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December 1, 2000
Vol. 58
No. 4


Sexuality Education for Life

Thomas Lickona ("Character-Based Sexuality Education: Bringing Parents into the Picture," October 2000) has some good ideas, but his notion of sexuality education is not one of them. Educators believe that education is for a lifetime. A teacher does not assume that students will go home and build a house the day that they learn geometric principles. Why, then, should educators assume that students will immediately use information about sexuality? Students need comprehensive sexuality education to make safe and healthy decisions for a lifetime. School administrators who use Lickona's reasoning to justify an abstinence-only curriculum are placing their students at risk by denying them information and skills that could protect them throughout their lives. Is withholding information the ethical thing to do? Does doing so show respect for the citizens we are entrusted to teach?
—Nancy Hudson, Health Education Consultant, Certified Family Life Educator, Ellicott City, Maryland

Talking About Homophobia

Thank you for publishing Thomas Lickona's article on sexuality education. It is always helpful to read the latest research in my field, with a helpful bibliography to boot. As a school counselor, health teacher, and parent of three young children, I value character education and intend to revise my health curriculum as a result of reading this article.
I sensed, however, that Lickona believes that "homophobia" should not be a part of a discussion regarding sexual orientation. He states that "schools should not undermine the beliefs of many families (or denigrate them as 'homophobic') by promoting approval of all sexual lifestyles" (p. 63). In contrast, I see nothing wrong with talking to students about homophobia, especially because one of the core ideas of character education is to respect others, in language and in actions. The homophobic language that teens throw around as insults is unacceptable, but unfortunately commonplace. Students need to understand that, regardless of their beliefs about sexual orientation, there is no place in school for degrading and hurtful language.
I certainly agree that it is not our place as educators to challenge an individual family's belief system; however, we have a responsibility to talk openly to students about the consequences of their language and actions. By teaching students about the power of homophobic language and behaviors, we are not "promoting approval of all sexual lifestyles." In fact, in talking about homosexuality, we may promote an understanding of the current research on sexual orientation and not see homosexuality as a "lifestyle."
—Sophie C. Speidel, Upper School Counselor, St. Anne's–Belfield School, Charlottesville, Virginia

Abstinence-Plus Sells Youth Short

Thomas Lickona's message is discerning, factual, and one we need to hear. Lickona is not willing to concede that teens are incapable of following the abstinence route. The assumption that they will have sex anyway demeans their personhood and places them on the same level as a cocker spaniel in heat. The abstinence-plus programs carry within them the belief that the abstinence-only message is doomed to fail, so we'd better provide a safety net. The double message is self-defeating.
The damage of unbridled sexual expression litters our cultural landscape. "Safe sex" myths have been embraced as if they are the best that we can hope for. We sell our young people short, and our society's decline accelerates. Many will not welcome Lickona's perspective, but his message needs to be taken to heart. Thanks for publishing something that will provoke us to think and act with a new appreciation for moral and character considerations.
—Mike Sligh, Headmaster, Lakeland Christian School, Lakeland, Florida

More Than a Picture

I hope that Jason Ohler's article ("Art Becomes the Fourth R," October 2000) will open the eyes of many educators about art and how important it is to their students' achievement. Art is about much more than painting a beautiful picture to hang on the wall. People's visual imaginations created the chairs we sit in, the cars we drive, the homes we live in, and the movies we see. As a high school art educator, I teach computer programs that develop visual literacy and inspire students to learn visually and to be creative. I wonder how we can convince school boards and curriculum committees to recognize art as a legitimate subject matter—as important as math, English, and history.
—Hilary Chermak, Art Instructor, Southwest High School, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Renaming Art

I was especially heartened when I read Jason Ohler's article. I recently inherited the management of a bachelor of fine arts program in Architectural Illustration. The program was sagging because architectural firms use mostly computer imagery in illustration and limited hand drawing. My plan is to modify the program to be half hand drawing, which I believe is an important skill, and half computer imagery. The first action I took was to change the program's name to Architectural Imaging. Ohler's suggestion to "rename art and get subversive"(p. 18) reinforced my actions and has given me renewed energy.
—Gretchen Maricak, Associate Professor, College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University Southfield, Michigan

