Conservatives’ Misguided Attack on Sex-Ed

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On Twitter, the past few weeks have seen conservative, education reform activists Tony Kinnett, Robert Pondiscio, and Chris Rufo expressing outrage about children attending sex-ed camp, the book Gender Queer,  and other such complaints about woke health instruction. 

I’m sure that it is always fun to take the smallest possible example of left-wing mission creep and expose it on social media, but the attack on sex-ed is misguided because it goes against the most important ideals of conservative teaching: truth and freedom. 

The reproductive system is as important for students to know as the digestive or circulatory systems. I wish my son had a K-9 health class where he could learn biology, reproduction, and nutrition. If conservatives want to argue about the specifics of health class or that extreme examples can be counter-productive, I understand that. However, I mostly see statements such as “how dare 3-5 grade students get sex education,” blanket opposition to any health class. What is the alternative they propose? 

Instead of trying to simply say “students are too young to learn X,” conservatives need to develop a scientifically accurate and helpful K-12 health curriculum with age-appropriate instruction for each age. 

The worry about arguing that something isn’t “age-appropriate” is that “age-appropriate” can be used as a club to deny anything. It has no moral standard. It has no limiting principle.

The moral panic over sex-ed weakens the conservative movement to reform American education. It is difficult to be the party of “school choice” and “let students make up their own mind” while at the same time trying to prevent health instruction at the younger grades. Conservative educators need to be forward-looking, they need to try to grab a foothold in institutions and the public mind that neutrality and truth are opposed to wokeness. The way to do that is not to engage in moral panics. 

Let woke libraries put Gender Queer next to Mein Kampf, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and the Communist Manifesto. Students should have access to things that are awful — even if we personally don’t like them. 

Daniel Morgan
Daniel Morgan is a teacher.