imageThe National Review's Byron York puts on his reporter-detective hat (hopefully complete with oversized magnifying glass and mind-sharpening opiates) and investigates the mysterious case of the kindergarten sexual education curriculum. You see, when the client came to Conservapedia (the smartest boy on the whole Corner), it was a case he just had to take.


"A-ha!" he said. "It's truly suspicious, don'tcha think, K-Lo?"

Kathryn Jean Lopez was Conservapedia's sidekick. Unfortunately, she wasn't in the garage where Conservapedia had set up his neighborhood detective agency, as she was at her house, playing "Hunt the Mooses To Pieces" with some of her friends. Conservapedia, being single-minded in his devotion to the conservative version of the truth had few friends...and even fewer enemies. Nobody really cared enough.

First, Conservapedia read a press release about the bill and found a shocking secret:

According to the press release, Senate Bill 99 required that “if a public school teaches sex education, family life education, and comprehensive health education courses, all materials and instruction must be medically and factually accurate.” The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Carol Ronen, was quoted saying, “It teaches students about the advantages of abstinence, while also giving them the realistic information they need about the prevention of an unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.” The release contained no mention of sexual predators or inappropriate touching.

Suspicious!

According to the press release, Senate Bill 99 required that “if a public school teaches sex education, family life education, and comprehensive health education courses, all materials and instruction must be medically and factually accurate.” The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Carol Ronen, was quoted saying, “It teaches students about the advantages of abstinence, while also giving them the realistic information they need about the prevention of an unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.” The release contained no mention of sexual predators or inappropriate touching.

What, specifically, was the bill designed to do? It appears to have had three major purposes:

  • The first, as Ronen indicated, was to mandate that information presented in sex-ed classes be “factual,” “medically accurate,” and “objective.”
  • The second purpose was to increase the number of children receiving sex education. Illinois’ existing law required the teaching of sex education and AIDS prevention in grades six through twelve. The old law read:
  • Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades 6 through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention, transmission and spread of AIDS.

    Senate Bill 99 struck out grade six, changing it to kindergarten, in addition to making a few other changes in wording. It read:

    Each class or course in comprehensive sex education in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV.

  • The bill’s third purpose was to remove value-laden language in the old law. For example, the old law contained passages like this:
  • Course material and instruction shall teach honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.

    Course material and instruction shall stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for marriage…

    [Classes] shall emphasize that abstinence is the expected norm in that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against unwanted teenage pregnancy [and] sexually transmitted diseases…

    The proposed bill eliminated all those passages and replaced them with wording like this:

    Course material and instruction shall include a discussion of sexual abstinence as a method to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

    Course material and instruction shall present the latest medically factual information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception, including the success and failure rates for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV…

The bill gave parents and guardians the right to take their children out of sex-ed classes by presenting written objections. The bill also specified that “all sex education courses that discuss sexual activity or behavior…be age and developmentally appropriate.” And, after covering a number of other provisions, the bill addressed the issue of inappropriate advances:

Course material and instruction shall teach pupils to not make unwanted physical and verbal sexual advances and how to say no to unwanted sexual advances and shall include information about verbal, physical, and visual sexual harassment, including without limitation nonconsensual sexual advances, nonconsensual physical sexual contact, and rape by an acquaintance. The course material and instruction shall contain methods of preventing sexual assault by an acquaintance, including exercising good judgment and avoiding behavior that impairs one’s judgment. The course material and instruction shall emphasize personal accountability and respect for others and shall also encourage youth to resist negative peer pressure. The course material and instruction shall inform pupils of the potential legal consequences of sexual assault by an acquaintance. Specifically, pupils shall be advised that it is unlawful to touch an intimate part of another person as specified in the Criminal Code of 1961.

The wording of that provision suggests lawmakers were at least as concerned with protecting children from each other as from adults, and it doesn’t seem directed toward the youngest children, as Obama maintained. But there is no doubt that the bill did address the question of inappropriate touching. On the other hand, there is also no doubt that, looking at the overall bill, the “touching” provision did not have the prominence that the Team Obama has suggested it had, and it certainly wasn’t the bill’s main purpose.

Conservapedia had lost more than a few cases recently, because he was developing the problem of being a disingenuous little fuck. You see, Obama never said that it was the bill's main purpose. He said that under the bill, the education that kindergarteners would receive would be focused on inappropriate touching. When pressed by a bystander on why a bill focused on education for thirteen grade levels would be prominently or primarily focused on kindergarteners, Conservapedia slyly threw a nickel into a nearby trash can and ran away when the bystander's head turned.

The entire run home, Conservapedia kept whispering to himself, "I am Batman. I am Batman."

After the ad controversy erupted, I asked the Obama campaign to suggest who I might interview for more information. I particularly wanted some sort of contemporaneous account showing that Obama voted for the bill because of its inappropriate-touching provision.

Conservapedia had a problem recently whereby he kept focusing on five year olds and sex. By trying to take down Presidential candidates, he subsumed the unfamiliar and disturbing urges. For now.

The campaign suggested I call Ken Swanson, who is head of the Illinois Education Association and a 20-year veteran of teaching sixth-graders.

