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NASHVILLE, TN -- The Lifetime Wellness Resource Manual produced and distributed by the Tennessee Department of Education is "highly objectionable and crude," according to concerned citizen and parent Bobbie Patray.
The manual, which has been distributed to more than 1,600 teachers across Tennessee, is an attempt to implement state-mandated sex education. It was developed by the previous Democratic administration, and is the only resource manual distributed by the Tennessee Department of Education.
"I think most caring parents would be shocked and disgusted with the kind of information and activities being presented," claimed Mrs. Patray, who helped draft pro-family amendments to the 1989 legislation mandating family life education. She contends that the manual does not follow the letter or the spirit of the law.
"Specifically, the law states that all material regarding AIDS or any other sexually transmitted diseases be taught with a primary emphasis on abstinence from premarital intimacy," she said. "In another section of that law, it denotes that any program of family life education should stress abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage and advocate the teaching of 'basic moral values.' This is simply not carried out in this manual." The Commissioner and Executive Director of the State Board of Education have been asked to address the failure of the manual to comply with the law. At this time, however, they are avoiding the issue despite pressure from taxpayers.
Patray cites an example from a chapter entitled "Sexuality and Family Life" that includes the following discussion question: "What kind of birth control is most effective or how many options are there available to me?" The teacher's answer, according to the manual, is: "If you believe you are ready to have sex and need accurate information about birth control, it is best to speak with someone you can trust. An older person, not necessarily your mother, is a good person to talk with. That person can then put you in touch with the resources you need. Your friends many not have the most accurate information, so you might want to keep looking until you find the right person to answer your questions."
"Most parents," Patray observed, "would strongly object to their children being taught to seek an outsider's advice on such personal matters. Notice, too, that the answer is given in terms like 'ready to have sex.' This indicates that having sex is a normal, developmental sequence in a maturing individual, implying that sexual activity is a mark of maturity. There is no underlying assumption here that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong, as the state law has implied and the Judeo-Christian religions teach."
Patray described how information on sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, is handled in the resource manual. In one section, three traffic lights, colored to resemble a red light, a yellow light and a green light are posted. The students are asked to write down specific behaviors and place them under the appropriate light to show if there is "no risk" (green light), "some risk" (yellow light), or "risky" (red light).
"This kind of instruction does not promote abstinence -- it merely mentions it," claims Patray. "It spells out 'acceptable' behavior, without any reference to any absolute rightness or wrongness, but on whether or not it leads to a disease."
Patray points out that in a unit on Prevention/Control of Disease, a situation is described for classroom discussion, and four answers are listed: "Situation: You are in a relationship that is moving toward intercourse. Would you: (1) Suggest that both you and your partner have an HIV test before having intercourse; (2) Buy condoms and insist they be used; (3) Abstain from any risky behaviors, i.e., enjoy 'outercourse' only; (4) Figure there's not much risk involved so you won't need to practice safer sex."
"This discussion is outrageous," insists Patray. "The option to abstain altogether or to remain physically chaste is not even mentioned as a possibility."
Patray also claims that many of the activities listed in the source book encourage an impersonal, clinical attitude toward sex. In a matching game, the students randomly select cards -- some of which contain the name of a male or female reproductive organ, and others which describe the functions of those organs.
"Can you imagine how a shy, serious young boy would feel if he had to approach the cute school cheerleader to match up his card with the noun for the male genitalia with her definition of how it works? This embarrassing 'game' is designed to break down the teenagers' natural inhibitions, desensitizing them to the very personal and confidential nature of sex."