Friday, January 15, 2010

Can you spell "fellatio"?

It’s that time of year again.  
I just received my notice that with the aid of the local hospital and school board, the federal and state government will once again attempt to quantify the Zeitgeist of risky behavior among our school children through the administration of a school wide survey under a federal program called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
From our local notification:
4. Will the survey questions encourage students to engage in the behaviors?

Research shows that asking questions on a survey such as this do not encourage or increase the likelihood that a student will engage in risky behaviors.  Research also indicates that teaching and talking about risky behaviors does not result in engaging in those behaviors. The survey is designed so that students always have the option to respond that they do not participate in a particular behavior.

More important than this question is this one: Does this school-sanctioned participation in a 45-minute long survey actually encourage students to NOT engage in risky behaviors? Um.  No. Important follow-up question: Does this school-sanctioned survey educate our children in any way?  You betcha! And while I’m certain this questionable education is not the intent of the survey, you really need to educate yourself by reading the latest report in order to appreciate the suggested normalization of peer activity presented in the questions.
Surely they are not claiming that asking school kids to answer questions about eating vegetables, reporting their body weight and height, watching television, drinking soda, using Ecstasy, having unprotected sex, smoking pot, or drinking alcohol before school in the last three months in an anonymous survey given in the classroom environment is a pedagogically sound idea or remotely related to supposed purpose of government schools.  Nah.  They hardly claim any justification at all for mining our children’s privacy.
What the survey is intended to do, according the CDC report, is generate the data set from which various bureaucratic agencies attempt to justify their very reason for existence and their claims on more legally-seized government dollars. But they say that in this way:
…to evaluate the impact of broad school and community interventions at the national, state, and local levels. More effective school health programs and other policy and programmatic interventions are needed to reduce risk and improve health outcomes among youth.

State and local agencies and nongovernmental organizations use YRBS data to set school health and health promotion program goals, support modification of school health curricula or other programs, support new legislation and policies that promote health, and seek funding for new initiatives.

More from the local notification:
2. Can parents exempt their children from the survey?

Yes. Parents/guardians may request to have their daughter/son exempt from taking the survey. When letters are sent home, parents are asked to notify the principal before the survey date.  In the past, very few parents have chosen this option.

Do you like that tacked on argument ad populum? In all likelihood, as in the past, the “very few” will include me and one set of Christian parents who exempt their children from this educational activity.
11. Why are questions on oral sex being included in the () YRBS?

According to the Nation Center of Health Statistics, “slightly more than half of American teenagers ages 15 thru (sic) 19 have engaged in oral sex, with females and males reporting several levels of experience…” The data also indicates that many young people, particularly from middle and upper middle white families do not consider oral sex serious.  Including questions about oral sex in Grade 8 and at the high school level will give us data to help us provide education and prevention. Examples include programs and education about sexual health, preventing sexually transmitted diseases, healthy relationships, and overall social and emotional healthy.  There are no questions about sexual behavior in the Grade 6 survey.

Overall, I think we should be less concerned about preventing blowjobs and more concerned about being screwed by an increasingly omnipotent, but far from omniscient, government keen on using our captive children as fodder for bureaucratic self-generation while furthering the infantilization of adult Americans through the subsumption of their parental responsibilities.
Apparently, though, I’m among the very few on this.


C. August said...

Unbelievable! This is like the American Community Survey, but in some ways it's much worse.

On the one hand, the govt. threatens you with fines and jail if you don't fill out the ACS, but on the other hand, this survey introduces drugs and oral sex as "normal" in 8th grade.

"Hmm." says a normal 8th grader. "I just answered 'No experience' to all the coolest questions. I must not be normal! Hell, I'm a LOSER!"

And I wonder if the kids end up competing with each other to see who can fill out the raunchiest survey, and back it up with real experience.

Thanks for the heads up. I thankfully have many years to worry before my kids start getting these damn surveys.

Now, a serious question. Is it better to exempt your child, or to educate her yourself about the survey and the questions, trying to demystify the whole thing, removing the forbidden fruit allure with cold facts and a rational value system? I don't know. I'm sure it depends on the kid, and the age.

Is 8th grade the year you exempt them, and then 9th or 10th the year you have "The Talk"?

Oh boy. How glad I am that I'm worried about glue sticks and crayons. Oh, and constantly discussing the science behind the Green movement to counter the subtle and not-so-subtle indoctrination (even in Kindergarten).

Lynne said...

For us, while having a distinct starting point which differed for each child, "the talk" has never been a one-shot deal, but rather an ongoing process. However, I have not deemed oral sex to be an appropriate subject for my 11 year-old. I will discuss it with her when I or she decides it is.

I'm not worried about the effects of this survey on my children. I'm repulsed by the use of public schools as a cage for even more government guinea pigs.

These kids are required, by state regulations, to be in these government schools and then expected to answer, by default, unless a parent actively exempts the student, questions designed to justify and target taxpayer funds and policies about teenage sex, drug use, physical activity, eating, and weight? These are neither government nor academic matters! It's outrageous!

How much further from cherishing the interests of literature and the sciences are we willing to go and still call it education?

Kim said...

In a local school district, they accidently gave the 6th graders the 8th grade survey--without any notification.

Lynne said...

Was there at least a backlash?

Kim said...

There was outrage and the local paper explained the government line. There was an apology from the school district. Not my district, so I don't know if they got any other concessions.

It was quite eye-opening, though!