A state representative in Utah is proposing sex education be an “a la carte” option parents control online, rather than in the classroom, for their kids. While the legislation will no doubt cause a stir, it’s a litmus test that might be worth trying, to see how kids, parents, and teachers respond — though markers for effectiveness might be tough to designate.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports “Rep. Justin Fawson is drafting a bill that would tailor the state’s sex education curriculum to individual students by creating a suite of optional, web-based lessons as an alternative to classroom instruction.” Fawson told the publication, ““Parents could really choose the type of education that they wanted their kids to have a la carte. Or they could just choose to teach their kids in their home and not use the modules at all.”
Utah is already quite conservative when it comes to sex education. They already have pretty tight restrictions on sex education in the classroom — teachers aren’t allowed to teach details about “intercourse” — this measure might be just as practical as it is family-focused.
It will be interesting to see if the debate on the bill ventures into issues about pregnancy and abortion. While some posit abstinence-based sex education should lead to fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions, that doesn't always appear to be the case, or at the least, is controversial. Statistics show more kids are obese in Utah than women who experience an unintended pregnancy, so they’re already doing well in that category.
Fawson may have more success pitching this bill to fellow legislators as a simple practical matter of parental rights meets capitalism. Legislation like this could be a win-win for parental rights advocates and schools tired of dancing around an already touchy subject. This would remove sex education from schools while giving parents the freedom to choose how much their child learns about sex education from their comfort of their own home. Utah’s January legislative session will explore how persuasive Fawson can be and whether the country is able to watch a really interesting concept in sex education play out as a statewide litmus test in real time.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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