“The intent of the language and inclusion of kindergarten was simply to make it possible to offer age-appropriate, not comprehensive, information for kindergartners so that those young children could be given basic information so that they would be aware of inappropriate behavior by adults,” Swanson told me. “Certainly, it was never intended to be some sort of inappropriate information that might be appropriate for junior high or high school students.” McCain’s accusation, Swanson told me, was “bogus.”

I suggested to Swanson that the bill seemed to provide for HIV education for youngsters before the sixth grade, and perhaps as early as kindergarten. “As I recall the discussion, there was a conversation where in different places in the state — that was something that should be left to local circumstances,” Swanson told me. “What might be appropriate in an urban inner city might not be appropriate in a rural community. I don’t recall anybody, from our perspective, having a one-rule-fits-all vision.”

Conservapedia looked up legislation at the local library and found that unclear language could be revised before a bill passed. He ripped that page out of the book and ate it. It was something he read the Mayans did with their enemies' hearts to absorb their spirits. He would be the smartest boy in the world if it killed him. Or others.

After unsuccessfully trying to reach out to several Illinois state senators with breathless messages about HIV, five year olds, eating books and Batman, Conservapedia finally managed to make it through someone's screen:

That leaves Sen. Martinez, who was kind enough to speak to me by phone Monday afternoon. Martinez began by saying that the bill was indeed about inappropriate touching. “We know that young children, very, very young, have things happen to them that they don’t speak about,” Martinez told me. “It’s important that we teach our young kids very, very young to speak up.”

When I asked Martinez the rationale for changing grade six to kindergarten, she said that groups like Planned Parenthood and the Cook County Department of Health — both major contributors to the bill — “were finding that there were children younger than the sixth grade that were being inappropriately touched or molested.” When I asked about the elimination of references to marriage and the contraception passages, Martinez said that the changes were “based on some of the information we got from Planned Parenthood.”

After we discussed other aspects of the bill, I told Martinez that reading the bill, I just didn’t see it as being exclusively, or even mostly, about inappropriate touching. “I didn’t see it that way, either,” Martinez said. “It’s just more information about a whole variety of things that have to go into a sex education class, the things that are outdated that you want to amend with things that are much more current.”

So, I asked, you didn’t see it specifically as being about inappropriate touching?

“Absolutely not.”

Ah-ha! Conservapedia proved once and for all that a bill about differing versions of comprehensive sex education for grade levels K-12 wasn't entirely, or even mainly, about the single area of the curriculum that was focused on kindergarteners, because there would be no reason to write a bill about such a thing where the majority of the bill was spent on teaching one group of kids a single thing rather than focusing on the far more diverse body of knowledge to be imparted on older and more mature kids. $341 in long-distance calls and two restraining orders later, he was on to something...

“THAT WASN’T WHAT I HAD IN MIND”

The controversy over the McCain sex-ed ad is a rerun of a similar controversy that erupted in the 2004 Illinois Senate race, when Obama’s opponent, the Republican transplant Alan Keyes, brought up the same issue. In a debate that year, when Keyes accused Obama of supporting sex education for kindergartners, Obama answered, “Actually, that wasn’t what I had in mind. We have a existing law that mandates sex education in the schools. We want to make sure that it’s medically accurate and age-appropriate. Now, I’ll give you an example, because I have a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old daughter, and one of the things my wife and I talked to our daughter about is the possibility of somebody touching them inappropriately, and what that might mean. And that was included specifically in the law, so that kindergarteners are able to exercise some possible protection against abuse, because I have family members as well as friends who suffered abuse at that age. So, that’s the kind of stuff that I was talking about in that piece of legislation.”

Now this is the part where Conservapedia wraps it all up, proves that Barack Obama is a giant sex-crazed pervert, and then goes off to needlessly harass Bugs Meany at his community service.

Obama’s explanation for his vote has been accepted by nearly all commentators. And perhaps that is indeed why he voted for Senate Bill 99, although we don’t know for sure. But we do know that the bill itself was much more than that. The fact is, the bill’s intention was to mandate sex education, especially concerning contraception and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, for children before the sixth grade and as early as kindergarten. Obama’s defenders may howl, but the bill is what it is.

Uh...hold on.

[Reading back over the rest of the article.]

Wouldn't the, uh, age-appropriate clause, uh, prevent that? That's sort of why you put it in, right, Conservapedia? The bill's intention, as put forth by you, was to provide a series of guidelines for appropriate sex ed from grades K-12. At worst, it can be seen to allow age-appropriate contraceptive and HIV education for kids younger than sixth grade which would, most likely, be absolutely none. More likely, since the clause says "each course in comprehensive sex education...shall include...", it would only apply to grade levels where comprehensive sex education was being taught. Which wouldn't be in kindergarten. Read the pages before you eat them, son.

Conservapedia's dad came out into the garage after the case was "closed", and asked young Byron how he was going to pay back nearly three hundred and fifty dollars in long distance calls to various members of the Illinois State Legislature and something called "NAMBLA". Conservapedia, pulling out another trusty nickel and eyeing his trusty nearby trash can, cocked his hand back, thinking to himself, "I am the night's unending vengeance."