Politics in Education

Controlling knowledge is, of course, a means of consolidating power.

I am a public interest attorney, working at a social justice organization. At work, we analyze the intersections of social policy and justice policy and government to find ways to improve them and strengthen our community.

Part of what I do is monitor pending legislation to make sure we’re paying attention to Bills which impact our mission or projects. Although it’s not related to anything we’re doing at work, I’ve been paying attention to the Comprehensive Sex Education Bill moving through the Illinois House.

The Bill, HB 2675, creates a standard for existing sexual health education courses. The standard requires that sex education curriculum in Illinois must be medically accurate and age-appropriate and must offer complete information. It does not require schools to offer sex education; it simply requires that sex education curriculum be medically accurate and offer  instruction on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

"Sex is Dangerous" by Timothy Takemoto

“Sex is Dangerous” by Timothy Takemoto (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

This sounds precisely like the sex education unit taught as part of advanced placement biology class I had in junior high school. It was clinical, and awkward, and embarrassing, and quite thorough. (Although it was 1985, so I don’t think we had any HIV education. I don’t recall it, in any event).

Anyone who believes that knowledge is power will recognize that comprehensive, accurate information is crucial to decisionmaking. Anyone who believes we should empower youth to make good choices should understand that the curriculum which this bill designs will give teenagers access to the the tools they need for good decisionmaking.

I hope this bill passes. Whether we want them to or not, eventually, the people who are messy, chaotic, poorly-appointed, befuddled teenagers right now will be the people with all the power in the world. We want to help them make good choices from the very beginning.

Knowledge is power because through knowledge right decisions are made.

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