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February 11, 2007

The "shared chewing gum" people get the boot

I've spent a lot of time making fun of the "cucumber people" (later re-named the "wooden phallus people") for their views on the sex ed curriculum in Montgomery County. But maybe it's time to make fun of someone else.

Saturday's Washington Post carries a front-page article on a different facet of the sex ed curriculum: the facet that involves getting kids to share chewing gum. I am absolutely not making this up.

The Post article says:

It was a novel class exercise: Ask a room full of Montgomery County high school students to take turns chewing the same piece of gum.

To demonstrate how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, a visiting speaker invited students to share gum in health classes at four county high schools in December and last month. School officials said a total of about 100 students participated in the lessons, although some declined to chew the gum.

Education and health officials say the gum exercise was unsanitary and should not have happened. The speaker and the clinic, a pregnancy counseling center with a religious orientation, are no longer welcome in Montgomery schools, school officials said.

"It was fine for me, because my best friend and me did it first," said Julia Bellefleur, 15, a Damascus High School sophomore who participated in the exercise. "But it was kind of gross for everyone else. I was just glad I did it first."
Got that?

I've often noted the similarity between sex and chewing gum, haven't you? I mean, you can imagine the following conversation.
Husband: Babe, you're looking great tonight. Wanna . . . chew?

Wife: Not tonight, I've got a headache.


Wife: And besides, your gum is always too soft.
And the Post article has another interesting element of the course: an exercise that involves Russian Roulette, only with laxatives.
Julia said the speaker also asked for volunteers to sample squares of chocolate, one of which, they were told, was actually a laxative. The point was to illustrate the uncertainty of knowing whether one has contracted an STD after a sexual encounter. Four boys volunteered, she said.
Naturally, I checked this story out with my daughter, who took health a couple of years ago at another county high school, which was not named in the article. She confirmed for me that they did the same thing in her class.

The Post notes that the instructor was a representative of a religious pregnancy counseling organization -- people who really should be mature enough to know better -- and says: "One part of the site quotes extensively from the Bible and offers a test 'to see if you're going to Heaven.'" To spare you the trouble of finding this test, I've linked it here.

In case you were wondering, I flunked.

Extra: Here's how the exercise should work, though from a different perspective.

UPDATE: The shared chewing gum demonstration was used for 9 years. That gum must have been awfully moldy.

UPDATE (2/15): Marc Fisher gets it wrong. The problem is not "outsourcing" of sex-ed teaching, nor is the solution leaving it to the "professionals." The professionals are the people who wanted the condom-on-the-cucumber video and who wrote the outrageous anti-religious teacher guide on homosexuality, which the district court invalidated a couple of years ago. Here, the problem is not that a religious group had a "hidden agenda" and should be banned. The problem is simply that this religious group conducted a misguided exercise, about which it didn't inform the schools adequately, and it properly got the boot.