Every Day Is Art Day

Jason Ohler suggested declaring a special Art Day for infusing art into all content areas. Fortunately, my district has been able to integrate art into the curriculum every day. Nine years ago, the parents in our community passed a tax referendum to add visual art to the curriculum at the elementary level. They approved the remodeling of art rooms and the addition of state-of-the-art equipment, including ceramic kilns. Students apply the understanding of art that they have gained through systematic instruction in visual art as they approach any art-related or technology assignment for their classroom teachers. Having the time and materials to deliver a quality art curriculum enables us to prepare children to function effectively in the 21st century. Many thanks to Ohler for helping educators recognize the importance of art in the curriculum.
—Emily Erickson Cook, Visual Art Specialist, Chair, Department of Visual Art, Arlington Heights School District 25, Arlington Heights, Illinois

Understanding Poverty

I share with Linda Webb ("The Red Shoe," September 2000) the understanding that familial responsibilities and expectations often place our students at odds with the educational process. My 4th and 5th graders were often charged with parental responsibilities for an entire family of younger siblings or to work on evenings and weekends to support their families.
Webb's account reminded me of what happened when I gave an almost-new pair of brand-name shoes to a 4th grade student. His shoes were falling off his feet, so I brought him a pair that my own privileged son had worn once and never really liked. The boy gladly took them, but when he returned the next day, he was not wearing them. I was appalled and asked what had happened to the shoes. He informed me that his mother had sold them to a neighbor. In retrospect, I'm sure that my response only contributed to the student's obvious disappointment.
It wasn't until a few years later, as I listened to Ruby Payne speak about the cycle of poverty, that I understood why the mother sold the shoes. Payne asked our group what we would do if someone gave us an original Van Gogh painting. Most of us responded that we would sell it because we couldn't imagine owning such a luxury when we had so many less-expensive things we wanted. "Exactly,"she said. "That is why students in poverty will often sell what we give them—to provide their families with necessities."
Suddenly, I understood. Thanks for helping me achieve an even greater measure of understanding through Webb's story.
—Steve K. Fullen, Bilingual/ESL Teacher, Pasadena Independent School District, Pasadena, Texas

Technology and Young Children

If the Jane Healy interview was intended to be provocative, it was successful. Such rhetoric often derails the well-designed technology initiatives that are presented to district leaders and boards of education.
I agree that there are numerous badly implemented, technology-based programs that bring little to the learning environment. Basing opinions on only bad models, however, does little to improve education. Healy's comments would have been more helpful to educational leaders if she had focused on why, when, and how technology can be effective. Some technology-based programs have successful track records for integrating technology into instructional programs, creating effective early literacy environments, and providing teachers with insights into the language and literacy development of children. In fact, technology has helped our urban district achieve results that had previously been elusive.
—Linda Nolan, Instructional Services Director, School City of East Chicago, East Chicago, Indiana

Internet Access Is the Future

Jane Healy is absolutely right. In her interview with Carol Tell ("The I-Generation—From Toddlers to Teenagers," October 2000), she says that good classroom teachers and small classroom environments are far more effective than computer-based learning. The average student in the United States, however, does not see consistent quality teaching in small classroom settings in the public schools. In the future, access to the Internet will offer customized education for greater numbers of students and will shrink the widening educational divide. Currently, distance learning is just the faint glow of a primitive filament in Edison's glass bulb, but its future will illuminate possibilities beyond this generation's imagination and propel future generations into new advances of learning and research.
—Jay D. Hall, Business Partner Developer, LearningStation.com, Charlotte, North Carolina

Use Computers Carefully

Jane Healy is a hero for speaking out against unnecessary computer use by children. I have been involved in promoting the use of educational technology in the classroom for seven years and have too often seen a mindless frenzy of computer purchasing. Decisions about the use of technology in education should follow strict guidelines.
—Erin English, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Murrieta Valley Unified School District, Murrieta, California

Your Turn

Do you agree or disagree with opinions expressed in this issue? Let us know what you think by e-mail at el@ascd.org or by fax at (703) 575-5400. Please include your full name, affiliation, and address.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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