivy on the gates.

Then they got to me.  “Where’d you go to school, David?”  “Oh … [and you *can* have a significant pause here, then deliver it utterly deadpan] Papatoetoe High.”

It took them a while to click that I’d gone to a bog-standard public school with no fancy names on the donors’ wall.  No donors’ wall at all, in fact.

There I was, a kid from Papatoetoe, leading a team of guys from the best – or maybe just the most expensive – high schools in the world.  That’s how good our education system is.

And what about this horrible conclusion:

I have a strong sense of where I want to take New Zealand, and what we need to do to get there.

Our education system is at the heart of that.

As I said, I started my working life as a teacher.

I confess that education is in my DNA. My Dad was a school principal, my mother was a teacher aide and my wife was trained in reading recovery.

There are ways to lift our education system and I will make it happen.

We start by valuing what we have. Listening to those who know.

Education is an investment in our future. It is not a cost. And in the Labour Party we take that to heart.

I know we can be the absolute best in the world.

We can give our children the best possible start.

And equip New Zealand with the best talent it needs to prosper in a 21st century world.

Let me repeat, the world’s best education will be available at your local school.

We’ll keep alive the vision of Peter Fraser.

Opportunity for all, no matter where you’re from, to achieve your potential. Not just the privileged few.

Education has transformed New Zealand before, and under Labour it will transform New Zealand again.

Stodgy stodgy STODGE, my god.  What’s wrong with:

We already have a great education system, and we know what we need to do to make it even better.  These three policies are just the beginning, and we’ll be able to achieve so much more in Government.  We will have the best education system in the world available at your local school for your kids, for everyone’s kids.  Imagine what kind of a place New Zealand could be then.  That’s the New Zealand you’ll have under Labour.

I mean, I’ve just banged that out in five minutes (as it were) but how much punchier could Shearer’s speeches be if he canned the boring, aspirational-sentences-slammed-together-for-soundbite-purposes styles which infects our entire political oratory?

Come on, David S!  You’re 80% of the way there what with actually announcing real things, now it’s just the gravy to go!

Family First and Miriam Grossman lying to our schools

Leading today’s “most full-of-shit” headlines:

Schools informed of agenda of sex ed groups

but I’m sure I can’t blame Voxy for that.  The opening:

Family First NZ has sent a DVD presentation entitled “You’re Teaching My Child What? Sex Education: A Psychiatrist Calls Foul” to every school principal and every Board of Trustees in New Zealand, highlighting the dangers of Family Planning and Rainbow Youth’s sex education programmes, resources and websites which fail to tell the full facts and which compromise the concerns and wishes of parents, and the safety of young people.

After that it’s basically a copy-paste of their arguments from the last round of this particular lie-cycle, which may leave you wondering exactly what the “agenda” of these malicious “sex ed groups” is.  The closest thing you can find in the actual text is:

The current approach … says the moral absolute is – use condoms.

Which is obviously a terrible, terrible message (actually true, insofar as it ignores non-condom-relevant sexy fun times.)

But it’s not much of an agenda.

Here’s my theory:  the usual catch-cry in United States antichoice propaganda is “Planned Parenthood profits off killing babies”.  But in NZ we have that most terrible of things, free healthcare.  Which means on the few occasions Family First etc, whose rhetoric and arguments are basically copy-pasted from US antichoice orgs, have tried to play the “evil doctors want to make your daughters pregnant so they can make money” card, it’s entirely failed to create any real drama.

But fundies aren’t particularly creative, so they’ve stuck with the SCARY HIDDEN AGENDA tagline and then failed to realise they don’t mention what said scary hidden agenda is.

Of course, there’s plenty of implication left:  the word “agenda” when connected with groups like Rainbow Youth (who do a fucking good job combating the kind of hate-speech which Family First et al propagate under the guise of “values” … and then act all shocked when we have rampant STIs and youth suicide) obviously connotes the Gay Agenda, by which evil homosexuals try to Turn Our Kids Gay with subversive messages about “listening to your feelings” and “not hating yourself”.

Final point:

Judging by the current approach’s results – which is a good place to start – sex education has been an utter failure.

You’ve got to love how a one-man band like Family First, which is apparently dedicated to not letting your kids know about penises and vaginas and clitorises, claims that our current rates of STIs and teen pregnancy is entirely the fault of the system they continually undermine.  A system which isn’t a mandatory part of our school curriculums, and which is implemented on a school-by-school basis.

If Family First had a smidgen of intellectual honesty (ha) they’d compare the rates of STIs and pregnancies in schools which allow and promote Family Planning and Rainbow Youth and furthermore place importance on teaching kids about sex and feelings and consent, with those schools where kids’ exposure to naughty naughty sex is limited to a lecture about how AIDS will kill you and a screening of The Silent Scream.

I’m pretty sure it would be illuminating.  Which is why they don’t do it.