Some Obama supporters are upset with a McCain ad that, in the course of criticizing Obama's record on education, included a claim that he "accomplished" the passage of a bill requiring comprehensive sex education for kindergarteners.
Tom Foley links to what he calls 'the "Age Appropriate Sex Education Grant Program,' the latest — as in, most legible — version of a State bill that Barack Obama, while an Illinois senator, deliberated on (neither sponsored nor, as John McCain's "approved message" falsely puts it, "accomplished") in committee, including a link to the full text of the proposed legislation."
I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, but if the claim is that it is the bill he links to is the one referred to in the McCain ad or identical to bill referenced by the ad, then he's wrong.
The ad referred to SB 99, a bill introduced in the 93rd General Assembly. It's text and history can be found here. It is not, as the bill Tom links to, a grant program, but a curricular mandate.
The bill proposed the elimination of certain existing requirements for comprehensive sex education programs including that:
(2) Course material and instruction shall teach
honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.
(3) Course material and instruction shall stress
that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until
they are ready for marriage.
(4) Course material and instruction shall include a
discussion of the possible emotional and psychological
consequences of preadolescent and adolescent sexual
intercourse outside of marriage and the consequences of
unwanted adolescent pregnancy.
It also would have amended Illinois law to extend certain requirements for the content of sex ed and related programs from grades 6-12 to k-12. For example, it would have provided that:
Each class or course in comprehensive sex
education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall
include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted
infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread
It then goes on to specify certain other requirements for these comprehensive sex education programs.
The bill would have made essentially similar amendments to family life curricula, including the extension of its scope from grades 6-12 to k-12.
It also provided that:
The program established under this Act shall:
include, but not be limited to, the following major
educational areas as a basis for curricula in all elementary
and secondary schools in this State: human ecology and
health, human growth and development, the emotional,
psychological, physiological, hygienic and social
responsibilities of family life, including sexual abstinence
and prevention of unintended pregnancy.
prevention and control of disease, including age appropriate
instruction in grades K through 12 on the prevention of
sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention,
transmission and spread of HIV , public and environmental
health, consumer health, safety education and disaster
survival, mental health and illness, personal health habits,
alcohol, drug use, and abuse including the medical and legal
ramifications of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use, abuse during
pregnancy, sexual abstinence, tobacco,
nutrition, and dental health.
This passage applied to "comprehensive health education" and the changes that it would have made in existing law included, again, the extension of its scope to k-12 and the eliminate of the words "until marriage" after "sexual abstinence."
The bill did contain requirements that sexual abstinence be discussed as "a" method to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexual diseases. It included a requirement that instruction be age and developmentally appropriate (although it does not specify what that is) and it included some parental opt-out provisions and some requirements for instruction on statutory rape and the avoidance of sexual assault.
I say that the bill would have done this things because it apparently did not pass the full body. The ad's reference to the fact that the bill was an Obama accomplishment seems to refer to the fact that it passed the committee on Health & Human Services of which Obama was chair. He does not appear to be a sponsor of the bill. He did vote for it.
So - is this brief passage on Obama and sex ed fair? I think it's a bit of a stretch. The bill certainly would have expanded some form of sex education to kindergarten including, perhaps, something called comprehensive sex education. While the bill mandated that the material be age appropriate, you can't tell from the bill itself just what this mandated curriculum might be. One thing that seems clear is that it would have required education - in kindergarten - about STDs and HIV. It's not unreasonable to suggest that this may be a tad early. There was, in fact, an amendment to change the scope of the changes back to grades 6-12, but that was tabled.
Obama says that be bill simply required "warning young children about sexual predators and explaining concepts like 'good touch and bad touch.'" You really can't tell and, as noted above, it seems that it would require more than that. Even if Obama's claim were so, of course, some might argue that even that type of education harms more than it helps with kindergartners.
On the other hand, the ad implies more than it seems the bill would have delivered and I am not sure that you can call every bill that passes out of committee an "accomplishment" of its chairperson. Nor is it clear to me that all of the bills mandates would have been required of all schools as opposed to being required of those schools that chose to offer certain curriculums.
However, as these things go, I don't think its fair to say, as Tom Foley does, that it's a dive "headlong into the gutter." I am confident that I can and will do similar damage to Obama ads and claims. One that springs immediately to mind is Obama's repeated false claim that "John McCain is willing to send our troops into another hundred years of war in Iraq.”
Still that limited part of the ad could have been - and should have been - better phrased. Frankly, if we need to talk about this bill, I am a bit more concerned about the bill's deemphasis of abstinence and monogamous heterosexual marriage.