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Romney Can't Take His Mitts Off Human Relations Education

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Summary: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has fired two salvos on sex education since July, attacking Democratic candidate Barack Obama for his support of age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education for elementary school children, then going after the broader Democratic field for not rejecting the inclusion of gay-related issues in sex education for second-graders. "Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning...

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has fired two salvos on sex education since July, attacking Democratic candidate Barack Obama for his support of age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education for elementary school children, then going after the broader Democratic field for not rejecting the inclusion of gay-related issues in sex education for second-graders. "Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade," Romney said on September 26. "This is a subject that should be left to parents, not public school teachers," he said. Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton shared Romney's view, in my opinion, saying that it should be parental discretion to discuss same-sex marriage with young children. Clinton also favors civil unions over same-sex marriage; she might be aiming for consistency in her views on these two issues. But would a second grader understand civil unions, or even care? First, I wanted to find out if same-sex marriage is taught in states that offer sex education to second graders; Illinois, for instance, Senator Obama's home state, does not mandate sex education before the sixth grade. The Sexuality and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) provides guidelines for comprehensive sex education for grades K-12. These guidelines recommend introductory instruction on homosexuality and tolerance in the early elementary grades (ages 5 through 8) and that "two people of the same gender can live in loving, lifelong committed relationships." No mention of marriage or civil unions; those are not the only such relationships. So, SIECUS, the leading advocates for sex education instruction, advises teaching a bigger picture, knowing that same-sex couples cannot have legally recognized marriages in some states. They are not asking parents and children to lend political support for same-sex marriage. They are educators, not politicians. Sex education professionals rely on these guidelines; they were developed over 40 years ago, continually revised as science advanced and policies changed. Educators and parents must work together towards a successful sex education curriculum, not in an adversarial relationship. That view is shared by sex educators and those who historically oppose some units of sex education. New Jersey, my home state, mandates sex education for all grades K through 12. Human relations and sexuality are one of six modules of a comprehensive health and physical education program. The Garden State mandates 150 minutes of health education per week for all students and has a graduation requirement of 3
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